Posts Tagged ‘Plato


Gross’ Rhetoric of Science

Alan Gross
The Rhetoric of Science
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
From Randy Harris’ Review

•    Compounding the presumption of that article, the book is surprisingly neglectful of other work in the field. There is barely a glance in the text at Bazerman or Myers. Simons, Lyne, Miller, Zappen, and several other influential rhetoricians of science are nowhere to be seen.
•    The book begins with much talk about “a neo- Aristotelian rhetoric of science” (6), outlining rhetorical genres and sketching stasis theory, but all that fades rather quickly away.
o    When Gross gets down to looking at scientific texts and processes, Habermas and Turner are more direct influences than Aristotle or Cicero. Nor, despite the emphasis on knowledge-making, do Scott or Leff or any others from the rhetoric-as-epistemic tradition make an appearance. The Sophists are invoked early but never employed.
•    Durant in the Times Literary Supplement dismissed his arguments to that end as (savour the irony) “mere sophistry,” and Ravetz complained in Nature that his work reduced science to “‘just words.”
o    Mere and just are familiar sticks for beating uppity rhetoricians, of course, and we shouldn’t lose any sleep over scientists worried that exposing their traffic in suasion might lower their status or jeopardize their grants
•    “The creation of knowledge is a task beginning with self-persuasion,” he tells us on the first page, “and ending with the persuasion of others” (3).
•    Suasion seems overlaid on science in these analyses, not constitutive of them, and Gross talks frequently as if rhetoric and scientific argumentation are two distinct entities (“rhetorical and scientific reasoning differ not in kind but only in degree”-12), rather than the latter being a subset of the former.
•    Plato, who says that first you find the truth, then you sell it. Plato’s model, not coincidentally, is the one that most scientists would offer.
o    Truth is ‘out there.’ Scientists find it. They phrase it in the most compelling terms, and others recognize it.
•    And a rhetoric that sells, instead of builds, is far too static for science.
•    This picture, of course, is a stick drawing of scientific disputes (ignoring, for instance, problems and solutions that arise only in the crucible of debate-E churning up data only for its ability to perforate U;
o    U inventing goals only because they are antithetical to E’s; each latching onto methods only for their corrosive effect on the other). But even this skimpy outline is fuller than Gross’s picture.
•    In short, there is not enough in The Rhetoric of Science about how knowledge gets built-via negotiation-in science.
•    But, through public disagreements (and public alliances), they display their arguments before their consumers-the workaday scientists who have to decide how they are going to spend the next few years of their time and energy, allocate their grant money, deploy their students.
o    More generally, scientific programs are like any consumer product-if fins work for this year for Ford, Chevy will have them next year-and theories are constantly infecting one another with attractive properties, constantly swapping suasions.
•    And, in the most unfortunate case of opportunity lost (perhaps because
Habermas leads him astray), Gross has a close look at the peer review process-as ripe a grove for epistemic rhetoric as any in science-and finds it a certification exercise. Knowledge is approved, not made, in Gross’ picture of peer review.
From Trevor Melia’s Review
•    In proposing to treat science “sub specie rhetoricae,” Alan Gross exemplifies both the problems and the potencies of the sophistic tradition in rhetoric.
o    Gross understands that the hegemony of rhetoric is threatened by plausible claims to knowledge of a reality beyond language.
o    He also recognizes that “science” poses the greatest threat in this respect
•    The result is that the rhetoric of science is in danger of being assimilated to a historically sensitive sociology of science.
o    Gross seeks to avoid that problem by explicitly mobilizing canonical works in classical rhetoric, especially those of Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintillian, and supplementing them with contributions from such moderns as Chaim Perelman, Kenneth Burke, Vladimir Propp, Jiirgen Habermas, and Roland Barthes.
o    Chapters devoted to analogy in science, taxonomic language, style in biological prose, and the arrangement of the scientific paper are redolent of the categories, if not the concerns, of classical rhetoric.
•    More philosophically provocative is the attempt, by invoking the doctrine of stasis (an sit, quid sit, quale sit), to replace “scientific discovery” with “rhetorical invention.”
•    This latter feat is accomplished by a perhaps too facile bifurcation between the “brute facts of nature” and “science itself.”
•    On Gross’s rendition the rhetoric of science does not deny the brute facts of nature but does aver that they are neither science nor knowledge.
o    Thus for Gross, since science is by definition invented, anything discovered is by implication brute fact.
•    Both Gross and Prelli profit from that combination of semiotic insight and modern Continental philosophy that, treating language as not merely instrumental but constitutive of reality, renders everything as “text.”


