Wareh, Tarik. 2013. The Theory and Practice of Life: Isocrates and the Philosophers. Hellenic Studies Series 54. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_WarehT.The_Theory_and_Practice_of_Life.2012.
Chapter 3. Aristotle in the Afternoon: Rhetoric, Exoterica, and the Compromised Philosopher
Cicero on Aristotle’s Rhetoric Lectures
Here Aristotle exemplifies the conjoined powers of philosophy and rhetoric because he was drawn to emulate the successful education that Isocrates called “philosophical,” an education that was explicitly rhetorical and political. Like Isocrates himself, he offered that kind of instruction (“to teach the young to speak”). Cicero’s account would have been based not only on the ancient secondary sources for Aristotle’s career, but also on his familiarity with the exoteric writings, several of which may have been produced for the same audience before which this anecdote is situated. Indeed, “Aristotle” to Cicero meant, first and foremost, the exoteric Aristotle who wrote the elegant dialogues upon which Cicero modeled his own philosophical works, for Aristotle’s esoteric works seem only to have been rediscovered in Cicero’s lifetime, and the ancestor of our Aristotelian corpus was probably not produced until after his death. 
From here, Crassus goes on to declare that, when faced with those who succeed in combining the two well-matched accomplishments, we may well grant the philosopher the name of orator, and the orator the name of philosophus; while wisdom is more fundamentally important, eloquence is undoubtedly its fairest crown (3.142f.).
Philodemus on Aristotle’s Rhetoric Lectures
This passage seems relatable to the context of Aristotle’s teaching and dialogues before Plato’s death.  Philodemus goes on immediately to emphasize the rewards available to someone like Aristotle if he is willing to subvert his high philosophical principles and regress to the level of teaching a junior and preparatory (but popular) subject like rhetoric.  Rhetoric is dismissed as something appropriate for the education parents have provided to their children (ἐμ παισὶν διὰ τὴν τῶν γονέων ἐπιμέλειαν, XLIX.17–19); if an Aristotle surrounds himself with adults who value it as a serious undertaking in preference to truly satisfying philosophical pursuits, he will inflict on himself the toilsome kind of service that involves tolerating the ignoble souls that fall short of philosophical tastes (ἐπίπονον … τὸ λειτούργημα καὶ τὸ τοιούτων ἀνέχεσθαι ψυχῶν, ὅσαι πρὸς ῥητορικὴν ἐσπουδάκασιν, 38.8–13). As Düring has remarked, “If this text had been found isolated from its context, we might have conjectured that it was an echo of an attack by Aristotle on Isocrates.” That we do not, in fact, have this kind of attack by Aristotle on Isocrates could reflect Aristotle’s care in appropriating Isocratean protreptic to his own use: his transformation of his educationally successful predecessor’s limited attempt to fuse wisdom, knowledge, and praxis into a rival protreptic that better satisfied his own philosophical principles.
But here too comparison with Isocrates is illuminating. In this description of the “political” pole of corruption to which Aristotle has been drawn, a modern reader may well see a point of connection to the Isocratean school. Isocrates praises the study of history,  and his school produced such notable historians as Theopompus and Ephorus, the first universal historian.  Yet it seems that, far from this being Philodemus’ point, he is actually ignoring the applicability of these interests to Isocrates, damning Aristotle by contrasting the utterly unphilosophical status of the political oratory to which Aristotle has descended with the relative worth of sophistic (epidictic) oratory. Once more Philodemus seems to give us a valuable perspective on Isocrates in spite of his own doctrinal principles. For he accepts Metrodorus’ critique of political rhetoric, precisely because political advice depends on experience and research, whereas “sophistical” rhetoric constructs ethical advice on a rational basis compatible with philosophy.  With his counterintuitive appraisal of how wisdom and politics interacted in Isocrates’ and Aristotle’s “rhetoric,” Philodemus helps us see just how much potential overlap could be discovered in the ambits of their two careers in this area. The most conservative interpretation of Philodemus’ account is that it corroborates Cicero quite independently from the Ciceronian desire to rhetoricize all philosophy.
