Aristotle on Trust

 Posted by on 2 July 2006 at 12:16 pm  Aristotle
Jul 022006

Yet delightful tidbit from Aristotle’s Rhetoric, this time on trust:

There are three things which inspire confidence in the orator’s own character–the three, namely, that induce us to believe a thing apart from any proof of it: good sense, good moral character, and goodwill. False statements and bad advice are due to one or more of the following three causes. Men either form a false opinion through want of good sense; or they form a true opinion, but because of their moral badness do not say what they really think; or finally, they are both sensible and upright, but not well disposed to their hearers, and may fail in consequence to recommend what they know to be the best course. These are the only possible cases. It follows that any one who is thought to have all three of these good qualities will inspire trust in his audience. The way to make ourselves thought to be sensible and morally good must be gathered from the analysis of goodness already given: the way to establish your own goodness is the same as the way to establish that of others.

Are Aristotle’s three qualities to inspire trust — good sense, good character, and goodwill — genuinely exhaustive?

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