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By Stephen J McKenna

The 1st book-length therapy of Adam Smith’s rhetorical concept.

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A]nything productive of the state just mentioned is pleasurable. . [C]onsequently it follows of necessity that both to pass into the natural state is, as a general rule, pleasant, and most especially is there pleasure when things done according to nature recover their own special nature. (1369b33–70a5)26 It may be extrapolated that propriety of style causes pleasure because it fulfills the audience’s expectations of human character and emotion. Similarly, Smith will present propriety as a way of bringing about a pleasing mental “tranquillity” by fulfilling the expectations of spectators.

11 Rhetorical works weighed heavily in his collection of classics: he owned volumes of speeches by Aeschines, Demosthenes, Lysias, Isaeus, and Isocrates; in rhetorical treatises he owned Aristotle’s Art of Rhetoric (in Latin and French, in addition to a complete works of Aristotle and two separate editions of the Poetics), Dionysius of Helicarnassus’s On Composition; Demetrius of Phaleron’s Peri Hermeneias, two editions of Hermogenes of Tarsus’s Peri Idean, the pseudo-Longinus’s Peri Hypsous as well as a separate volume anthologizing Hermogenes, Longinus, and Aphthonius; he owned three sets of the complete works of Cicero and Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria.

15 In his next major statement on propriety in the Rhetoric, Aristotle involves the three artistic proofs: “Propriety of style [to prepon] will be obtained by the expression of emotion and character, and by proportion [analogon] to the subject matter” (1408a12). He then expounds a highly developed theory of propriety: Style is proportionate [analogon] to the subject matter when neither weighty matters are treated offhand, nor trifling matters with dignity, and no embellishment is attached to an ordinary word; otherwise there is an appearance of comedy.

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