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Taking Sides and the Prehistory of Impartiality

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Chapter Summary

This chapter focuses on one domain that did not actually develop a notion of impartiality rather to the contrary but supplied the fundamental argumentative techniques for taking sides: the trivial arts of rhetoric and dialectics. The ideal orator was he who had the ability to argue pro and contra a certain cause with equal zeal. While this is clearly an ideal, it betrays an underlying founding concept: that problems are given in the binary form of either/or, that all questions with regard to opinions, doctrines, or received wisdom can be decided either in the positive or in the negative. Rhetorical and dialectical education in Antiquity, just as throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, placed a premium on the moulding of a certain versatility in pro and con discourse, not with the objective of establishing consensus or compromise, but of forging a winning argument.

Keywords: Antiquity; dialectics; impartiality; Middle Ages; Renaissance; rhetoric

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