Who retired from rhetoric to philosophy? It is not perfectly clear that it is not Isocrates. Düring has probably overstated the case to say that “from the point of grammar, it would be most natural to assume that Isocrates is the subject of εἶπε,” but he voiced this conviction despite himself feeling forced to go against his grammatical instinct and refer the retirement and description of philosophia to Aristotle, based on the assumption that Isocratean philosophia could not be described in these terms.  Blank, in his discussion, because of the “garbled” state of the papyrus after Ἰσοκράτους, does not even mention the possibility or significance of Isocrates’ involvement in this assertion,  despite his observation that the quoted description of philosophia is as unknown in our texts of Aristotle as it is in Isocrates.  In any case, a reference to Isocrates would accord with some of the loftier intellectual pretensions of Isocratean protreptic and glorification of logos and his own philosophia. Philodemus’ philosophical prejudice seems to compete with an ingrained ambivalence towards these pretensions. This derives in part from the complex Epicurean attitude towards rhetoric developed in the Rhetorica: epidictic orators and teachers are sophistai, alone of all teachers and practitioners of eloquence tekhnitai in possession of an art  ; Aristotle is deluded to believe that political rhetoric (rhētoreuein) can come about through the epidictic scholasticism (sophisteuein) that has drawn him into contest with Isocrates.  Aristotle’s students presumably failed to achieve either result, according to Philodemus, because their teacher did not have the sense to focus on one or the other. Isocrates, in contrast, is more amenable to progressing from a lower form of philosophy to a higher one, somehow better aware of the relation between artful and artless practice, whereas Aristotle is going in the opposite direction, trying to make higher philosophical principles suddenly and crudely practical. Hubbell took the ascent to “more divine philosophia” as Isocrates’ and saw a surprisingly extreme polemical tactic on Philodemus’ part:
Yet a purely polemical explanation of this statement does not seem adequate  ; if Aristotle is to be contemned as untrue to philosophy, and Isocrates had never professed fidelity in the first place, then Aristotle’s gravitation in Isocrates’ direction would prove how far he has fallen, which would have served the polemic just as well.
Philodemus would have been primarily familiar with Aristotle through the exoteric works, and his perspective may thus help us recover what the profile of Aristotle’s career could be made to resemble when viewed in the absence of the esoteric corpus, while challenging us with an Isocrates whose style of rhetoric could play a role in the philosophical life precisely because of its impractically ethical mode.
The Academy’s Attitude toward Rhetoric
Naturally, many readers have been tempted, or even compelled, to read the passage as an ironic deflation of Isocrates’ pretensions, with a view to (what we are all supposed to know already) how little of this philosophical potential Isocrates realized. But this is to set aside everything that is most remarkable and distinctive about the dialogue as a whole (that it takes rhetoric seriously  ) in order to make it conform to a view of the Plato–Isocrates relationship that has been constructed from much more tenuous and allusive stuff than this passage. Moreover, such a reading turns a deaf ear to Plato’s literary habits, for the best parallel to the tone of this encomium is the praise of the philosophical youth Theaetetus. Besides the echo of the word gennikos in both passages (noted in the previous chapter), they are also linked by the prophetic context: Socrates in Theaetetus also has reason to admire Theaetetus’ phusis and prophetically—μαντικῶς, cf. μαντεύομαι here—anticipates the high repute he will earn (142c4–d3).
Aristotle’s Exoteric Writings
The Careers of Theodectes of Phaselis and Isocrates of Apollonia
Theodectes of Phaselis  seems to have spent most of his life in Athenian intellectual circles, and he is remarkable to us especially for the versatility with which he moved from one to another. Today, as in his own maturity, he is best known as a successful tragic poet  ; he probably won his first victory at the Great Dionysia when Plato and Isocrates were in their fifties.  But the difficulty of pigeonholing him becomes obvious when we look into the evidence for his scholastic career, which overlaps and intermingles with his life as a poet.
