Rhetoric and Philosophy in the Platonic Dialogues: Plato's Presentation of Rhetoric, Philosophy, and Sophistic in Five Selected Dialogues

Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley (1992)

A major focal point of this dissertation is the conflict between philosophy and rhetoric as presented in the dialogues of Plato. Plato's Gorgias formulates distinct and competing roles for philosophers and rhetoricians. Plato presents the methods and motives of the philosopher and of the rhetorician as divergent in almost every respect, and he clearly disdained the art of rhetoric when he wrote the Gorgias. Some scholars believe that Plato's Phaedrus attempts to provide a firm foundation for a new theory of rhetoric. Plato, they claim, has set the stage for a rhetoric which is no longer a routine or knack for flattery , but instead an art of persuasion based upon knowledge. This dissertation compares Plato's presentation of rhetoric in the Gorgias and the Phaedrus in order to determine whether Plato undertook the reform of rhetoric in the later dialogue, or whether he maintained his negative critique of rhetoric to the very end. ;However, the conflict between philosophy and rhetoric is complicated in the Platonic dialogues by Plato's presentation of a third kind of educator--the sophist. Although scholars often group the Greek sophists and rhetoricians together, this study demonstrates that Plato sometimes distinguishes between these two classes of educators. Plato does not always present the sophists as teachers of oratory, and the criticism he directs their way are not necessarily the same criticism he directs towards the rhetoricians. Consequently, the Platonic dialogues present a three-way battle between philosopher, rhetorician, and sophist. Along with the Gorgias and the Phaedrus , this dissertation examines Plato's portrayal of the sophists in the Protagoras, Euthydemus, and Sophist. ;The comparative analysis of these five dialogues is carried out from a rhetorical perspective which focuses on Plato's persuasive intentions and strategies. It reveals that, with the exception of the Protagoras, the dialogues are designed to promote Plato's vision of philosophy and philosophical method while calling into question the methods and goals of his educational rivals
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