Was Aristotle wrong about Metaphor?

The wonderful Judy Rees, clean language guru and Mistress of Metaphor seems to think so. In a recent blog post, she argues that Aristotle was wrong to claim that mastering metaphor was a sign of genius. But what exactly did Aristotle mean by 'genius'? Is there more going on here than it might at first seem?

 



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A fresh look at rhetoric adds new fuel to an old argument

Want to motivate people? You’ll end up using rhetoric. Want to influence people? You’ll end up using rhetoric. When rhetoric works, it gives a human being the power to move crowds, shift cultural mountains, in short, to change the world.

The rules of rhetoric were laid out in Ancient Greece, but the practice of rhetoric spans the history of oral communication.

It's a subject that Sam Leith, in 'You talkin' to me?: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama' covers in an entertaining and readable way. But what would he have you believe? Leon Conrad, of the Academy of Oratory takes a critical look at his work in this review.



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Don’t Diss the Dissoi Logoi - by Leon Conrad

Dialectic is a term often used interchangeably with logic when people list the subjects of the Trivium. Is it Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric; or is it Grammar, Dialectic, Rhetoric? When were the middle subjects practised and what’s the difference?



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How I teach and Why - by Leon Conrad

In 1947, Dorothy Sayers described the liberal arts as ‘lost tools of learning’. She was talking about a 2-part curriculum that was the foundation of learning from classical times to the late 19th Century. The first part was called the Trivium. Its three subjects were Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric. The second part was called the Quadrivium. Its four subjects were Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy and Music.

Sister Miriam Joseph, in her book, The Trivium, refers to Logic as being the study of the thing-as-it-is-known; Grammar, the study of the thing-as-it-is-symbolised; Rhetoric, the study of the thing-as-it-is-communicated. She also describes the liberal arts as education that develops the learner from within, acting upon him like an intransitive verb (eg ‘A rose blooms’).

It is the integration of the subjects that is so vital in bringing the liberal arts to life within a person, helping them bloom. It is this integrated approach that enables a person to develop as a free-thinker, and grow in wisdom and intelligence, developing their natural abilities and talents in a holistic way.

 

It is not a conventional approach. Far from it.

 

But this is how I teach.

 

 

 

 

 

 



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Does Meaning matter? Or does Style rule?

A response to Mark Forsyth's new book, “Elements Of Eloquence” by Giles Abbott

“You don’t need to have anything to say, you just have to say it well”. So says a reviewer in summary of Mark Forsyth’s new book, “The Elements Of Eloquence”. Style: One, Substance: Nil, apparently.

I heard about this book on the Today Programme, Monday 11th November 2013 at around 8:30am. The author detailed how he has studied certain rhetorical figures and teaches readers how to use them to create the perfect English phrase. He points out that such techniques were widely taught in Europe until roughly a hundred years ago. This is true. He points out that this is how Shakespeare learnt his craft as a writer. This is true. He says that anyone can learn these techniques. This is true. He says it doesn’t matter what you say, but only how you say it. This is not true. Disguised in flippancy, this is a seductive, but grievous, lie.     



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Shame on us for not being rhetorical!

I nearly wept today, reading Brunetière’s essay, An Apology for Rhetoric for the first time ever. 

What richness of inner life have we lost through the way our thinking and educational system have progressed since he wrote? Shame on us. Shame. Shame. Shame! 

Two lines was all it took: 

…why may I not go to the length of saying that prosopopeia is to be answered only by hypotyposis and metonymy only by synechdoche? 

Not much to look at, I’ll grant you. Something to gloss over as being ‘too difficult’ nowadays, I’ll bet. Let me tell you why they had such an effect on me… 



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"I don't understand!"

“I don’t understand.”

Great! You are amazing!

It's not the answer you might expect, but it's the answer students in a Speech, Sense, Style session are likely to get.

Students understandably get tired, they get hungry, they get frustrated. And when they experience these things, they tend to shut down. It's not just them - I think we all do it.

So what should teachers do when students say, "I don't understand," but have clearly shown their ability to demonstrate their understanding and below the surface, they just seem to be blocking learning? 

It's not an easy one to answer - but to explore the territory, I engaged in an internal dialogue in an imagnary situation in which this happened. The context is a Speech, Sense, Style lesson, in which subject and predicate had been covered and all students had demonstrated the ability to state and give examples of simple and complex subjects and predicates in sentences of their own making.

 

 



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Perceptions of Reality and what is Really Real

I've been challenging myself and my thoughts through an engagement in dialogue with some fascinating thinkers - Alan Rayner, who writes about Natural Inclusion here, Jack Whitehead on YouTube here, David Pinto's thoughts on transformational economics here... to name but a few. 

In navigating these interesting and varied discourses, during a period when I was also digesting Wolfgang Iser's book, 'How to Do Theory', it struck me how much of the intellectual and academic arguments that theories are founded on are divorced from what I see as the 'natural inclusionality' of Aristotle's 10 categories of being...