St. Augustine’s On Christian Teaching

St. Augustine
On Christian Teaching
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
The Significance of On Christian Doctrine (from Rhetorical Tradition)

•    His confessions may be seen as illustrating the application of Christian ideas to the governance of one’s own soul.
•    OCT advises the Christian pastor on how to foster both psychological and social order by correctly interpreting the Christian truth of the Scriptures and conveying this truth to diverse audiences.
•    The Platonic philosophers come closer to the truth of Christianity than any other pagan thinkers.
•    Augustine knew something of Plato and Aristotle—the Platonic philosophers came closer to the truth of Christianity than any other pagan thinkers.
•    Augustine suggests that eloquence can be achieved without rhetorical training and furthermore, that wisdom, which is separate from eloquence, is more important than eloquence.  Thus he seems to mount a Platonic attach on the declamatory rhetoric of the Second Sophistic that he himself once taught.
•    This separation of eloquence and wisdom implies a separation of things (truths, realities) and words (signs of things), thus also leading Augustine to the Platonic conclusion that language itself is only a means to the final, silent contemplation of divine truth.
•    Augustine thus shares with Cicero—and through hum, with Isocrates—the conviction that rhetoric must be employed for people’s own good.  Augustine follows Cicero in treating the three offices of rhetoric as pleasing, teaching, and persuading or moving to action.
•    Augustine may also place more emphasis on teaching because he assumes that the Christian pastor will usually be preaching to the converted.
•    The converted audience already values Christianity and desires to live by it but must be instructed in the proper way to do so.  In turn, this emphasis on preaching to the converted may lead to slightly more emphasis on style as an important concern for rhetoric in Augustine’s work, as opposed to its place in Cicero’s.

