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Deliberative Democracy and Rhetoric: Cicero, Oratory, and Conversation

Deliberative Democracy and Rhetoric: Cicero, Oratory, and Conversation

(p.167) Chapter 6 Deliberative Democracy and Rhetoric: Cicero, Oratory, and Conversation
Ethics and the Orator
Gary A. Remer
University of Chicago Press

Unlike proponents of deliberative democracy, Cicero, like other classical rhetoricians, identifies deliberative oratory, not conversation, as the dominant genre of political speech. Cicero, however, also identifies conversation (sermo) as another kind of rhetoric that was not much discussed by other ancient rhetoricians. His conception of conversation anticipates the ideal of conversation upheld by today’s advocates of deliberative democracy. By comparing both Ciceronian oratory and conversation with deliberative democratic discourse, this chapter explains why Cicero chooses political oratory over conversation as the primary mode of political communication. And in analyzing Cicero’s rationale for selecting oratory over conversation, this chapter shows the relevance of his arguments to contemporary politics. Later in this chapter, the argument is presented that Cicero’s choice of deliberative oratory over deliberation qua conversation better reflects the reality of politics, not only in his time but in our own, and that deliberative democracy’s moral requirements do not sufficiently take into account the actual practice of politics. Ideals are morally useful. The deliberative democrats’ ideal of a deliberative society, however, is sufficiently out-of-touch with politics as practiced (or even possible) that it undermines the value of their deliberative ideal.

Keywords:   Cicero, deliberative democracy, conversation, sermo, deliberative oratory, deliberation, unattainable ideals, attainable ideals

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