1) Establishes a philosophical ideal: true knowledge of the true good; sometimes referred to as "knowledge of the TRUTH.
Knowledge of the truth constituted, for Plato, the Greek ideal (arete). [for others, "arete" was constituted by other alpha values--e.g., citizenship, love, honor, etc.) For Plato: when knowledge of the true standard guides us, every virtue then becomes a form of that true knowledge. In nature, all virtues are the same--they are the image of the good. Education, knowledge, is pre-eminent.
2) How can we come to have such knowledge?
A: Plato's theory of ideas posits that there are three levels of "knowing"
REALITY--the godly intent, the image, the model. Only true philosophy can reach this knowledge.
RESEMBLANCES--the usable human re-creation based on the ideal model. True creativity, informed by philosophy, may reach this knowledge. For instance, functional architectural arts and (perhaps) pure dialectical reasoning operate here)
APPEARANCES--the symbolic representation (which is very often a mis-representation)
B: Dialectic (question/answer dialogue). Dialectic comes in at least four "forms"--though Plato would only recognize the first two.
i. "truth" comes to be knows via dialogue. For Socrates, questioning premises and answers until all mistakes are eliminated.
ii. posited (received) truth to which a leader helps the followers' arrive. The philosopher (like Plato) learns the truth via divine revelation, contemplation, and introspection then shares this truth with others.
iii. NON-PLATONIC/SOCRATIC DIALECTIC (Plato would not approve--but I add it here as part of what we now know) "rhetorical "dialogue through which the issue is examined so that the end product is more true than the starting point--and is mutually agreeable given its bipartisan and/or argumentative development.
iv. Revolutionary dialectic, in which the clash between thesis and antithesis produces synthesis...new knowledge.
Don't forget, all those involved in activities which would "enflame the passions" of the "common man" were cast out of the society in Plato's REPUBLIC (actors, poets, rhetoricians, etc.).
3) Plato's Critique of rhetoric (found throughout his work, but in its most focussed form in the ) GORGIAS
A. Rhetoric is not an art.
It is a knack, comparable to cookery as a form of flattery as compared to medicine as a form of giving- life. Rhetoric revels in the pseudo-art of appearances.
B. Rhetoric does not confer true power.
Power is gained by honestly held position, by leading rightly, or by the knowledgeable pursuit of noble ends. Rhetoric's power is false.
C. More people use rhetoric to escape deserved punishment than as a protection against persecution.
Rhetoric is seldom used rightly.
4) A Platonic "Redemption" of rhetoric: in the PHAEDRUS Was/is this "redemption" at all?
On the positive side: we know PHAEDRUS was written later than most of the works in which Plato is very critical of rhetoric. Perhaps it marks a change of heart on his part; particularly, a self-realization that he had made use of rhetorical techniques throughout his career/life. The PHAEDRUS is virtually the only work in Plato's corpus in which he details a potentially positive role for (and way to do) rhetoric. Also, he does lay out a fairly complete system for a proper rhetoric. In some ways, he constructs an ideal rhetoric which can stand as a positive model.
There is, however, debate as to whether the "redemption" is real. For example, the topic of discussion in the PHAEDRUS is male homosexual love by using love as a metaphor for expressive action (speech). Although male homosexual relationships were more acceptable (and ubiquitous) in ancient Greece than today, Plato could be using this format as a way to further denigrate rhetoric by showing that it is closely aligned with some of the factors said (at the time and later) to have contributed to the moral decline in ancient Greece.
Further, the system Plato offers is so ideal as to, perhaps, be out of reach such that mere mortals are unlikely to ever measure up to the requirements of the system . . . which would have the effect of damning rhetorical practice.
Plato begins by asking three questions, the answers to which lead him to lay out a system for rhetoric. 1) Is language which moves the passions less good than language which is neutral and does not? (not intrinsically . . . depends on the use to which the passion is put). 2) Is language which moves the passions inherently exploitative? (not inherently, though quite possibly in practice too often). 3) How does the noble lover (one who wants to avoid the pitfalls above) use inspired madness for the good of both parties?---to teach and inspire as to the truth and toward noble goals? The answer is the model upon which many later writers will depend, especially those of the Christian era.
A model rhetoric
A. know the truth of the matter before you speak. Avoid deceptive probabilities. Lead toward truth
B. Define terms clearly and completely
C. Order and arrange the materials according to sound rhetorical principles.
D. Know the souls of all men, and of those of your audience, and know what will move those souls toward acceptance of the truth you bring.
E. Use proper style and delivery
F. Have high moral purpose
G. Interactive discourse is preferable to monologue. Orality is preferable to writing
H. Isocrates is a pretty good guy and may amount to something someday--if
he transcends his childish rhetoric and heads toward philosophy.
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