In public Greek life, a man had to make his way at every step through the immediate persuasion of the spoken word. Whether it be addressing an assembly, a law-court or a more restricted body, his oratory would be a public affair rather than under the purview of a quiet committee, without the support of circulated commentary, and with no backcloth of daily reportage to make his own or others‘ views familiar to his hearers. The oratory's immediate effect was all-important; it would be naive to expect that mere reasonableness or an inherently good case would equate to a satisfactory appeal. Therefore, it was early realized that persuasion was an art, up to a point teachable, and a variety of specific pedagogy was well established in the second half of the fifth century. When the sophists claimed to teach their pupils how to succeed in public life, rhetoric was a large part of what they meant, though, to do them justice, it was not the whole.
Skill naturally bred mistrust. If a man of good will had need of expression advanced of mere twaddle, to learn how to expound his contention effectively, the truculent or pugnacious could be taught to dress their case in well-seeming guise. It was a standing charge against the sophists that they 'made the worse appear the better cause,‘ and it was this immoral lesson which the hero of Aristophanes‘ Clouds went to learn from, of all people, Socrates. Again, the charge is often made in court that the opponent is an adroit orator and the jury must be circumspect so as not to let him delude them. From the frequency with which this crops up, it is patent that the accusation of cleverness might damage a man. In Greece, juries, of course, were familiar with the style, and would recognize the more evident artifices, but it was worth a litigant‘s while to get his speech written for him by an expert. Persuasive oratory was certainly one of the pressures that would be effective in an Athenian law-court.
A more insidious danger was the inevitable desire to display this art as an art. It is not easy to define the point at which a legitimate concern with style shades off into preoccupation with manner at the expense of matter, but it is easy to perceive that many Greek writers of the fourth and later centuries passed that danger point. The most influential was Isocrates, who polished for long years his pamphlets, written in the form of speeches, and taught to many pupils the smooth and easy periods he had perfected. Isocrates took to the written word in compensation for his inadequacy in live oratory; the tough and nervous tones of a Demosthenes were far removed from his, though they, too, were based on study and practice. The exaltation of virtuosity did palpable harm. The balance was always delicate, between style as a vehicle and style as an end in itself.
We must not try to pinpoint a specific moment when it, once and for all, tipped over; but certainly, as time went on, virtuosity weighed heavier. While Greek freedom lasted, and it mattered what course of action a Greek city decided to take, rhetoric was a necessary preparation for public life, whatever its side effects. It had been a source of strength for Greek civilization that its problems, of all kinds, were thrashed out very much in public. The shallowness which the study of rhetoric might (not must) encourage was the corresponding weakness.
Directions: Read the above paragraph and answer the following
Q.Historians agree that those seeking public office in modern America make far fewer speeches in the course of their campaign than those seeking a public position in ancient Greece did. The author would most likely explain this by pointing out that: