4.1 Why Tell Stories?

Aristotle’s method of teaching communications was slowly eroded – sometimes by time, sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose.  For example, after his death, his manuscript was stuck in a corner and not found for almost a thousand years. Had he not taught Alexander the Great, then his method may not have lasted.

Also, eleventh century Byzantine monks, copying over the manuscript, thought he had made a mistake on his primary communications tool, the enthymeme (n – tha – meem).  (In GWS, we call that the hyperthesis, because it’s so closely related to the hypothesis, Aristotle’s primary tool for science.) The monks changed the concept. As a result, educators found the tool difficult to use. Even today, dictionaries except for very technical ones define enthymeme incorrectly.

The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution began in England. It consisted of changing the production of products from cottage industries – that is, in people’s houses or in small shops – to factories fueled by steam.  This change in manufacturing was based on science. Its main tool is the hypothesis.

Notice that Aristotle’s Scientific Method is almost identical to his Communications Method:

Aristotle’s Scientific MethodAristotle’s Communication Method
Observe1. Observe
Create a hypothesis2. Create a hyperthesis (enthymeme)
Conduct experiments3. Gather evidence
Reformulate the hypothesis to fit the experiments4. Reformulate the enthymeme to fit the evidence

With the Industrial Revolution came many social ills. Smog was terrible, and working conditions were unsafe and unsanitary. Small children often worked in horrible situations sixteen hours a day, seven days a week.

Many people protested the problems. In fact, Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, isn’t really a horror novel. It’s a protest against scientific invention.

The Rise of the Romantics

The social ills set off protests, including Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto and protest poetry, fiction, and essays by a group called the Romantics. They were Platonists. That is, they believed – as Plato did – that communications mainly comes from within us and is “an act of genius.” Good writers were therefore born with the ability; it couldn’t really be acquired, they argued. They did not want writing being associated with Aristotelianism and the Scientific Method.

In a nutshell, regarding communications, they believed that –

Romanticism’s Beliefs about Communication
 Communications is a talent, not a skill.
 Communications is a product of genius.
 Communications cannot be taught, only practiced.
 Communications is a solitary activity, not a social one

Famous Romantics

England

William Blake, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats

United States

Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Randolph Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman

The Importance of the Aristotelians

On the other side of the battle for how writing should be approached were the Aristotelians.

 19th Century Aristotelian Beliefs about Communication
Communications is a skill anyone can learn. Obviously, some people are talented.
Communications can be taught.
Communications has basic structures.
Communications is a social act, even if we are alone when we write, because others taught us and/or serve as role models.

Famous Aristotelians of the Nineteenth Century

England

Benjamin Disraeli

United States

George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Quincy Adams

Activity

Match the person with something famous he or she said or wrote. Use the Net.

Match the person with something famous he or she said or wrote. Use the Net.

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