From this source
BOOK I: Argument
The author divides his work into two parts, one relating to the discovery, the other to the expression, of the true sense of Scripture. He shows that to discover the meaning we must attend both to things and to signs, as it is necessary to know what things we ought to teach to the Christian people, and also the signs of these things, that is, where the knowledge of these things is to be sought. In this first book he treats of things, which he divides into three classes,–things to be enjoyed, things to be used, and things which use and enjoy. The only object which ought to be enjoyed is the Triune God, who is our highest good and our true happiness. We are prevented by our sins from enjoying God; and that our sins might be taken away, “The Word was made Flesh,” our Lord suffered, and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, taking to Himself as his bride the Church, in which we receive remission of our sins. And if our sins are remitted and our souls renewed by grace, we may await with hope the resurrection of the body to eternal glory; if not, we shall be raised to everlasting punishment. These matters relating to faith having been expounded, the author goes on to show that all objects, except God, are for use; for, though some of them may be loved, yet our love is not to rest in them, but to have reference to God. And we ourselves are not objects of enjoyment to God: he uses us, but for our own advantage. He then goes on to show that love–the love of God for His own sake and the love of our neighbour for God’s sake–is the fulfilment and the end of all Scripture. After adding a few words about hope, he shows, in conclusion, that faith, hope, and love are graces essentially necessary for him who would understand and explain aright the Holy Scriptures.
•    Those things which are objects of enjoyment make us happy. Those things which are objects of use assist, and (so to speak) support us in our efforts after happiness, so that we can attain the things that make us happy and rest in them.
•    For to enjoy a thing is to rest with satisfaction in it for its own sake. To use, on the other hand, is to employ whatever means are at one’s disposal to obtain what one desires, if it is a proper object of desire; for an unlawful use ought rather to be called an abuse.
•    Those things which are objects of use are not all, however, to be loved, but those only which are either united with us in a common relation to God, such as a man or an angel, or are so related to us as to need the goodness of God through our instrumentality, such as the body.
•    No man, then, hates himself. On this point, indeed, no question was ever raised by any sect. But neither does any man hate his own body.
•    Man, therefore, ought to be taught the due measure of loving, that is, in what measure he may love himself so as to be of service to himself. For that he does love himself, and does desire to do good to himself, nobody but a fool would doubt.
BOOK II: Argument
Having completed his exposition of things, the author now proceeds to discuss the subject of signs. He first defines what a sign is, and shows that there are two classes of signs, the natural and the conventional. Of conventional signs (which are the only class here noticed), words are the most numerous and important, and are those with which the interpreter of Scripture is chiefly concerned. The difficulties and obscurities of Scripture spring chiefly from two sources, unknown and ambiguous signs. The present book deals only with unknown signs, the ambiguities of language being reserved for treatment in the next book. The difficulty arising from ignorance of signs is to be removed by learning the Greek and Hebrew languages, in which Scripture is written, by comparing the various translations, and by attending to the context. In the interpretation of figurative expressions, knowledge of things is as necessary as knowledge of words; and the various sciences and arts of the heathen, so far as they are true and useful, may be turned to account in removing our ignorance of signs, whether these be direct or figurative. Whilst exposing the folly and futility of many heathen superstitions and practices, the author points out how all that is sound and useful in their science and philosophy may be turned to a Christian use. And in conclusion, he shows the spirit in which it behoves us to address ourselves to the study and interpretation of the sacred books.
BOOK III: Argument
The author, having discussed in the preceding book the method of dealing with unknown signs, goes on in this third book to treat of ambiguous signs. Such signs may be either direct or figurative. In the case of direct signs ambiguity may arise from the punctuation, the pronunciation, or the doubtful signification of the words, and is to be resolved by attention to the context, a comparison of translations, or a reference to the original tongue. In the case of figurative signs we need to guard against two mistakes:–1. the interpreting literal expressions figuratively; 2. the interpreting figurative expressions literally. The author lays down rules by which we may decide whether an expression is literal or figurative; the general rule being, that whatever can be shown to be in its literal sense inconsistent either with purity of life or correctness of doctrine must be taken figuratively. He then goes on to lay down rules for the interpretation of expressions which have been proved to be figurative; the general principle being, that no interpretation can be true which does not promote the love of God and the love of man. The author then proceeds to expound and illustrate the seven rules of Tichonius the Donatist, which he commends to the attention of the student of Holy Scripture.
BOOK IV: Argument
Passing to the second part of his work, that which treats of expression, the author premises that it is no part of his intention to write a treatise on the laws of rhetoric. These can be learned elsewhere, and ought not to be neglected, being indeed specially necessary for the Christian teacher, whom it behoves to excel in eloquence and power of speech. After detailing with much care and minuteness the various qualities of an orator, he recommends the authors of the Holy Scriptures as the best models of eloquence, far excelling all others in the combination of eloquence with wisdom. He points out that perspicuity is the most essential quality of style, and ought to be cultivated with especial care by the teacher, as it is the main requisite for instruction, although other qualities are required for delighting and persuading the hearer. All these gifts are to be sought in earnest prayer from God, though we are not to forget to be zealous and diligent in study. He shows that there are three species of style,–the subdued, the elegant, and the majestic; the first serving for instruction, the second for praise, and the third for exhortation: and of each of these he gives examples, selected both from Scripture and from early teachers of the Church, Cyprian and Ambrose. He shows that these various styles may be mingled, and when and for what purposes they are mingled; and that they all have the same end in view, to bring home the truth to the hearer, so that he may understand it, hear it with gladness, and practice it in his life. Finally, he exhorts the Christian teacher himself, pointing out the dignity and responsibility of the office he holds, to lead a life in harmony with his own teaching, and to show a good example to all.


