When Aristotle says in NE I.4 that an educated person would no more demand demonstrations from a rhetorician than persuasive arguments from a mathematician, which of the following is he claiming:
1. Demonstration is a higher standard of argumentation and proof than persuasive argument, and it is always to be preferred when possible, but something less than this is to be accepted when (on account of the subject matter) demonstration is not possible.
2. Demonstration and persuasive argument are equally high standards of argumentation and proof. There is no sense in which one may be ranked higher than the other, because they differ in kind rather than in degree. Demonstration is appropriate to some disciplines, and persuasive argument to others.
Call the first methodological 'Elitism'; the second 'Egalitarianism'.
One might have thought that Aristotle was an Elitist, on the grounds that he says that mathematical inquiry is more 'precise' (akribes) than rhetorical argument, and (it seems) he is presuming that, when there is a choice, greater accuracy is preferable. (Shouldn't we always choose to be more precise, when we can be so?)
Yet Richard Kraut, in an excellent essay which is his contribution to the Blackwell anthology he has edited on the Nicomachean Ethics ("Aristotle's Method"), apparently opts for Egalitarianism. Kraut begins (p. 87) by acknowledging that Elitism at first looks like the correct interpretation of the passage:
It might nonetheless seem that Aristotle is, after all, downgrading the level of justification achievable by ethical inquiry because, soon after he notes that such matters seem to rest on convention alone, he insists that "we must be satisfied, in speaking about such matters and proceeding from them, to show [endeiknusthai] what is true roughly and in outline, and when discussing matters that hold for the most part, and proceeding from them, to arrive at conclusions of the same sort (NE I.3.1094b19-22).But then Kraut insists that this would be a mistake, that Aristotle is defending Egalitarianism:
That might make it sound as though Aristotle ... is asking his audience to place lower intellectual demands on the arguments of ethical inquiry than those of other studies. But we should be careful here. Aristotle is not judging the credentials of ethics and other fields by applying to them all a single kind of measure or standard. On the contrary, he is asking us to have different expectations of different fields: not higher standards for some fields and lower standards for others, but different standards. An orator who addressed his audience by putting everything into the form of deductive arguments would fail miserably--he would be a worse orator, not a better one--but this does not mean that the intellectual standards by which oratory is to be assessed result from a lowering of the standards used elsewhere. Similarly, although ethics must be judged by the same endoxic method used to prove truths in every other field, we should recognize that it is a field in which some of what is shown to be true holds only for the most part.You might be concerned, with me, that Kraut is failing to distinguish some very different considerations here: an argument's power to convince, its intellectual difficulty, its rigor.
Yet, even so, do you see the obvious objection to Kraut's interpretation--implicit in what Kraut says here--which, to my mind, quite undermines it?