Each word is like a gem that shines with a distinct luster, that possesses a distinct virtue of its own, one that will offset various settings and occasions uniquely. Thus rhetoric is as the jeweler’s art in its attention to clarity, harmony, and integrity of speech, in all its parts and as a whole. And in this regard, selection and arrangement can never be mere additions to ‘nature’, to that which is said, for nothing is ever said without selection and arrangement.
Each word, as each gem, is never other than itself. Yet, its sense and character is distinct, made definite only through placement, occasion, and audience. And all this the true orator can never wholly disregard, even if he scorn eloquence and only aims to achieve understanding. For what else is true eloquence but the wise arrangement of words, such that by their various virtues, they might be determined and shine so that they duly offset and complement one another, that each might communicate and transfer meaning, one by one in order and all together, that by a felicitous harmony achieved through the orators art, each of their natures might coincide and correspond so as to form a meaningful whole, fit for the occasion.
Nevertheless, construction or oratory is not ruled by necessity, such that only one possibility of arrangements exists. Rather, if there is a rule of necessity, it is the necessity of prudence, of taste, judgment, skill, and providence, within which room for play, as well as greater or less virtue is possible. Thus like all human acts, the good, the true, the beautiful are not best known in the abstract, but in the manifold, personal situation in which they exist. The great rhetor arranges a crown or earring, sets a necklace or ring with such and such a gem, in such a setting. But when done well, from thence onward, the ornament in some manner will ever stands for the idea, just as an heirloom becomes part of a household, as if belonging to it by necessity.
But lest I be misunderstood, I insist that this in no way conflicts with the doctrine of Plato, for whom Rhetoric was always a secondary art: a tool or a means and not an end. Rhetoric is distinct from philosophy or wisdom. It is at best a corollary. It is philosophy (truth) and not eloquence which must rule.
This is proven by the fact that evil speeches can be artfully done and good speech badly. Yet, I still reserve the right to insist that evil speeches deserve not the name beautiful (kalos) unequivocally. It belongs to the philosopher and the lover of God to discern the end of a matter, the good, and thus the true. Therefore, it also belongs to the philosopher to discern the beautiful. And it is this which Plato argued and which made his works so sublime: that in the end, in reality, truth and beauty, are one. This, after all, is what makes the Gorgias, at once, one of the supreme works of philosophy and rhetoric.