Aristotle Vs. Plato and the Rise of Donald Trump

I teach the views of Aristotle and Plato in my Media Law and Speech classes. The columnist Kathleen Parker demonstrated their relevance in the rise of Donald Trump:

If a citizenry is small in number, narrow, and educated, Aristotle was confident they could govern themselves well, at least in ancient Greece. The leadership in its rhetoric would, Aristotle believed, “be guided by accepted rules of argument and engagement, emphasizing ethos (trust and credibility), pathos (appropriate use of emotion) and logos (logical argument and facts),” Parker wrote.

Plato, who was Aristotle’s mentor, thought otherwise — that rhetoric, or the art of persuasion, in the wrong hands was dangerous and likely to be abused to appeal to people’s base motives. He foresaw the unethical, dishonest uses that a skilled but immoral speaker could put his persuasive powers to, with credulous people eager to believe or buy whatever he was selling.

Is Trump, Parker asked, “the huckster that Plato predicted would someday organize an angry mob into a proud army of anti-intellectual patriots inoculated to facts and reason?”

She answers in the affirmative, and concludes: “The study of rhetoric is essential to an educated populace, lest rising generations fall prey to future demagogues and the perilous fates that await the unwitting.”


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