Thank You for Arguing

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A famous ancient Greek philosopher, cited many times by Jay Heinrichs in the book. Aristotle was one of the founders of the art of rhetoric, and divided rhetoric into three forms of argumentation (forensic, deliberative, and demonstrative), in which speakers could use three methods of persuasion (logos, ethos, and pathos).

Aristotle Quotes in Thank You for Arguing

The Thank You for Arguing quotes below are all either spoken by Aristotle or refer to Aristotle. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Ethos Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Three Rivers Press edition of Thank You for Arguing published in 2013.
Chapter 12 Quotes

Suddenly, an intractable, emotional, values-laden issue like abortion begins to look politically arguable. Making abortions rare is to the nation's advantage, as Aristotle would say. Now, what are the most effective (and politically popular) ways to make abortions rare? The answers might give the extremes of both sides a lot to swallow; on the left, pro-choicers would have to agree that abortion is a repugnant form of contraception. On the right, pro-lifers would have to allow some abortions.

Related Characters: Jay Heinrichs (speaker), Aristotle
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

Heinrichs continues his discussion of the importance of different forms of rhetoric by discussing the history of the abortion debate in American politics. The problem with this debate, at least as it usually plays out in the 21st century, is that it becomes an argument between two competing sets of values: Judeo-Christian values and secular, freedom-centered values. Within the finite space and time of a political debate, this argument is effective unwinnable, hence the endless quagmire of the controversy over abortion.

Heinrichs suggests that the debate over abortion could become more productive if it shifted from an argument over values to an argument over choices—i.e., what to do in the future tense. The great advantage of a future tense, deliberative debate is that it forces both sides to make compromises. As Heinrichs says here, it’s much harder to remain stubborn about what to do than it is to remain stubborn about what to believe; therefore, pro-lifers and pro-choicers might have to compromise on some of their values in order to move forward. Deliberative rhetoric, the rhetoric of choices and future-tense decisions, isn’t perfect, but it could create a more productive, mutually beneficial political landscape.

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Chapter 16 Quotes

The old expression “There’s virtue in moderation” comes straight from Aristotle. Virtue is a state of character, concerned with choice, lying in a mean. When moderates face scorn from the faithful of both parties, what does that make our country? You can do your bit for democracy, and your own sanity, with this prefab reply:
I know reasonable people who hold that opinion. So who’s the extremist?

Related Characters: Jay Heinrichs (speaker), Aristotle
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:

Toward the end of the chapter, Heinrichs discusses the importance of moderation in arguing. Since ancient times, rhetoricians have understood the importance of framing a decision as the “mean” between two extremes. Such a method arose from the philosophy of Aristotle, who argued that the good is always the mean of two extreme options. In modern times, Aristotle’s ideas can seem unusual, especially since American politics (an important site of rhetoric) has become increasingly polarized in the last twenty years or so. Nevertheless, Heinrichs suggests, most people intuitively favor what they perceive to be moderation.

The passage is important because it brings up one of Heinrichs’ key ideas: rhetoric can be a moral force. One of Heinrichs’ most frequent targets in the book is the polarization of American politics, and the political quagmire that results from it. Perhaps by using the art of rhetoric to resolve differences and move the conversation forward, people can pursue a moderate course of action and fight extremism in all its forms.

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Aristotle Character Timeline in Thank You for Arguing

The timeline below shows where the character Aristotle appears in Thank You for Arguing. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Open Your Eyes: The Invisible Argument
Ethos Theme Icon
Pathos Theme Icon
Logos Theme Icon
Demonstrative vs. Deliberative Rhetoric Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Ethics Theme Icon
...rhetorician can bring his audience to a consensus—in other words, agreement with the rhetorician. Even Aristotle, one of history’s greatest logicians, understood that rhetoricians need to use seduction and appeals to... (full context)
Chapter 3: Control the Tense: Orphan Annie’s Law
Demonstrative vs. Deliberative Rhetoric Theme Icon
According to Aristotle, there are three kinds of arguments: 1) blame, 2) values, and 3) choice. Imagine, Heinrichs... (full context)
Demonstrative vs. Deliberative Rhetoric Theme Icon
Aristotle also argued that each of the three kinds of argument corresponds to a different tense:... (full context)
Chapter 4: Soften Them Up: Character, Logic, Emotion
Ethos Theme Icon
Pathos Theme Icon
Logos Theme Icon
Aristotle wrote that there are three ways to persuade: 1) argument by character, or ethos, 2)... (full context)
Ethos Theme Icon
Pathos Theme Icon
Logos Theme Icon
...gets away with everything. Ethos is often criticized for being cheap and illogical, but even Aristotle recognized that it’s necessary for winning most arguments. (full context)
Chapter 6: Make Them Listen: The Lincoln Gambit
Ethos Theme Icon
...helps an audience remain attentive to a speaker and encourages them to trust the speaker. Aristotle wrote that people should be able to trust a rhetorician’s judgment as well as the... (full context)
Chapter 9: Control the Mood: The Aquinas Maneuver
Pathos Theme Icon
Demonstrative vs. Deliberative Rhetoric Theme Icon
...technique, however, is that it doesn’t always persuade people to act—they laugh, but do nothing. Aristotle argued that emotions such as love and compassion are better motivators than humor. (full context)
Pathos Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Ethics Theme Icon
...with a group, or “emulate.” The best way to make a crowd angry with someone, Aristotle argued, was to show how that person had ignored and belittled their desires. Aristotle also... (full context)
Pathos Theme Icon
The appeals to pathos that Aristotle discussed have one thing in common: they work best in a group setting. It’s also... (full context)
Chapter 16: Know Whom to Trust: Persuasion Detectors
Ethos Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Ethics Theme Icon
The second aspect of ethos is virtue. Aristotle defined virtue as “a state of character, concerned with choice, lying in the mean.” In... (full context)
Ethos Theme Icon
Demonstrative vs. Deliberative Rhetoric Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Ethics Theme Icon
Aristotle famously said, “There is virtue in moderation.” However, in modern times, moderate people are often... (full context)
Chapter 17: Find the Sweet Spot: More Persuasion Detectors
Ethos Theme Icon
Logos Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Ethics Theme Icon
In the last chapter, Heinrichs talked about Aristotle’s definition of virtue: a state of character, concerned with choice, lying in the mean. Much... (full context)
Chapter 28: Run an Agreeable Country: Rhetoric’s Revival
Ethos Theme Icon
Pathos Theme Icon
Logos Theme Icon
Demonstrative vs. Deliberative Rhetoric Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Ethics Theme Icon
Aristotle argued that virtue is “a matter of character, concerned with choice, lying in a mean.”... (full context)