Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

A 15-YEAR-OLD is leading a 300-- strong private army against the Taleban. But that's youth for you, Aristotle (384-322 BC) would argue. In his Art of Rhetoric, he devotes considerable space to discussing the points one can make on a whole range of topics to persuade your audience to agree with you. One such topic is the young.

In general, he says, the young are the sort of people who will indulge themselves in anything they have an appetite for. Of the bodily appetites, he says, they are especially subservient to those to do with sex, over which they have no control whatsoever. The intensity of their desires is equalled only by the speed with which those desires cool, since their will is keen rather than determined and strong. They are passionate, hot-tempered and carried away by impulse. Because they love to be highly regarded, they cannot bear to be slighted and become angry if they think they have been wronged.

But even more than being highly regarded, they love to win, since the young are keen on going over the top (and victory, Aristotle points out, is a kind of going over the top). They are not interested in money, never having experienced shortage; they are goodnatured, never having experienced much wickedness; naive, never having been deceived very often; and optimistic, never having experienced much in the way of failure. …

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