Brinton suggests that Quintilian's famous vir bonus
remarks (in the first chapter of Book XII) can be read as Platonistic abstraction in three ways—Quintilian having intended all three—as “(1) an orator ought to be good; (2) an orator will be effective only if good; (3) an orator is good as a matter of definition” (168). He suggests the first reading as important only in that it highlights Quintilian's insistence on moral character against the backdrop of rhetorical handbooks of the day that did not attend to it. He considers the latter two readings as evidence of Quintilian's compliance with Platonism, and traces examples from Gorgias
that show how both men believe good speech requires moral character. Brinton argues that Quintilian's unwillingness to accept counter-examples of bad men who were good orators (by way of his arguing that they were in fact good men, such as in the case of Cicero and Demosthenes) is symptomatic of a doctrine that would not hold up to contemporary empirical refutation. The third reading of the vir bonus
statement has it, as Brinton explains, that the orator is a Platonic ideal, since Quintilian considers good and bad in absolute terms, which disregard the obvious levels of goodness and badness that most people have. Ordinary speech “conforms to the language of every day (Quintilian as qtd. in Brinton 183), but is grounded in the ideal form for Quintilian.