Isocrates and Plato

“To Nicocles,” “Encomium of Helen,” Antidosis,” “On the Team of Horses,” “Against the Sophists”
The Gorgias
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
Notes from class

• Mind/body
o Being=power
o Corporeal adornment: reason ≠ corporeal
• Two part soul
• Epictetus/Plutarch=far after Plato
o Adorning reasoning
o Stiff armed attack against corporealism
o Attractive
o A critique of the ‘body’
• We have a hard time thinking that the soul isn’t corporeal
o Body = abject
o Soul = superior
• Is adornment necessary?
o Hatred/dismissal of the body
o Rhetoric would be the adornment of reason
• What’s being built by Plato is being fought against by deconstruction
• Strange turn towards the myth
o Gorgias
o Helps you realize what you already know
• Dialectical fiction
o Pleasure dissociated from good
• Subjective and personal: perception and experience
• Good: objective; Pleasure: subjective
o Gorgias: universal good?
• Man is the measure of all things
• Persuasion v. truth
• Imitation of appearance: Sophistry
• Encomium: defenseless
• Bodily – primacy
• Veil before our own souls
• The moment where the body becomes artificial
• Things should be turned upside down: Plato
• Can the effect of flattery extend to the soul
o Outside influence
o Gaze: external
• Embodiment: self-contained?
o Mental body image
• Who is the author of being?
• Socrates Demon: Voice that told him what to do
o Not an uncommon move
• Philosophy and rhetoric distinct from each other
• How can you make change and not distinction
o Presence: Derrida
o Experience as sameness through difference
o Difference first, sameness later
• Mission Plato: refuting what’s popular
o Oppositional
o No recourse to oppositional object
• How for something and not against?
• Affirmative without negation
o Persuasion: violation?
o Rhetoric as pleasure?
o Rhetoric as rape?
• Molding false arguments
o Inescapably manipulative
• Rhetoric of fear?
o Loyalty to agenda
• Pleasure of self-love
• Pleasure of right, denial
o Two types of pleasure
• Encomium: performance
• Imitation playing into sophistic technique
• Limits of persuasion
o Drugs, force
• “Willingly made slaves”: Philebus
• Return to persuasion as sinisterism
• Target for corruption
• Soul in three parts
o Soul v. body
o Selfless selfishness
• Better to suffer than cause suffering
• Sophist: Platonic Dialectic
o The Copy v. The Simulacrum
From 7007 response
The notion of distinction is first aroused during the introduction to The Sophist. In his introduction, Benjamin Jowett explains that Not-being is relation—it is the other of Being. By stating, “all negation is distinction,” Jowett expands upon Spinoza and shows that the other (in this case, Not-being) is a distinction, rather than something that is not (14). The two are relational and dependent upon one another. They are not oppositional. As we continue through The Sophist, the Stranger and Theaetetus examine different professions by what they are in relation to what they are not (e.g. hunting with pleasure—amatory art—is distinct from/other than hunting with violence—the whole military art) (59). Therefore, hunting with violence is not opposite of hunting with pleasure, it is instead distinct from it in very specific ways. What we see is difference, not opposition, as stated by the Stranger towards the end: “the negative particles when prefixed to words, do not imply opposition, but only difference from the words, or more correctly from the things represented by the words which follow them” (109).
In “On Adornment,” we hear a conversation about beauty, and how beauty in one species is distinct from beauty in others. Similar to the example of the types of hunters, characterizing species-specific beauty does not negate the beauty in other species. To quote from “On Adornment,” “In every class of creatures nature produces some exceptional specimen; do not say then to the exception, ‘What are you then?’ […] ‘Do not require me to be like the rest, nor blame my nature, because it made me different from the rest’” (3).
But what happens when someone wants to be the same, to imitate? In Plutarch’s “How to Tell a Flatterer from a Friend,” we encounter the ideas of flattery, imitation, and responsibility. We quickly learn that a flatterer is someone who acts like a friend, but with selfish, reciprocal intentions—a flatterer is thus a “counterfeit copy of ourselves” (4). The flatterer imitates another person, and in turn seeks personal approval by complimenting ‘the original.’ The flatterer’s compliment is then actually an outward praise of oneself, because through the compliment, the flatterer is also commenting on his/her own imitation. While the flatterer is neither “properly his own,” nor is the flatterer the one he/she is imitating, as a result of imitation the flatterer can be anything or anyone. The flatterer both Is and Is-not simultaneously. As a friend, one has the responsibility of approaching one’s friends honestly, and not seeking self-imposed ego-inflating comments. We can compare this with the following quote from “Encomium”: “discourse is a great potentate, which by the smallest and most secret body accomplishes the most divine works; for it can stop fear and assuage pain and produce joy and make mercy abound” (2). Just as the flatterer can be anyone, discourse can do anything, even victimize. Discourse and flattery are tricksters one in the same: “some give pain, other delight, other terrify, other rouse the hearers to courage, and yet others by a certain vile persuasion drug and trick of the soul” (3).
Finally in Gorgias, we can see that the power of discourse, and importantly the discourse of the body, plays crucial roles. Towards the close of Gorgias, Socrates notes, “take […] any other profession you like, and see how each of them arranges the different elements of his work in a certain order, and makes one part fit and harmonize with another until the thing emerges a consistent and organized whole” (111). Returning to the term distinction, this quote can refer to the idea that Being and Not-being are not opposites, but are instead parts of the consistent, organized whole.

More notes from Bodies of Persuasion

More notes from Untimely Mediations


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