Burke’s Counter-Statement

Kenneth Burke
Area: Rhetorical and Critical Theory
From Joshua Gunn’s summary

•    There can be no objective rule of taste which will determine by concepts what is beautiful. For every judgement from this source of taste is aesthetical; the feeling for the subject, not the concept of the object, is its determining ground. To seek for a principle of taste which will furnish, by means of definite concepts, a universal criterion of the beautiful is fruitless trouble, because what is sought is impossible and self contradictory” (par. 232).
Chapter One: Three Adepts of ‘Pure Literature’
•    A. Useful background: Burke discusses Gustave Flaubert, Walter Pater, and Remy de Gourmont
•    Pater is allied with Nietzsche in “one respect”: “both kept the theme of transvaluation [of values] well within the sphere of ceremony”(15), meaning that Pater preferred “ceremony” to “information.” Burke later seems to relate ceremony to the psychology of form.
•    “Art was ‘justified’ because art was an appetite – in being desired it found its ample reason for existence. Art did not require defense as an instrument of political or social reform. Art was purely and simply a privilege, to be prized as a cosmic exception” (16-17).
•    A method of analysis termed “dissociation,” which divides a concept “which we usually take as a unit” in order to draw out associative relationships that inhere in “desires” and “interests” (23).
Chapter Two: Psychology and Form
•    Form: “form would be the psychology of the audience. Or, seen from another angle, form is the creation of an appetite in the mind of the auditor, and the adequate satisfying of that appetite” (31).
•    Psychology of information: displaces the psychology of the audience with the psychology of the “hero” or subject; specific details and bits of information are valued over that of the whole. From this perspective, “one might denounce Cezanne’s trees in favor of state forestry bulletins” (32).
o    a) “Under such an attitude, when form is preserved it is preserved as an annex, a luxury, or as some feel, a downright affectation” (33).
o    b) The corresponding methods of sustaining interest “are surprise and suspense” (37).
•    Music is offered as the example par excellence of the psychology of form: “Here form cannot atrophy. Every dissonant chord cries for its solution, and whether the musician resolves or refuses to resolve this dissonance into the chord which the body cries for, he is dealing with human appetites” (34).
Chapter Three: The Poetic Process
•    Burke invokes the principle of crescendo (or “a general rise to a crisis”) as a chief characteristic of art: “Over and over again in the history of art, different material has been arranged to embody the principle of crescendo” (45). He then confidently asserts that the “work of art utilizes climatic arrangement because the human brain” has the potential to respond (“arrested, or entertained”) to climax.
•    However, the principle or concept of crescendo needs to be “individuated” in a particular work of art in order to evoke emotion.
•    Burke then glosses Plato’s theory of the forms as an illustration, and discusses the nominalist philosophy (which holds all one can know are “particulars”). Burke corrects the nominalists by modifying Plato’s conception of the universal forms – he sticks them in the mind: “So eager were the nominalists to disavow Plato in detail that they failed to discover the justice of his doctrines in essence. For we need but take his universals out of heaven and situation them in the human mind …, making them not metaphysical, but psychological” (48).
•    Thus, “we have the original emotion [or mood] which is channelized into a symbol. This symbol becomes a generative force, a relationship to be repeated in varying details, and thus makes for one aspect of technical form” (61). In other words, the consistency required by emotional form, once symbolized, requires a “logical consistency” too, which in turn is part of technical form.
Chapter Six: Program
•    The Thesis: “The present Program speculates as to which emotions and attitudes should be stressed, and which should be slighted, in the aesthetic judgment to the particular conditions of today” (107). What are these conditions?:
•    Mechanization and industrialism, which “affects our political institutions, as it alters our way of living … ” and so on (107).
•    A symbolic of the “past” and “future,” as represented by the “Agrarian” and the “Industrial.”
o    The Agrarian is the “morally conservative.”
o    The Industrialist is the progressive, yet the progressive whose agenda solidifies rather quickly and, though open to innovation “will usually be found to harbor a set of cultural retentions which completely undo” innovation (109).
o    The artist must play the intermediate.
Chapter Seven: Lexicon Rhetoricae
•    The Nature of Form: “Form in literature is the arousing and fulfillment of desires.” There are five aspects of form
