Aristotle contrasts Youth to Old Age

According to Aristotle, the young have strong but changeable passions. They are quick tempered and lacking in self-control, and this makes them all the more likely to yield to their passions. They are eager for superiority and easily feel slighted. They love honour and victory more than money, and would rather do noble deeds than useful ones. As the greater part of their life lies before them, they live more in expectation than in memory; and as they are lacking in experience, they have exalted notions and tend to see the good rather than the bad. Although they are confident and courageous, they are still accepting of the rules of their society; and although they like spending their days with others, they have not yet learned to value their friends for their usefulness. They are quick to pity because they think that everyone is honest. If they wrong others, this is more to insult than to do real harm. As they are fond of fun, they are witty – wit being nothing other than well-bred insolence. They think they know everything and so they overdo everything. This is the source of all their mistakes.

In contrast to the young, the elderly live by memory rather than by hope. As they have a lot of experience, they are sure about nothing and under-do everything. They are small-minded because they have been humbled by life. As a result, they are driven too much by the useful and not enough by the noble. They are cynical and distrustful and neither love warmly nor hate bitterly. They are not shy but rather shameless, and feel only contempt for people’s opinion of them. As that which is desired most strongly is that which is needed most urgently, they love life, and all the more when their last day has arrived.

The body is in its prime from thirty to thirty-five; the mind at about forty-nine. The character of people in their prime is between that of the young and that of the elderly. Thus, people in their prime are neither overly confident nor overly timid, neither trustful nor mistrustful, and driven both by what is noble and by what is useful. ‘To put it generally, all the valuable qualities that youth and age divide between them are united in the prime of life, while all their excesses or defects are replaced by moderation and fitness.’

Source: Rhetoric, Book II, Chapters 12-14

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A short glossary of rhetorical and poetic devices

Assonance – The repetition of the same vowel sound. ‘Hear the mellow wedding bells.’

Consonance – The repetition of the same consonant sound. ‘Rap rejects my tape deck, ejects projectile/Whether Jew or gentile I rank top percentile.’ (Fugees)

Alliteration – A type of consonance involving the repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of each word or stressed syllable. ‘Under the beckoning gaze of my smiling host, I took off my sandals and stepped into the sunlit water, which, seen from the beach, had looked as turquoise as a gemstone, but, now, seen from within and above, looked clear and transparent and overlain with a golden reticulum of racing ribbons.’ (Plato: Letters to my Son)

Sibilance – A type of consonance involving the repetition of sibilant sounds such as /s/ and /sh/. An example of sibilance and of assonance around the ‘ur’ sound is, ‘And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain.’ (Edgar Allen Poe)

Phonetic symbolism – Using words with the same sounds and associated meaning, e.g. gleam, glare, glitter.

Resonance – Richness or variety of sounds in poetic texture. ‘Created half to rise, and half to fall; Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all; Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d: The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!’ (Alexander Pope)

Cacophony – The opposite of euphony and similar to dissonance. ‘We want no parlay with you and your grisly gang who work your wicked will.’ (Winston Churchill)

Anadiplosis – The repetition of the last word of one clause at the beginning of the next. ‘We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us.’ (Romans 5:3)

Anaphora – The repetition of a group of words at the beginning of successive clauses or lines. ‘I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways Of my own mind…’ (Francis Thompson)

Epiphora or Epistrophe – The repetition of a word or group of words at the end of successive clauses or lines (the reverse of anaphora). ‘There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem.’ (Lyndon B. Johnson) ‘Yes we can!’ (Barack Obama)

Cataphora – An expression that refers to or qualifies a later expression. ‘I should have known it. You did not keep your promise.’

Symploce – The combination of anaphora and epiphora. ‘When there is talk of hatred, let us stand up and talk against it. When there is talk of violence, let us stand up and talk against it.’ (Bill Clinton)

Serpentine verse – A line which ends with the same words with which it began.

Epizeuxis – The repetition of the same words or words in immediate succession. ‘O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon…’ (John Milton)

Epanalepsis – The repetition of the same word or words within the same clause or line, but after some intervening material. ‘The king is dead, long live the king.’

