The Advantages and Disadvantages of Eloquence for the Commonwealth

Cesare Maccari, 1888

Haec autem sententia nec illos fugit qui artem rhetoricam docendam putarunt. Fassi sunt enim sapientiam sine eloquentia parum prodesse civitatibus, eloquentiam vero sine sapientia nimium obesse plerumque, prodesse numquam.

But this opinion has not even escaped those who have thought that the art of rhetoric ought to be taught. For they have confessed [and here he refers to Cicero’s De Inventione 1.1] that wisdom without eloquence is little advantage to a commonwealth, but that eloquence without wisdom is usually too much of a disadvantage, and never an advantage.

–St Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana (On Christian Teaching)


I was thinking yesterday that among the evils which this wonderful invention, the computer-internet, has brought us, the greatest might be how we now can and often (usually?!) do spend more time talking about people we don’t know than about people that we do know.

Why are all those seats empty? Could it be because the audience of sapientia is smaller than the audience of eloquentia?

And I was arrested by this consequence: do I spend more time talking about things I don’t know than about things I do know?

What is the antidote?

When John Kerry was 27 the Senate had people in it. And it wasn’t broadcast on TV. C-SPAN was launched almost a decade after this picture was taken.

Thanks, dear reader, should you ever find me, for never finding me because you turned off your WiFi signal today.


About philokalos

Philologist, historian, and lover of great books, I started this blog to keep myself alert to the beauty of what I see amid the demands of my work.
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