o    Syllogistic progression (sub. of “progressive form”):” the form of a “perfectly conducted argument,” where, “given certain things, certain things must follow, the premises forcing the conclusion” (124).
o    Qualitative progression (sub of “progressive form”): the more subtle sort of progressive form, where “the presence of one quality prepares us for the introduction of another,” yet we only recognize the whole (“its rightness”) after the progression is complete. (124-125).
o    Repetitive form: “the constant maintaining of a principle under new guises. It is the restatement of the same thing in different ways” (125).
o    Conventional form: “involves to some degree the appeal of form as form.” There is an “element of ‘categorical expectancy,’ such that the gratifications of the reader are “anterior” to the reading” (126). Seems like the most basic of forms, simply expectations of the audience.
o    Minor or incidental forms: smaller sorts of form, such as “metaphor, paradox, disclosure, reversal, contraction, expansion, bathos, apostrophe, series, chiasmus … ” (127).
•    Burke then proceeds to further clarify (that is, complicate) the five aspects (or types) of form:
o    Interrelation of forms: The forms overlap and are not necessarily distinct in any one work (128).
o    Conflict of forms: The forms can compete, for added or destructive effect (129).
o    Rhythm, Rhyme: Burke identifies rhythm and rhyme as chiefly categorizable under the heading “repetitive form,” although can be described with the other sorts of forms too (130).
o    Significant Form: Forms are not necessarily wed to any one theme; that is, there is no essential correspondence between the peticularies of the subject matter and form. “In most cases we find formal designs or contrivances which impart emphasis regardless of their subject” (135). Burke shows how “talking at cross-purposes,” as a formal contrivance, yields different emotional effects in selections taken from Wilde, Wordsworth, and Racine (the former two for humor, the later for “tragic irony”).
•    The Individuation of Forms: In this section, Burke further elaborates and traces how form gets individuated (as he outlined in the “Poetic Process”).
o    Appeal of forms: Form is successful, or “‘correct’ insofar as it gratifies the need which it creates. The appeal of the form in this sense is obvious: form is the appeal” (138). Burke then discusses the five aspects of form in turn, fixating on the minor: ” … since the single sentence has form, we are forced by our thesis to consider the element of gratification in the sentence apart from his context” (139).
o    A special status is afforded to form as “exemplified in rhythm,” because “rhythm is more closely allied with ‘bodily processes.’ Systole and diastole, alternation of the feet in walking, inhalation and exhalation, up and down, in and out, back and forth, such are the types of distinctly motor experiences ‘tapped’ by rhythm” (140).
•    ‘Priority’ of forms: Though forms are not necessarily “prior to experience, they are certainly prior to the work of art exemplifying them.” (141). This seems to contradict the psychological universals he posits earlier, so he poo-poos the question by saying, “so far as the work of art is concerned they simply are … ” (141).
o    He then returns to his emphasis in earlier chapters on “capacities” (as “a command to act in a certain way”). Peculiar, confusing distinctions like this were sure to cause ire of many an analytical philosopher.
o    “The forms of art, to summarize, are not exclusively ‘aesthetic.’ They can be said to have a prior existence in the experiences of the person hearing or reading the work of art. They parallel processes which characterize his experience outside of art” (143).
•    Individuation of Forms: Further explanation. “A ‘metaphor is a concept, an abstraction – but a specific metaphor, exemplified by specific images, is an ‘individuation.’” (143).
•    Form and information: Because form is “embodied” or clothed by subject-matter, certain “diseases of form” can occur. These diseases come about when the subject-matter obscures the form or out-strips its “functional uses.” A balance must be struck between the intrinsic interesting effect of “information” and formal method/technique. Burke revisits the “psychology of information” and “psychology of business” stuff here. (144-145).
•    Form and Ideology: Burke vacillates between description and proscription. Ideology, because it shifts “from age to age” as well as “person to person,” can render the formal universals ineffective if not used and manipulated by the artist carefully. The artist often must appeal to ideology in order to individuate form (and thereby evoke the desired emotion). (146-147).
•    Re-individuation of forms: Burke maintains that re-individuation is the “best proof that there is ‘individuation’ ….” He offers the example of a “literal translation,” which basically rearticulates the form “with a complete change of matter [words].” Burke offers Joyce’s Ulysses as the “most elaborate re-individuation” of The Odyssey (148-149).