Ploce – The repetition of the same word or words in close proximity within the same clause or line for emphasis. ‘Brother to brother, blood to blood, self against self.’ (Shakespeare)

Polyptoton – The repetition of the same word with a change in its grammatical form. ‘Diamond me no diamonds, prize me no prizes.’ ‘Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us.’

Polysyndeton – The repetition of a number of conjunctions in close succession. ‘And Joshua, and all of Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had.’

Asyndeton – The omission of conjunctions. ‘I have done. You have heard me. The facts are before you. I ask for your judgement.’ (Aristotle)

Hypotaxis – The use of long constructions with often multiple subordinate clauses. Produces an air of calm civilisation.

Pun or paronomasia – The use of words with similar sounds or the same word in different senses.

Antanaclasis – A type of pun involving the repetition of the same word in the same clause or line, but with a different sense. ‘She is nice from far, but far from nice.’

Equivoke – The intentional, ambiguous use of a word or phrase such that it has more than one meaning.

Homonyms – Words with the same spelling (homographs) and pronunciation (homophones) but with different meanings. If they are pronounced differently, they are heteronyms. If they are spelt differently, they are heterographs. Polysemes are words with the same spelling and distinct but related meanings e.g. mouth of a cave and mouth of a river.

Paronym – A word with the same root as another.

Aposiopesis – The omission of the ending of a sentence. ‘Get out, or else –‘

Ellipsis – The omission of one or more terms that complete a grammatical sentence. ‘The people (whom) I spoke to…’

Ellision – The omission of a letter or syllable, marked with an apostrophe.

Syncope – A type of elision in which a word is contracted by removing one or more letters or syllables from the middle, e.g. ne’er.

Synaloepha – A type of elision in which a vowel at the end of a word is merged with the one at the beginning of the next word, e.g. th’ embattled plain.

Grave – A mark indicating that the ‘e’ in ‘–ed’ is to be pronounced for the sake of metre.

Solecism – An apparently unintentional impropriety of speech or violation of the established rules of syntax.

Malaproprism – A type of solecism involving the substitution of one word for another than sounds similar e.g. ‘He is a vast suppository of information.’

Catachresis – The intentional misuse of a word, especially but not exclusively in the context of a mixed metaphor. ‘To take arms against a sea of troubles…’ ‘Tis deepest winter in Lord Timon’s purse.’

Antitimeria – The intentional misuse of a word as if it were a member of a different word class, typically a noun for a verb. ‘I’ll unhair thy head.’

Prolepsis – The application of an adjective to a noun in anticipation of the verb having acted on that noun. ‘She is about to bake the hot bread.’

Anacoluthon – A mid-sentence change in the grammatical structure.

Enallage – The intentional and effective use of incorrect grammar. ‘Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for thy love is better than wine.’ ‘Love me tender, love me true.’

Pathetic fallacy – The ascription of human traits to inanimate nature. Similar to personification, which is however more direct and explicit.

Synaesthesia – The attribution to a thing of a quality which it cannot have, e.g. a loud poem, a purple grin. ‘She smelled the way the Taj Mahal smells by moonlight.’

Tautology – The sometimes unnecessary and excessive repetition of the same idea in a line. ‘With malice toward none, with charity for all.’

Pleonasm – A type of tautology involving the use of more words than is necessary for clear expression, which may or may not add to richness of expression, e.g. ‘At this moment in time…’, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end’ (pleonasm + parallelism).

Hyperbaton – The separation of words that normally belong together.

Anastrophe – A type of hyperbaton involving the inversion of the ordinary word order. ‘Above the seas to stand…’

Hypallage – A type of hyperbaton involving the reversal of the syntactic relation of two words. ‘Angry crowns of kings…’

Hysteron proteron – A type of hyperbaton involving the inversion of the chronology of events. ‘Let us die, and charge into the thick of the fight.’

Diacope – The repetition of a word with one or two intervening words. ‘Bond, James Bond.’ ‘Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou my Romeo?’ ‘To be or not to be?’ ‘Love me, love me, say that you love me.’

Tmesis – The separation of a compound word and the insertion of additional words inbetween e.g. any-old-how.

Neologism – A new word.

