Magazine article The Spectator

ANCIENT AND MODERN - Aristotle on Balls

Magazine article The Spectator

ANCIENT AND MODERN - Aristotle on Balls

Article excerpt

The reason why shadow chancellor Balls is such a liability is that he is incapable of understanding how other people feel.

That may not matter in relation to the opposition - they do not care how he feels either - but it does, for what one would have thought were fairly obvious reasons, when he is dealing with us. Aristotle (384-311 bc) explains why.

In his brilliant Art of Rhetoric, Aristotle devotes considerable space to a discussion of the emotions and the way in which they may be manipulated to one's advantage. He is especially interested in anger and its opposite, praotes, which means 'calm, mildness, patience, tractability, good temper'.

'We are angry with those speakers who belittle us, ' he points out, 'but calm toward those speakers who treat us as the speakers would treat themselves; since no one would ever disregard or belittle himself.' We also appreciate a little humility, he goes on, 'for such speakers appear to be agreeing that they are inferior, and an inferior person would never belittle another.'

Aristotle illustrates the point charmingly from Homer's Odyssey, when dogs rush out to attack Odysseus, but he cunningly sits down and (apparently) defuses their anger. …

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