ERIC Number: ED250730
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1984-Nov-3
Reference Count: 0
Notions of "Rhetoric as Epistemic" in Ancient Greece.
Benoit, William L.
The notion that rhetoric (and to a lesser extent, argument) is epistemic is an increasingly popular one today, although it can be traced to ancient Greece. The notion holds that rhetoric, or the art of persuasion, creates and shapes knowledge. Two ancient authors--Aristophanes and Plato--provide evidence that others had notions of rhetoric as epistemic. Passages in Aristophanes's "The Clouds" suggest that through speech one may alter perceptions of the world. In the "Gorgias," Plato has Gorgias establish the claim that rhetoric is capable of producing belief regardless of the actual state of affairs. Clearly, both Aristophanes and Plato report the existence of a notion of rhetoric as epistemic. Aristophanes openly satirizes it, while Plato purports to engage adherents of this view in philosophical debate. For the sophist, Protagoras, knowledge was subjective and consisted only of appearances. He further argued that rhetoric was capable of making the weaker argument appear stronger. Gorgias's surviving writings provide an explanation for the claim that one cannot know reality or communicate it. Persuasion is able to function because human beings lack memory of the past, awareness of the present, and foreknowledge of the future. Isocrates also recognized one's inability to foretell the future. He declared that rhetoric made the great seem small and the lowly seem grand. Thus, the ancients did have a conception of rhetoric as epistemic. (HOD)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Information Analyses
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Rhetoric as Epistemic
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Speech Communication Association (70th, Chicago, IL, November 1-4, 1984).