That other writers describe as art things outside the subject [of a speech] and that they have rather too much inclined toward judicial oratory is clear; but rhetoric is useful [first] because the true and just are by nature stronger than their opposites, so that if judgments are not made in the right way [the true and the just] are defeated [by their opposites]. And this is worthy of censure. Further, if we were to have the most exact knowledge, it would not be very easy for us in speaking to use it to persuade some audiences. Speech based on knowledge is teaching, but teaching is impossible [with some audiences]

Aristotle, Rhetoric 1.11-12 George Kennedy trans

I was summoned for jury duty a while ago, and sat in a room viewing a film about modern justice. It was narrated by Ed Bradley and Diane Sawyer, so I assume that it was probably produced sometime in the 80s. The gist of the matter was this: in the old days, people were tortured or drowned to get at the truth, but now we give them a jury of their peers.

Everyone in the room was from the Syracuse suburbs, and I'd say about 90% were affluent and white. We all had to march three flights to the courtroom. The accused was a thirty year old inner city black man, who seemed to be deeply involved in the process hanging over his attorney's shoulder reading our questionnaires during the selection process. I couldn't help but notice that on the "In God we Trust" placed on the wall above the judge's bench in stick on lettering, the "T" in trust had come lose and was hanging askew. I was among the first summoned into the jury box. The juror questioning process seemed like a review of several sections of Aristotle's Rhetoric. I answered a question posed to me about examining all the evidence before rendering a decision, and listened quietly while other jurors firmly insisted that they could tell if someone was lying just by looking at them.

I wasn't selected. I looked up the results later, and those who were found the man guilty.

None of the other arts reasons in opposite directions; dialectic and rhetoric alone do this, for both are equally concerned with opposites. Of course, the underlying facts are not equally good in each case; but true and better ones are by nature always more productive of good syllogisms and, in a word, more persuasive. In addition, it would be strange if an inability to defend oneself by means of the body is shameful, while there is no shame in an inability to use speech; the latter is more characteristic of humans than is use of the body. And if it is argued that great harm can be done by unjustly using such power of words, this objection applies to all good things except for virtue, and most of all to the most useful things like strength, health, wealth, and military strategy; for by using these justly one would do the greatest good and unjustly, the greatest harm.

Aristotle, Rhetoric 1.12-13 George Kennedy trans

I find it hard to trust that the good and just are always stronger. I did not weigh the evidence or participate in the decision, but Ed Bradley and Diane Sawyer assure me that my presence there was of great importance to the polis. At least they sent me a check for $40 today to compensate me for my service.

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