Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Quint.].
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7.5.12 There is moreover great variety in definitions. For instance, persons will give different verbal expression to

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things about which they are really in agreement: thus rhetoric is defined as the science of speaking well, as the science of correct conception or correct expression of what we have to say, as the science of speading in accordance with the excellence of an orator and again of speaking to the purpose. And we must take care to discover how it is that definitions, identical in meaning, differ in the form in which they are expressed. However, this is a subject for discussion and not for a quarrel.7.5.13 Definition is sometimes required to explain rare or obscure words such as clarigatioA formal demand for redress under threat of war. or erctum citum,An undivided inheritance. or again to explain familiar words such as penusStore of provisions. or litus.Shore, see v. xiv. 34, where its derivation is explained as qua fiuctus eludit.

This variety in definition has caused some writers to include it under conjecture, others under quality and others again under legal questions.7.5.14 Some, on the other hand, entirely reject the elaborate and formal methods of reasoning employed by dialectic, regarding such ingenuity as suited rather to quibbles over words in philosophical discussions than as likely to carry much weight in the performance of the duties of an orator. For though in dialogue definition may serve to fetter the person who has got to reply in chains of his own making, or may force him to silence, or even to reluctant confession of a point which tells against himself, it is of less use in forensic cases.7.5.15 For there we have to persuade the judge, who, even though he may be tied and bound with our words, will still dissent in silence, unless he is brought really into touch with the actual facts. And what need has a pleader for such precision of definition? Even if I do not say that man is an animal, mortal and rational, surely I shall still be able, by setting forth the numerous properties of his

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body and mind in more general terms, to distinguish him from gods or dumb beasts.7.5.16 Again, may not the same thing be defined in more than one way, as Cicero does when he says, What do we mean when we say' commonly ': surely we mean 'by all men'?Pro Mur. xxxv. 73. May it not be given a wide and varied treatment such as is frequently employed by all orators? For it is rare to find orators falling victims to that form of slavery introduced from the practice of the philosophers and tying themselves down to certain definite words; indeed it is absolutely forbidden by Marcus Antonius in the de OratoreII xxv. 108 sqq. of Cicero. For it is a most dangerous practice, since,7.5.17 if we make a mistake in a single word, we are like to lose our whole case, and consequently the compromise adopted by Cicero in the pro CaecinaXV. 42. is the safest course to follow; this consists in setting forth the facts without running any risks over the exactness of our terminology. These are his words: Judges, the violence which threatens our lives and persons is not the only kind of violence: there is a much more serious form which by the threat of death fills our minds with panic and often turns them from their natural condition of stability.7.5.18 Or again, we may prove before we define, as Cicero does in the Philippics,IX. iii. 7. where he proves that Servius Sulpicius was killed by Antony and introduces his definition at the conclusion in the following terms:—For assuredly the murderer was he who was the cause of his death. I would not, however, deny that such rules should be employed, if it will help our case, and that, if we can produce a definition which is at once strong and concise, it will be not merely an ornament to our speech, but will also produce the strongest

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impression, provided always that it cannot be overthrown.

7.5.19The order to be followed in definition is invariable. We first ask what a thing is, and then, whether it is this.i. e. the thing under consideration. And there is generally more difficulty in the establishment than in the application of a definition. In determining what a thing is, there are two things which require to be done: we must establish our own definition and destroy that of our opponent. Consequently in the schools,7.5.20 where we ourselves imagine our opponent's reply, we have to introduce two definitions, which should suit the respective sides of the case as well as it is in our power to make them. But in the courts we must give careful consideration to the question whether our definition may not be superfluous and irrelevant or ambiguous or inconsistent or even of no less service to our opponents than to ourselves, since it will be the fault of the pleader if any of these errors occur. On the other hand, we shall ensure the right definition,7.5.21 if we first make up our minds what it is precisely that we desire to effect: for, this done, we shall be able to suit our words to serve our purpose. To make my meaning clearer, I will follow my usual practice and quote a familiar example. A man who has stolen private money from a temple is accused of sacrilege.



Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Quint.].
<<Quint. 7.5.7 Quint. 7.5.16 (Latin) >>Quint. 7.5.26

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