The self-refuting argument has been around for a very long time. You know the kind of argument. “There are NO absolutes.” “We have no rules here.” Quintilian talks about people who will use highly eloquent speech to criticize the use of rhetoric.
Quintilian, and J.S. Watson. Institutes of Oratory. Edited by Lee Honeycutt, 2010. Kindle Electronic Edition. Book II, Chapter 16.
Some view the art of oratory negatively. They make a habit of using oratorical skills to criticize rhetoric (Quintilian II.16.2). Quintilian shows the weakness in this line of reasoning as any discipline may be used in a destructive way. He then gives examples of positive use of rhetoric (Quintilian II.16.7ff). If eloquence is the ability to persuade it can be used for any purposes. “But if eloquence be the art of speaking well . . . so that a true orator must be, above all, a good man, it must assuredly be acknowledged that it is a useful art” (Quintilian II.16.11). It is this ability which sets man apart as superior to other creatures, which certainly seem more adapted to life (Quintilian II.16.12-14).
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