Ricoeur’s Memory, History, Forgetting

Paul Ricoeur
Memory, History, Forgetting
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

Xvi: “In this way, the phenomenology if memory begins deliberately with an analysis turned toward the object of memory, the memory that one hase before the mind; it then passes through the stage of the search for a given memory, the stage of anamnesis, of recollection; we then finally move from memory as it is given and exercised to reflective memory, to memory of oneself.”
Chapter 1: Memory and Imagination
•    Two questions: of what are there memories? Whose memory is it?
•    To remember is to have a memory or to set off in search of a memory
•    What → who → how
•    Memory, reduced to recall, thus operates in the wake of imagination
•    Platonic: speaks of the present representation of an absent thing
o    It argues implicitly for enclosing the problematic of memory within that of imagination
•    Aristotelian: centered on the theme of representation of a think formerly perceived, acquired, or learned, argues for including the problematic of the image within that of remembering
o    Aristotle: “All memory is of the past”
•    Can a man who has learned something not know when he is remembering it?
•    Accept the identification between possessing knowledge and actively using it
o    Holding a bird v. keeping it in a cage
•    Platonic texts on memory: aporetic results and difficulties
o    Absence: explicit reference to the distinctive feature of memory in which the affections of the body and the soul to which memory is attached are signified
o    The relation that exists between the eikon and the first mark
•    Can the relation to the past only be a variety of mimesis?
•    History: trace or imprint?
o    “External” marks of writing: written discourse, image (wax impression), graphic
•    What do we remember: the affection or the thing that produced it?
o    If affection: then it’s not something absent one remembers
o    If the think: then how, while perceiving the impression could we remember the absent think that we are not at present perceiving?
•    Aristotle: distinction between mneme and anamnesis
o    Mneme: arises in the manner of an affection; simple evocation
o    Anamnemesis: active search; effort to recall
3: “If the ‘I’ in the first person singular is too hastily declared the subject of memory, the notion of collective memory can take shape only as an analogical concept, even as a foreign body in the phenomenology of memory.”
7:  “And yet, we have nothing better than memory to guarantee that something has taken place before we call to mind a memory of it.  Historiography itself, let us already say, will not succeed in setting aside the continually derided and continually reasserted conviction that the final referent of memory remains the past, whatever the pastness of the past may signify.”
9:  “The reference to time we might expect from the use of the verb ‘to preserve in memory’ is not relevant in the framework of an epistemic theory that is concerned with the status of false opinion, hence with judgment and not with memory as such.  Its strength is to embrace in full, from the persoective of a phenomenology of mistakes, the aporia of the presence of absence.”
11: “The idea of ‘faithful resemblance’ belonging to the eikastic art will at least have served as a relay.  Plato seems to have noted in the threshold of the impasse, when he asks himself: ‘what in the world do we mean by a ‘copy’?  We lose our way in the enumeration of examples that seem to escape the art of orderly division and, first of all, that of generic definition: ‘What in the world would we say a copy is, sir, except something that’s made similar to a true think and is another think that’s like it?’  But what is the meaning of ‘a true thing’? And ‘another thing’? And ‘like it’?”
14:  “Socrates proposes: ‘that our soul in such a situation is comparable to a book.’  ‘How so?’ asks Protarchus.  The explanation follows: ‘If memory and perceptions concur with other impressions at a particular occasion, then they seem to inscribe words in our soul, as it were.  And if what [the experience] is written is true, then we form a true judgment and a true account of the matter.  But what if what our scribe writes is false, then the result will be the opposite of truth.’”
15:  “To distinguish, not the persistence of memories in relation to their recall, but their simple presence to mind (which I shall later call simple evocation in my phenomenological sketch) in relation as a search.  Memory, in this particular sense, is directly characterized as affection (pathos), which distinguishes it precisely form recollection.”