Nonce word – A type of neologism coined or used for a special circumstance or occasion only, e.g. supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Portemanteau word – A type of neologism involving the blending of two words into a single one, e.g. ‘Tanzania’ for ‘Tanganyika’ and ‘Zanzibar’.

Kenning – A compound replacement for a single word e.g. ‘morning star’ for Venus.

Hendiadys – The combination of two words to express a single complex idea, to produce an effect, or to draw attention. ‘Dieu et mon droit.’ ‘Sound and fury’. ‘With friendship and peace.’ ‘You saw her bathing on the roof. Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you.’

Hendiatris – The combination of three words to express a single complex idea. ‘Wine, women, and song.’

Tricolon – Three parallel words, phrases, or clauses. ‘Blood, sweat, and tears.’ ‘Mad, bad, and dangerous to know.’ A type of isocolon, which is a sentence is composed by two or more parts (cola) perfectly equivalent in structure, length and rhythm. ‘The future’s bright – the future’s Orange.’

Ricochet words – Hyphenated, quasi reduplicated words, e.g. nitter-natter, mumbo-jumbo.

Onomatopoeia – A word that imitates or suggests the sound that it describes.

Oxymoron – The juxtaposition of words which at first sight seem to be contradictory or incongruous. ‘Make haste slowly.’

Paradox – Similar to an oxymoron but less compact. ‘What a pity that youth must be wasted on the young.’

Antiphrasis – The use of a word with its opposite meaning, e.g. a giant of five foot three inches.

Antithesis – The use of two opposites in a sentence for contrasting effect. Several antitheses in succession is called a progressio: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal…

Merism – naming the parts to signify the whole. ‘For better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health.’

Periodic sentence – a sentence that is not grammatically or semantically complete before the final clause or phrase. ‘Every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you.’

Meiosis – An understatement.

Litotes – A type of meiosis in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of the contrary e.g. I am not dissatisfied.

Metonymy – The naming of a thing or concept by a thing that is closely associated with it e.g. Downing Street, White Hall, Westminster, the pen and the sword as in ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’.

Antonomasia – A type of metonymy involving the use of a word or phrase or epithet in place of a proper name, e.g. ‘The First Teacher’ for Aristotle.

Synedoche – The naming of a thing or concept by the name of one if its parts (very similar to metonymy), e.g. a pair of hands.

Parallelism – Similarity of syntactical structure in a pair or series of related words, clauses, or lines.

Chiasmus – The relating of two or more successive clauses through a structural reversal. ‘By day the frolic, and the dance by night.’ ‘But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.’ ‘Do not give what is holy unto dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they (the pigs) trample them under their feet, and (the dogs) turn and tear you to pieces.’

Zeugma – The joining of two or more parts of a sentence with a single verb (or sometimes a noun), making use of both ellipsis and parallelism. Depending on the position of the verb (at the beginning, in the middle of, or at the end), a zeugma is either a prozeugma, mesozeugma, or hypozeugma. An example of a mesozeugma is, ‘What a shame is this, that neither hope of reward, nor feare of reproach could any thing move him, neither the persuasion of his friends, nor the love of his country.’

Syllepsis – A type of zeugma in which a single word agrees grammatically with two or more other words, but semantically with one only. ‘She lowered her standards by raising her glass, her courage, her eyes, and his hopes.’

Hypozeuxis – The reverse of a zeugma, where each subject has its own verb. ‘We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields, and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!’

Iamb – A metrical foot (the most common) of two syllables with an unaccented syllable followed by an accented syllable. Da DUM. ‘To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.’

Trochee – A disyllabic metrical foot with an accented syllable followed by an unaccented syllable (the reverse of the iamb). DUM da. ‘Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.’ A trochaic line is often catalectic so as to enable a masculine ending.

Catalexis – The omission of one or two of the ending unaccented syllables in the final foot of a line.

Masculine ending – A line ending with an accented syllable.

Feminine ending – A line ending with an unaccented syllable.

Hypermetric – A line with a redundant (extra) syllable.

Hypercatalectic – A type of hypermetric line with the redundant syllable at the end.

Spondee – A disyllabic metrical foot with two accented syllables. Spondees are often used to emphasise an iambic line. DUM DUM.

