Sunday, 12 August 2012

Ancient Greek Word of the Day #2: ῥητορική

Definition: Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western tradition. Its best known definition comes from Aristotle, who considers it a counterpart of both logic and politics, and calls it "the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion." (from Wikipedia)

Given that the next few blog posts will cover the platonic dialogues featuring sophists, 'ῥητορική' seemed like a good choice. For one, the 'σοφιστής' (sophists) were a group of 'wise men' who would teach rhetoric for cash (reportedly). Secondly, the dialogue that I am currently going through, the Gorgias, has as its first theme the question of the nature of rhetoric (followed by that of justice).  Given that Gorgias is said to practice the art of rhetoric, Socrates asks exactly what rhetoric is; he needs to know what rhetoric is in order to be able to say what Gorgias does. Interestingly enough Socrates uses the word 'knack' to describe what rhetoric is, as opposed to Gorgias' definition in which rhetoric is described as an art. The wikipedia definition shown above sides with Gorgias'; 'rhetoric is the art of discourse'. The Gorgias begins with Socrates' analysis of this position, and that is where the next blog post will take off.



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