Kerferd’s The Sophistic Movement

G.B. Kerferd
The Sophistic Movement
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
Chapter One: Introduction

•    Sophists provoked their own condemnation, first by Socrates then Plato
1: “Even the revulsion of Plato felt by those to whom Plato felt by those whom Plato has tended to appear as a reactionary authoritarian has done little for the sophists.  Condemned to a kind of half-life between Presocratics on the one hand and Plato and Aristotle on the other, they seem to wander for ever like lost souls.”
2: “Throughout all, two dominant themes – the need to accept relativism in values and elsewhere without reducing all to subjectivism, and the belief that there is no area of human life or of the world as a whole which should be immune from understanding achieved throughout reasoned argument.”
Chapter Two: Towards a History of Interpretations of the Sophistic Movement
•    Aristotle: The sophistic art consists in apparent wisdom which is not in fact wisdom, and the sophist is one who makes money from “apparent and not real wisdom”
•    Two charges: sophists are not serious thinkers and teachings were profoundly immoral
4: “They define the sophist (1) as the hired hunter of rich young men, (2) as a man who sells ‘virtue’, and, since he is selling goods not his own, as a man who can be described as merchandising in learning, or (3) who sells it retail in small quantities, or (4) as a man who sells goods that he has fabricated in person for his customers.  On another view, (5) the sophist is one who carries on controversies of the kind called Eristic in order to make money from the discussion of right and wrong.  (6) A special aspect of kind of sophistry is then identified as a kind of verbal examination called Elenchus which educates by purging the soul from the vain conceit of wisdom.  […]  Finally at the end of the dialogue, after a long digression, we come to (7) where the sophist is seen as the false counterfeiter of philosophy, ignorantly framing contradictions that are based on appearances and opinions rather than reality.”


De Montaigne’s “On Liars”

Michel de Montaigne
“On Liars”
Area: History of Memory and Memory Studies
•    Considering how necessary it is, Plato was right in calling memory a great and powerful goddess-in my country
•    They can see no difference between memory and intellect.
•    But they wrong me, for experience shows that, on the contrary, excellent memories are often coupled with feeble judgments.
•    For lack of memory is an intolerable defect in anyone who takes on the burden of the world’s affairs.
•    Again, my speech is consequently briefer, for the storehouse of the memory is generally better stocked with material than that of the invention. If my memory had been good, I should have deafened all my friends with my chatter, since any subject that calls out such powers as I have of argument and development warms and extends my eloquence.
•    Particularly dangerous are old men who retain the memory of past events but do not remember how often they have repeated them.
•    Not without reason is it said that no one who is not conscious of having a sound memory should set up to be a liar.
•    If liars make a complete invention, they apparently have much less reason to be afraid of tripping up, inasmuch as there is no contrary impression to clash with their fiction. But even this, being an empty thing that offers no hold, readily escapes from the memory unless it is a very reliable one.


