Is it an art? Is it a skill? As someone who spent some time as a professional musician, I have confronted that question many times. I was blessed with some natural abilities to engage in the musical arts. I spent a lot of hours, really, lots of hours, practicing the challenging skills of making the instrument do what I wanted. It is an art. It is a skill. Rhetoric is the same way.
Quintilian, and J.S. Watson. Institutes of Oratory. Edited by Lee Honeycutt, 2010. Kindle Electronic Edition. Book II Chapter 17
Quintilian now asks whether oratory is an art, saying that he will try to limit his comments (II.17.1). Authors of books on oratory certainly seem to consider it an art. It may be a natural skill as well, but it is certainly one which can be trained (II.17.5). Oratory certainly has a long history, dating back at least to Homer (II.17.8). Quintilian equates an art with something which must be studied formally. He grants that without formal study there is something similar to oratory, but that true mastery must be studied (II.17.13). Those who reject oratory as an art may say it has no particular subject matter (II.17.17), that it advances false conclusions (II.17.18), and that it does not always seek a consistent goal (II.17.22). Some suggest that oratory is self-contradictory since both sides of an argument use it. However, oratory is not placed against itself, but situations against each other (II.17.31). Quintilian cites Cleanthes as saying “an art is a power working its effect by a course, that is by a method” (II.17.41). If this is correct, oratory is certainly an art.
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