ταῖς χερσὶ τὸν βάκηλον; οὐδ’ αἰσχύνεται
ὁ τὸν Ἡράκλειτον πᾶσιν ἐξηγούμενος,
ὁ τὴν Θεοδέκτου μόνος ἀνευρηκὼς τέχνην,
ὁ τὰ κεφάλαια συγγράφων Εὐριπίδῃ.
Don’t you see the
pansy dancing with his hands? He’s not ashamed—
the man who explains Heracleitus to everyone,
and is the only person able to make sense of Theodectas’ art
and the author of summaries of Euripides.
That Theodectes’ tekhnē could be represented on the stage in his own lifetime as something that a womanish idiot would profess in the same vein as he might busy himself with pedantically expounding Heraclitus and writing prefaces to Euripides’ plays is powerful (but hitherto unremarked) evidence for his stature as a theorist in Athenian intellectual circles.  Indeed, the intellectual concerns of Isocrates’ school left their mark elsewhere in iambus and on the comic stage. In particular, the methodological fixation on the respective roles played by nature, practice, and knowledge was enough of a commonplace to be treated humorously twice in the fourth century: by Simylus in relation to the art of the playwright, and by Dionysius’ Thesmophoros in relation to the art of cookery.  In the latter fragment, “cookbook” learning is literally disparaged: cookery cannot be written down in black-and-white precepts, the kairos cannot be defined by rule, and the cook whose attention goes to all the precepts misses the opportune moment and labors in vain.
Crossover between the Schools
I have quoted this passage at such length both because it is so rarely brought into discussions of Isocrates as head of a “philosophical” school, and because the author’s curious ambivalence seems wryly to comment on how a monarch can be expected to receive a philosopher, with the sympathies of “Plato” seeming to be on the tyrant’s side while critiquing the all-too-human weaknesses of a junior “philosopher” (!)—or is he really just hedging his bets? The similarities to the letter telling Perdiccas about Euphraeus (Epistle V)  are clear: a man is recommended to the monarch for the utility of his logoi, which here are even more definitely in the realm of serious philosophy. But this Academic source is able to recommend a man not only based on his association with Academic mathematics (Eudoxus of Cnidus  ), but also—these are arguments in the man’s favor, not accidental details of his circuitous life—based on his connection to extra-Academic mathematics (in a line traceable back to an association with Socrates, through Bryson  ) and, most strikingly, to Isocrates (at the remove of two handshakes). If anything, the reference in this curriculum vitae to study with “a certain one of Isocrates’ students” accords Isocrates more respect than if Isocrates himself were named as the teacher, as we might easily imagine that the master’s variant passion for philosophy would be better tolerated in Academic circles than the pedagogical activities of his students who used his name (as the one here does: he is anonymous, his significance and value defined by the name of his teacher). What is the best explanation for the author’s reservations about Helicon? Is this man’s human weakness of changeability manifested in his flitting from one scholastic environment to another? Is it that an apologetic tone must be taken with Dionysius for sending the “kind of man” who is a school creature in the first place, these days? If so, is it reassurance that, despite or perhaps because of his tortuous career, Helicon is free of the usual polemical toadiness of philosophical men at court? What, in this context, do his links to the rival Isocratean school suggest about how objectionable a philosopher he can be expected to be, in comparison to others who might come with the Academic imprimatur? The text does not answer these questions, leaving us only with the net fact that this Academic source has some positive motivation for bringing up the Isocratean connection.