Poulakis’ Sophistical Rhetoric in Classical Greece

John Poulakis
Sophistical Rhetoric in Classical Greece
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

•    If you tell people for 100 years that they are dogs, they’ll start barking
•    Reactionary argument—only kind of rhetoric is sophistical
•    History without language
o    Little is gained by arguing that Plato was wrong about the sophists
•    Language without history
•    Re-reading the sophists as they were is impossible—too many influences on the their reinterpretation (time passage, etc.)
•    Time-and-place dependent understandings
•    Discussion of the past constitutes an interpretive construction from a particular perspective of the present
•    Threat the rhetoric of the sophists in order to stimulate new thinking on our rhetorics
Xi: “Moreover, they have been trained to believe that their susceptibility to the charming words of others constitutes a weakness to be overcome by means of such fortifying agents as approved versions of reason, dialectical know-how, and objectivity.”
1: “Today, the narrative repertoire on Hellas’ early rhetoricians includes stories about a suspect epistemological and moral doctrine (Plato), a necessary moment in the history of philosophy (Hegel), a unique cultural phenomenon (Nietzsche), and a profound intellectual movement (Jaeger, Kerferd).
From Christopher Lyle Johnstone’s Review
•    The present work is the product of the approach he embraces: it is comprehensive rather than narrowly focused, it credits the Older Sophists with a “rhetorical consciousness” rather than being concerned (as Schiappa was) that rhetorike was coined b y Plato in the 4th century, and it seeks to interpret sophistical writings in terms of their themes, patterns and cultural milieu rather than strictly in terms of what the textual evidence alone permits. At the same time, however, Poulakos aims at something like Schiappa’s historical reconstruction: the book situates the sophists in the cultural environment of the latter half of the fifth century B.C., examines the preserved textual materials of and about the sophists, and considers three major receptions of sophistic rhetoric in an effort to “derive a rhetoric that can be called sophistical” (4).
•    Poulakos promises to “treat past texts not as fixed monuments to be consumed cognitively but as elusive documents that can stimulate readers to rethink the constitution of their own lives. . .” (3).
•    Poulakos asserts that “whether we are looking at a past work or its past reception, the perspective of the present is unavoidable.” Thus he dismisses the “extremes of classical philology, which claims to interpret texts objectively, and modernist criticism, which often disregards their historical character” (7).
•    After reviewing the principal political, cultural, economic and intellectual developments that shaped 5th-century Athens, the chapter examines the status of the sophists as itinerant teachers of oratory and disputation in cities where they were always “other.”
•    The next chapter, entitled “Terms for Sophistical Rhetoric,” explores in some detail the notions of opportunity, playfulness and possibility “as constitutive functions” of the cultural milieu of the sophists. It does so by first reviewing “two common ways of reading the sophists” and then by proposing a third “which attends… both [to] the cultural dynamics discussed in the previous chapter, and to some sophistical texts . . . influencled] by these dynamics” (53). […]These terms are kairos (opportunity), paignion (game, play), and to dunaton (the possible). They were selected because, we are told, they help explain common features of sophistical texts and because they can render the sophists’ rhetorical practices meaningful
•    Poulakos concludes that for Plato the teaching and rhetorical practices of the sophists provided the counterview against which he could articulate and argue for his vision of the superiority of the philosophical to the rhetorical life.
•    Isocrates, on the other hand, seems to have maintained a much more ambivalent and ambiguous attitude toward the sophists. “Indebted to the tradition the sophists had initiated, Isocrates imitates their work but only up to a point; time and again, he follows their example but never entirely” (142).
•    Aristotle’s reception, according to Poulakos, was characterized by both the preservation and the correction of sophistic thinking: “because they contributed to the cultural reservoir of rhetorical insights, [Aristotle held that] the sophists are historically important; but because their reasoning was often flawed, it needs to be corrected” (150).
•    One implication of this view is that “the rhetoric of the sophists has no end-point…. [W]ith the sophists there is no truth, no unity, no telos” (189). Moreover, “sophistical rhetoric labors to utter novel words, fresh insights, and original thoughts.” It disrupts “established norms of linguistic action, . . . shatters aspects of conventional wisdom, . . . unsettles the sensibilities of the accepted tradition” (190). Thus it calls into question habits of perception and traditional modes of thought by “challenging what other rhetorics take for granted. Accordingly, it cultivates skeptical attitudes. . .” (191).

July 2017
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