Welcome to the Class
Tonight we will get to know each other and find out the course goals and requirements. I will go over the syllabus first, which will only be located online. I have been told by the University to conserve resources, so I will not print or photocopy anything for this class. We will use the Web and Moodle to communicate course material.
After we go over the syllabus, I’ll highlight some important dates and assignments to come. Then, we’ll get to know our classmates.
I want us to get to know one another briefly tonight. Usually, I pair you up with a neighbor and have you answer the following questions, but, tonight, talk in groups of 2 or 3 for 15 min, and then each of you will report back to class about yourself.
- Year (don’t put 2020–year in the program)
- Degree and Concentration
- Job/Future Job
- Favorite Book
- Favorite TV Show
- Favorite Movie (good movies can be found here)
- What do you expect in ENGL 6166?
- Do not say an ‘A’.
- What do you want to know about Rhetorical Theory?
- What are your educational plans?
Freewrite on “Rhetoric”
What is rhetoric? For the next 5 min, please freewrite. Consider popular and academic definitions you’ve encountered. There’s no right or wrong here.
Asimov’s “A Cult of Ignorance”
Let’s discuss the article you read for tonight. