Plato and Rhetoric 427-346 BC (81yrs.) • Life • Impetus: Attack Sophists

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Plato and Rhetoric 427-346 BC (81yrs.) • Life • Impetus: Attack Sophists
Plato and Rhetoric
427-346 BC (81yrs.)
• Life
– Wealthy traveling Athenian
– Alfred North Whitehead ”footnotes”
– Philosopher of forms, “idealism”
• Impetus: Attack Sophists
• May have coined the word “Rhetoric”
• Perfect Form
Plato Close-up
Plato on Rhetoric
• Three works on Rhetoric:
-The Apology
-The Gorgias
-The Phaedrus
The Apology (399 BC)
• After the fact version of Socrates’ trial
• Socrates is charged with
– Atheism
– Corruption of youth
• Believes truth is
– self evident and personal
– refuses to use ad hominem argument and appeals to
pathos as the sophists do
– Kennedy (pp. 44-45) Click here for pages.
• Truth
• The Hemlock
The Gorgias (385 BC)
• Early work
• Major ideas implied or stated
– Dialectic nature of truth “remembered” in
dialogue among experts
– Rhetoric is pre-selected communication in
order to defend opinions
The Gorgias
Attacking Rhetoric
• Three rounds of speeches
– First Gorgias and Socrates
– Second Polus and Socrates
– Third Challicles and Socrates
The Gorgias
• Topics
– What is the nature of rhetoric?
– Does rhetoric by its very nature tend to mislead?
– What happens to a society when persuasion is a basis for law and
justice? (Herrick, p. 54)
• Theme
– The basis of justice
– Doxa (mere public opinion) vs Episteme (true
Socrates/Plato and Gorgias
Round One
• Socrates/Plato: What is the art or techne
(knowledge) rhetoric offers? (a question)
• Gorgias: Rhetoric is concerned with words,
persuasive words.
• Socrates/Plato: Not a definition, because all
disciplines use persuasion.
• Episteme (true knowledge) vs pistis (mere
Socrates/Plato and Gorgias
Round One Continued
• Justice involves episteme. Justice is a lofty,
time consuming topic. Public is ignorant.
– The rhetorician, then, is not a teacher of law
courts and other public gatherings as to what is
right or wrong, but merely a creator of beliefs;
for evidently he could never instruct so large a
gathering in so short a time (445) (Herrick, p.
Socrates/Plato and Polus
Round Two
• Socrates vs Polus (the colt)
• Polus: “Rhetoric is the greatest power in
the country.”
• Plato: Comparisons
– The arts vs sham arts
Socrates/Plato and Polus
Round Two: True and Sham Arts
• The Arts of Health
– Maintain:
– Restore:
• The Sham Arts of Health
– Maintain:
– Restore:
Socrates/Plato and Callicles
Round Three
• Callicles: Natural Justice or the rule of the
intelligent over the baser.
• Machiavellian
• A wann’a be? A Yuppie? A Republican? (the
ladder of success--”pull it up after you”)
Reflections on the Gorgias
• Rhetoric merely a means to justice: A
Representational Model of Communication
• Plato rejects sophists arguments and uses
them: probabilities, ridicule (Albert
• Revenge on Callicles
• Rejection of transient notion of truth (time,
justice and juries)
The Phaedrus (367 BC)
Twenty years after the Gorgias
An older, mellower Plato
Gorgias “anger,” Phaedras “love”
Gorgias “in the name of morality reject
rhetoric”Romilly, p. 71
The Phaedrus (continued)
• Content: A conversation with a young
sophist student
• Intellectually and physically attractive
• Love: “divine madness” a “trance entered
by poets”
• The Soul has three parts
The Phaedrus and the Soul
• The three parts (Charioteer)
• 1. Loves wisdom
2. Loves nobility and honor
3. Loves appetite or lusts
• Richard Weaver--Rhetoric as:
– Rape, Seduction, or Love
The Phaedrus and Rhetoric
Rhetoric therefore is the art of influencing souls
Psychagogia “leading souls”
Know “the truth” first, then
Adapting to audience’s soul is the art of rhetoric-soul of love, soul of honor, soul of lust
• Is “soul talk” the same as “understanding” or
“meeting of meaning?”
• Justice is realized when the lower submits to lover
of wisdom. (Micah 6:8—justly, love mercy, walk humbly)
The Phaedrus (Comments/Criticisms)
• The relationship of rhetoric to truth
– discover? or propagate? (mere advocacy)
• Create the truth?
• Rhetoric and Dialectic both can produce
• Listen for soul--Remembering?
• Is this tradition or God?
The Phaedrus (Comments/Criticisms)
• Kennedy p. 58 “Plato’s is an impractical rhetoric,
. . . How can we know everyone's soul?
• Yet, we can know our soul “that which is most
personal is also most general”
• Plato starts with ontology or being, thus soul talk
is remembering or recalling (reincarnation)
• Comparing the Gorgias and the Phaedrus
• Are our minds like his? Alfred North Whitehead
The Phaedrus (Comments/Criticisms)
Do you believe in true love?
Do you know Clinton is lying?
How can you know what you have never
experienced? Remembering?
• Comparing Gorgias to Phaedrus (click here)
Two Language Realities
The Words
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