Pyrrhic/dibrach – A disyllabic metrical foot with two unaccented syllables which sometimes precede or follow a spondee (the reverse of the spondee). Da da.

Anapest – A trisyllabic metrical foot with two unaccented syllables followed by an accented syllable. Da da DUM. I am mon|arch of all| I survey.

Dactyl – A trisyllabic metrical foot with of three syllables with one accented syllable followed by two unaccented syllables. DUM da da.

Molossus – A trisyllabic metrical foot with three accented syllables. DUM DUM DUM.

Tribrach – A trisyllabic metrical foot with three unaccented syllables. Da da da.

Blank verse – Metered but non-riming verse.

Perfect rime (true rime) – (1) The final vowel and consonant sounds are the same, (2) the sounds that precedes the vowel sounds are different, and (3) the accents on the rhyming syllables are the same.

Near or half rime – There is merely consonance on the final consonants involved.

Masculine rime – A rime that matches only one syllable.

Feminine rime – A rime that matches two or more syllables e.g. ‘pleasure’ and ‘treasure’.

Broken or split rime – A rime produced by dividing a word at the line break, leading to enjambement (the breaking of a syntactic unit across more than one line).

Internal rime – A rime that is within the line.

Close rime – A rime of two contiguous or nearby words.

Caesura – A rhythmic break or pause in a line. ‘To err is human; || to forgive, divine.’

Hemistich – The approximate half of a line used to convey a disturbance of thought or action or a quarrelsome disagreement (hemistichomythia).

Envelope – A line which both opens and closes the material.

In media res – The material begins with a chronologically distant event which is however a crucial point in the narrative.

Climax – The arrangement of words, clauses, or phrases in order of ascending power. ‘One equal temper of heroic hearts,/ Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will/ To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.’

Envoi – A short final stanza that is a concise summary of the material.

Aristotle on the feeling of pity

Pity is a feeling of pain caused by a painful or destructive evil that befalls one who does not deserve it, and that might well befall us or one of our friends, and, moreover, to befall us soon. Thus, it is not felt by those who no longer have anything to lose, or by those who feel that they are beyond misfortune. Pity is all the stronger if evil is repeated frequently or if it arises from a source from which good could have been expected. It may also be felt if no good ever befalls a person, or if he cannot enjoy it when it does, or if it does only once the worst has already happened. A person feels pity for those who are like him and for those whom he knows, but not for those who are very closely related to him and for whom he feels as he does for himself. Indeed, the pitiful should not be confounded with the terrible: Amasis wept at the sight of his friend begging, but not at that of his son being led to death. To feel pity, one must believe in the goodness of at least some people, which is why pity is most commonly felt by the young, and most keenly for those of noble character.

Rhetoric, Book 2, Ch. VIII

Adapted from Aristotle’s Universe, NYP.

Envy or emulation? No, self-esteem.

Aristotle's Rhetoric

Whenever I come across someone who is better or more successful than I am, I can react either with envy or with emulation. According to Aristotle, envy is the pain that we feel because others have good things, whereas emulation is the pain that we feel because we ourselves do not have them. This is a subtle but crucial difference. Unlike envy, which is useless at best and self-defeating at worst, emulation is a good thing because it makes us take steps towards securing good things.

In the modern world, it strikes me that whenever a person comes across another who has something that is highly valued, for example, power, wealth, good judgement, or tranquillity, the most common reaction is envy, disdain, belle indifference, in short, anything but admiration and emulation. By reacting in this way, the person prevents himself from learning from those who understand more than he does, and thereby condemns himself to a lifetime of stagnation. Far better for him would be to humble himself and ask to be taught some wisdom.

Aristotle says that emulation is felt most of all by those who believe themselves to deserve certain good things that they do not yet have, and most keenly by those with an honourable or aristocratic disposition. The opposite of emulation is not envy but contempt, and those who emulate or who are emulated are naturally disposed to be contemptuous of those who have bad things or who have good things through luck rather than through just desert.

There are three important inferences that I feel able to draw from all of this. The first is that the way that we see the world has changed radically since the time of Aristotle, and not necessarily for the better. The second is that, whereas emulation is the reaction of the few with high self-esteem, envy is the reaction of the many with low self-esteem. And thus that self-esteem is the key to self-improvement.

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