Logic or Rhetoric in a Catilinian Counterargument

During the first century BC, there was a conspiracy involving a man named Catiline who organized an army of indebted noblemen and soldiers to attempt to overthrow the city of Rome. He was exposed by a consul named Cicero in several famous orations. Cicero’s orations against Catiline were great examples of the use of rhetoric. His arguments did not rely on truth. They simply convinced the audience of something by manipulating their perspective of the situation. Cicero convinced the audience that Catiline was a morally degenerate scoundrel, and that Cicero was a victim of his villainous conspiracies.

Catiline could have made a logical argument denouncing Catiline’s claims as hollow and illogical, which they were, but this probably would not have worked, however. Cicero had the senate under his spell with his legendary skills of rhetoric, and it is doubtful whether Catiline could have shaken Cicero’s hold over them with logic. Catiline would have to bend to Cicero’s level in order to beat him.

Catiline could have lied his way into the senate’s favor by repeating the same self-pity argument that Cicero had used. He could have denounced Cicero as a liar and shaken the senate’s confidence in him. He could have turned the tables and accused Cicero as the real conspirator. There are any number of ways which Catiline could have made Cicero look bad. He did not have to use a logical statement to prove what he was saying. This is rhetoric, which does not rely on truth or logic.

What Catiline should not have done was flaunt his power and military authority in the face of the senate. This would have put the senate in the proper mindset for Cicero to prove his argument that Catiline was trying to destroy the city and murder everybody in their beds.

None of Cicero’s arguments relied on truth or logic. They only relied on the use of rhetoric and deception to convince the senate that Catiline was a bad guy. A counter-argument by Catiline that depended on the use of reason and logical thinking is unlikely to have won. The only way that Catiline had a chance to defeat Cicero was to employ the use of rhetoric more effectively.


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