Isocrates, part 2

Some further notes about Isocrates' ideas, from Ijsseling, Samuel (1976). Philosophy and Rhetoric in Conflict: An Historical Survey (Martinus Nijhoff): "ch.3 Isocrates and the power of logos."

Ijsseling, page 16.

Introductory remarks: Although Plato may well have turned philosophy against rhetoric, he did not succeed in convincing the state or the people. Isocrates' school was much more successful and educated numerous important Greek and Roman leaders; Plato's own Academy educated Aristotle who wrote the most influential Rhetoric of all time; Isocrates' school became the model for the school systems of Greece, Rome, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance. There is renewed interest in Rhetoric in modern times.

Now to Isocrates and the power of logos.

The ranscendent value of "the word"--man's ability to use language powerfully. Although some later translators chose to emphasize the "rationality" aspect of the human activity, the old folks, as represented by Isocrates, recognized that what was at stake was ORALITY--the human use of language. Communication enables civilized community. Language so pervades human activity that it is not simply one more subject of philosophical reflection; it is a transcendental condition sine qua non of every human social activity.

(This reminds us about the questionable nature of the "new science's" determination that science must be "objective." Even science, and especially social science, is a human enterprise carried out within the interpretative screens of the humans carrying out the work. Notwithstanding many of the important operations of science, the activity is NEVER behind the back of language and is therefore never objective.)

Logos directs our thought and action. The man who studies logos becomes powerful and competent.

page 20

Ijsseling explains the varying translations and interpretations which can be given to the term logos, showing how easy it is to turn the phrase into "logic" or "rationality." However, he comes to the same conclusion as have many modern translators and interpreters ( including Heidegger--our ages' preeminent philosopher)--that logos is most closely associated with the human ability to use symbolic speech, particularly in a powerful oral form of life. Men can name, praise, and make speeches: truth is founded upon words. It is through words that we uncover and cover over the very existence of being.

page. 24: "for the Greeks 'the essence of being lay partly in appearing'; doxa did not just mean a subjective conviction or opinion, but brilliance, esteem, glory, fame, honour, etc. Also, there is self -esteem. In other words, who and what we are comes to light through our communication, such that Being itself, as it is human, is essentially a rhetorical process: Doxa is like the coming into and unconcealment of an essential aspect of truth." (24). All truth and justice reside within logos. There is no human "physis" (or for that matter, episteme--knowledge) behind the back of language.

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