Saturday, December 08, 2012

Plato's Gorgias: Truth, Justice and the Greek Way.

It is hard to boil this down to a few sensible quotes.  The discussion is over the "art" of rhetoric.  Socrates is discussing with Gorgias and his followers regarding this topic, with Gorgias being a famous professor of rhetoric.  Gorgias' followers begin by asserting that rhetoric is an art that concerns truth and justice.  After a long dialog, Socrates makes the opposite claim that rhetoric isn't an art, but rather a practice of flattery.  At the same time, Socrates asserts that rhetoric is guaranteed to be popular, since it is the practice of pleasing the ears of the masses, and the masses only look to their self interest, thus, putting rhetoric in a position of hostility towards truth and justice.

This reminds me of Harvard University's emblem with "veritas" - the Latin word for truth.  We are relentlessly taught that scientists pursue truth at the exclusion of all else.  Perhaps this is true, and the professors have, um, evolved after 2,400 years.  On the other hand professors might just be doing exactly what the professors of rhetoric have always done.

It should be noted that Augustine had been a professor of rhetoric before becoming a Christian.  There is one other Latin work by Quintilian that I hope to read (in English translation) to get a better picture of rhetoric in the classical world.

1 comment:

Max Coutinho said...

Hi Looney,

I love this book (Plato's Gorgias). Socrates knew how to argue...admirable.
And wasn't Socrates right? He was. The masses love being flattered and lied to through rhetoric; they don't care about the truth or justice; they only care about their version of truth and false justice since they serve their interests best (Europe comes to mind, as it receives the Peace Nobel Prize lol...what a joke).

"Perhaps this is true, and the professors have, um, evolved after 2,400 years. On the other hand professors might just be doing exactly what the professors of rhetoric have always done."

lol...right. You know it!

Look at our world today, Looney: Socrates' theory remains true.

Cheers