Engels rightly finds significance in the fact that “he, a prominent pupil of Isokrates, nevertheless stressed Plato’s influence on Lykurgos, another well-known pupil of Isocrates … Philiskos regarded Plato’s philosophical teaching as the basis for the astonishing political achievements of Lykurgos in his later years.”  To this we may add a reminder that the project of prose biography itself was still quite new in Philiscus’ day; in chapter 5 below I will consider the formative influence of Isocrates and his school in establishing it, all of which makes the simple existence of a prose work on an individual’s life a likely sign of Isocrateanism.
Other Entanglements between Aristotle and Isocrates
It is possible to conclude, from “ingratiating” and the mention of Isocrates’ encomium, that Aristotle criticized Isocrates among others for finding in Gryllus’ death the occasion for a self-serving rhetorical display; moreover this could fit into Plato’s critique of rhetoric in the Gorgias.  On the other hand, the qualification (“in part at least”) is then odd, and the idea of Xenophon, a Socratic, as the addressee of these compositions perhaps makes it only more necessary to consider whether this could have been a case of more scholastic polemics among parties with different claims to “philosophy.” It is just as easy to imagine Aristotle’s work as a “higher” praise of Gryllus rather than as a polemic against all rhetoric.
Cephisodorus has mistaken Aristotle for a Platonist—what is the explanation? For scholars like Jaeger, this can be pressed into the service of a larger account of the early, Platonist Aristotle.  For our purposes, what is most significant is that this polemical work did engage with philosophical doctrines, so that just as we may see Plato’s school (in the person of Aristotle) as encountering rhetoricians on their field of contest, so may we see Isocrates’ school (in Cephisodorus) as countering Aristotle on the ground of more abstract philosophical discourse. The evidence as a whole for Cephisodorus and his book does not allow us to dismiss the composition as a shallow tirade. It was lengthy, in four books (Athenaeus 2.60de), and Dionysius of Halicarnassus (Isocrates 18) regarded it as a reliable source to rebut insinuations Aristotle had made against Isocrates.
It is indeed noteworthy that Dionysius credits Cephisodorus and his colleagues with serious intellectual purposes and states that they took up dogmata and logoi as the subject matter of their works. What does not seem sound to me, however, is to draw a neat line distinguishing a “favorable” notice such as this one from the churlish scribbling of hacks. Note how easily the regard for the critics as serious writers sits in Dionysius beside such terms as diebalon, whose slanted and slanderous connotations cannot be argued away. With regard to accusations of tendentious and empty howling (which itself is characterized by Dionysius with the word kōmōidountes, evoking Owen’s category  of “good” verbal warfare among philosophers), we must not allow ourselves to forget that such dismissal is itself the commonest currency of intellectual contest. What proof do we really possess that allegedly vituperative treatises were in fact wholly different from those purported to make serious critiques? All that is clear is that individual sources regard them in those different lights; and when the sources seem to be sending a mixed message, it is hardly the most economical solution to decide that a simple truth is hiding behind a complex range of reactions. In any case, the passage before us cannot bear Düring’s burden, since it doesn’t seem to refer to the same book Dionysius called an apologia in the Letter to Pompey. If Dionysius is indeed the “most trustworthy,” we should look to the place where he speaks clearly and specifically about the book, and the relationship behind it (between Aristotle and Isocrates),  that interests us.
While the dearth of examples of whole works of this type and period does stand in the way of our appreciation of a notice like this, we learn more here than elsewhere about the actual character of the work—the fact of its publication at a certain length, and a little about the nature of the disputations it contained. The loss of Aristotle’s early works renders this latter part obscure. Adolf Stahr, in one of the fullest discussions of this whole matter yet written, aggressively argued against the interpretation followed here. The understanding of Stahr, who develops Athenaeus’ testimony into an elaborate reconstruction of the date of the incident and the published nature of Aristotle’s criticisms of Isocrates that provoked it, was that Cephisodorus rather criticized Aristotle for having authored “a work of no account, the collection entitled Paroimiai.”  Even if we accept this, the actual nature of the dispute remains in doubt, beyond the likelihood of its connection to Aristotle’s early rhetorical writings.