Persuasion and Rhetoric

Persuasion and Rhetoric

Russell Scott Valentino
Cinzia Sartini Blum
David J. Depew
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 208
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Persuasion and Rhetoric
    Book Description:

    This translation of Carlo Michelstaedter'sPersuasion and Rhetoricbrings the powerful and original work of a seminal cultural figure to English-language readers for the first time. Ostensibly a commentary on Plato's and Aristotle's relation to the pre-Socratic philosophers, Michelstaedter's deeply personal book is an extraordinary rhetorical feat that reflects the author's struggle to make sense of modern life. This edition includes an introduction discussing his life and work, an extensive bibliography, notes to introduce each chapter, and critical notes illuminating the text.Within hours of completingPersuasion and Rhetoric,his doctoral thesis, 23-year-old Michelstaedter shot himself to death. The text he left behind has proved to be one of the most trenchant and influential studies in modern rhetoric, a work that develops Nietzschean themes and anticipates the conclusions of, among others, Martin Heidegger. Publication of the book in English is an event of great magnitude for students of Italian philosophy, rhetoric, and literature as well as the culture of Mitteleuropa.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13012-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Carlo Michelstaedter’s Persuasion and Rhetoric
    (pp. ix-2)

    Born on June 3, 1887, in Gorizia, a predominantly Catholic town of five thousand inhabitants to the northeast of Trieste, Carlo Michelstaedter was the youngest of four children in a cultured Jewish Italian family. His father, Alberto, was the Gorizia director of the Hapsburg insurance giantAssicurazioni generali di Triesteand president of a local literary association. His paternal great grandfather, Reggio Michelstaedter, widely known for his learning, was the rabbi of the town’s Jewish minority, most of whose members, including Carlo’s mother, Emma Luzzatto, and his elder sister, Elda Morpurgo, would later perish in the Holocaust.

    Although neither Carlo...

  5. Preface
    (pp. 3-4)
  6. PART I: On Persuasion
    • I Persuasion
      (pp. 7-11)

      I know I want and do not have what I want. A weight hangs suspended from a hook; being suspended, it suffers because it cannot fall: it cannot get off the hook, for insofar as it is weight it suspends, and as long as it suspends it depends.

      We want to satisfy it: we free it from its dependence, letting it go so that it might satisfy its hunger for what lies below, and it falls independently for as long as it is content to fall. But at none of the points attained is it content to stop; it still...

    • II The Illusion of Persuasion
      (pp. 12-35)

      In order to possess itself, to reach actual being, it flows in time: andtimeis infinite, for were it to succeed in possessing itself, in consisting, it would cease to be will for life (aπεiρov ou aεiτi ἔξω, ‘an infinity beyond which there is always something’); likewisespaceis infinite, for there is nothing that is not will for life (aπεiρov ou ovδἑv ἔξω, ‘an infinity beyond the bounds of which lies nothing’).Life would beif time did not constantly distance its being into the next instant. Life would beone, immobile, formlessif it could consist in...

    • III The Way to Persuasion
      (pp. 36-58)

      Tί τοvτο ποιεiς, ‘what you do,’ how do you do it? In what state of mind? Do you love this thing for the correlation of what later leaves you needing the same correlation, whose proximity you foresee only to a given limit, so that, slave to the contingency of this correlation, you are deprived of all when the correlation is removed from the thing, and you must seek some other thing and place yourself under the sway of its contingency?

      Or is it thatyou know whatyou do, and what you do, which is all inside you at the...

  7. PART II: On Rhetoric
    • I Rhetoric
      (pp. 61-84)

      But men grow tired on this path, feeling faint in solitude:56the voice of pain is too strong. They no longer know how to endure it with their wholepersona.They look behind, they look all around, and ask for a blindfold:they ask to be for someone,for something. For in the face of the demand for possession they feel insufficient. They want to be asufficient personafor someone or something, with whatever their activity, so that they might repeat the relation in the future, so that the correlate might be certain for them ahead. Their power pretends...

    • II The Constitution of Rhetoric
      (pp. 85-100)

      “Whereas philosophy has raved through metaphysical exaltation, we have placed it once more on positive ground; and here, maintaining our contact with reality, we have a secure means of conquering truth.”

      In this manner, more or less, through the mouths of its lovers, that which gradually supplants the old mother speaks:modern science.It would be enough to ask what difference there is between reality and truth, because of which, while being in contact with reality, one must still forge a path to attain truth. But modern science

      has so many legs

      that it’s no wonder if it takes


    • III Rhetoric in Life
      (pp. 101-152)

      “You see”—a portly gentleman said to me after an abundant dinner at the end of a long speech—“You see, life also has its good sides. One must know how to take it, not insist rigidly on what’s already passed but adapt reasonably, and enjoy what our time offers, which no time before has ever offered to its children. One must take advantage of this marvelous comfort of living, and select from the increased variety of pleasures with wise moderation;habere, non haberi,‘to possess, not be possessed,’ as they say.”

      “You are an artist, sir!”

      “Yes, indeed I...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 153-158)
  9. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 159-168)
  10. Index
    (pp. 169-178)