ERIC Number: ED333462
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1991-Mar-22
Reference Count: N/A
Plato's Critique of Rhetoric in the "Gorgias" (447a-466a): Epistemology, Methodology, and the Lyotardian Differend.
The uncritical acceptance of Plato's treatment of sophistic doctrines (specifically in Plato's dialogue the "Gorgias") in the university has resulted in an impoverished contemporary view of sophistic rhetoric. Since Socrates' foundational epistemology allows for the knowledge of immutable truth and Gorgias' relativistic epistemology does not, there is a differend between them. Had Plato presented Gorgias' epistemology and methodology accurately, as he does Socrates's, most fourth century B.C. Athenian citizens would have preferred Gorgias' arguments, since democracy depends on the ability to change the opinions of others and the willingness to allow personal own opinions to be changed. For the Athenian citizens to admit to the possibility of perfect knowledge--attainable only through the Platonic negative dialectic--would require them also to deny the validity of their own democratic power structure. Thus, in order to gain the approval of his democratic Athenian audience at a time when the Athenian democracy was in an unstable condition from struggles against bloody oligarchic tyrannies, Plato was forced to (mis)represent Gorgias' epistemology as allowing for the possibility of certain knowledge. Plato, therefore, creates a Gorgias with a foundational epistemology and an empirical, "doxa"-governed methodology, making Gorgias appear not only irrational, but also absurd. It is important to keep in mind that all of Plato's claims against Gorgias and rhetoric are mere fictions created by Plato for the purpose of controlling the differend between Socrates and Gorgias. (Thirteen references are attached.) (PRA)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Classical Rhetoric; Gorgias of Leontini; Plato of Athens; Relativism; Rhetoric as Epistemic; Socrates; Sophists
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (42nd, Boston, MA, March 21-23, 1991).