Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern

Article excerpt

In a political 'post-truth' world, currently the subject of a slew of books, emotions and personal belief are said to shape opinion more than 'objective' fact. But as Aristotle pointed out in his Art of Rhetoric (4th century bc), there are facts only about the present and past; about the future, politics' main concern, there are only interests and aspirations.

Anyone who addressed the Assembly, he said, must know the facts about revenues -- sources of income and expenditure, and where to spend and cut; about present and potential military strengths, and in what areas (and the same about other states, so as to know whom to attack and whom not); about defensive strengths and weaknesses; about food supply -- home-grown, imports and exports -- and their potential for trade agreements; and legislation ('for in laws lie state security').

In all these areas, he said, knowledge of history and of other state's practices were also important.

The purpose of all this, Aristotle continued, was to promote some desired outcome, which for him was 'happiness'. …

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