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'If's and 'But's and what thoughts wear at night

In my last couple of blog posts, I’ve written about David Fisher and his work in developing a pragmatic approach to encouraging children to think. I also wrote, “...we believe teachers and students need to experience generating their own ideas to discuss. Effective frameworks for learning and teaching are great – as long as the content that’s generated using those frameworks is original. If both teachers and students don’t have at least one ‘Aha!’ moment a day, there’s something wrong.”

In his book, Teaching Thinking, David Fisher offers some really interesting examples of how this works for him in practice... through questioning... to develop imagination, autonomy, empathy, thinking ahead and beyond the immediate situation, being sensitive, developing and testing hypotheses, being able to justify standpoints, and examining ideals.

Anyone getting 9- to 10-year-old children to come up with questions such as, ‘What is a thought?’; ‘Where do thoughts come from?’ or ‘Does your brain talk to you or do you talk to your brain?’ is on to a good thing.

One of the frameworks he recommends is Matthew Lipman’s Philosophy for Children programme, a resource with lots of teachers’ aides and prompts. Fisher himself provides lots of facilitation questions as well, such as, ‘What do you mean by that?’; ‘Can you repeat that in your own words?’; ‘Can you give an example?’ ‘Do you know what we said a few moments ago?’ or ‘What question are we talking about?’ Much of the success of these questions depends on these being asked in an open-ended, non-judgemental way. Questions are presented in useful categories, with 25 possibilities given to help teachers direct a Socratic discussion.

I tried this approach out on my long-suffering 13-year daughter – I’d read up on the approach, decided to question her about thinking, taking a list of Lipman’s questions Fisher includes in his book as starting points. To my chagrin, I found I was so engrossed in trying to remember the questions, I’d lost sight of the point Fisher makes, quoting Plato – ‘Philosophy begins in wonder.’

I wondered at my own inadequacy and went back to the drawing board to try to understand what underlying framework would help me – and hopefully other teachers – generate meaningful questions naturally and spontaneously. Here's what happened...

 



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How to juggle with thoughts

I tried to learn to juggle once – I didn’t stick at it long enough to reach a level I was happy with, but I remember having to start off just holding the juggling balls, balancing one in each hand, feeling their weight, passing one from one hand to the other, and feeling the change. It was a slow, intense process, rather like starting out with juggling thoughts.

Before getting into formal logic, it’s useful to know there’s a roadmap for the way we instinctively think of the world around us. Aristotle was one of the first of the Greek thinkers to try to define not just the different ways we think about things (see my previous Blog post on The 10 Categories of Being), but the way we think about more than one of those thoughts, how we put them together. He came up with a basic scheme which Cicero later added to. Cicero ended up with 16 approaches. They’ve become known as the 16 Logical Topics of Invention.

Want to know where they come from? Read on...

 



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The thought experiments continue

You can have so much fun with an idea – throwing it up in the air, turning it upside down, stretching it out like a ball of putty – it’s what Aristotle seems to have loved doing best.

In fact, he came up with a list of top 10 ways to play with a thought.

They’re vital to the Speech, Sense, Style approach we're working on at the moment.

They’re called the 10 Categories of Being.

Aristotle wrote about them in his Categories, one of six books grouped together under the title of the Organon.

The 10 Categories provide a really useful framework for thinking about something – it could be an object, like a bottle, or a mug, or a laptop; it could be an idea like justice or a quality like laughter. Just one thing. Your choice. Choose and hold it in your mind.

How many ways can you describe it in?

In fact, go off, choose something to focus your thoughts on if you haven’t already done so and write down as many as you can, then come back. Off you go. It’s worth doing.

Done that? No? Then go and do it, then come back and read on...

 



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A pragmatic approach to the cultivation of wisdom

A few months ago, Giles and I were approached by Phil McDermott of The Story Emporium to collaborate on devising an educational syllabus we've called 'Speech, Sense, Style'. Phil already does very successful work in using storytelling as means of developing literacy through oracy. He knew of the work we do in terms of voice-centred communication skills training including classical rhetoric and rhetorical training – his challenge to us was, could we work together to help young learners not just speak out more clearly, but work on expanding their frames of reference, the quality and depth of their thinking, and enhance the self-expression of their individuality.

In his Essays on Education, Alfred Whitney Griswold wrote, 'The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom. The surest path to wisdom is a liberal education.'

Over the next few weeks, I plan to outline, in practical and pragmatic terms, what I believe this means in modern terms and why we think putting wisdom at the heart of an integrated liberal arts curriculum focused on logic, grammar and rhetoric is vital and relevant to all of us – whether or not we're educators or parents – to all of us, here and now.

 



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Nothing new under the sun

In the world of live theatrical entertainment, much interest has been sparked recently by the work of companies such as PunchDrunk, with their adaptation of Poe's Masque of the Red Death, Wildworks' Babel and the You Me Bum Bum Train phenomenon.



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Is this a Posion Pill for Reading?

 

“Children will read … they just won’t read books,” claims best-selling author, Terry Deary, of Horrible Histories fame. That’s apparently why, in tandem with Nokia and the Evening Standard’s literacy campaign, he set out to get people to read … in other ways.

Leon Conrad, of The Academy of Oratory asks, will this new approach give non-reading youth a literary kiss of life, or will it be a poison pill? 

 



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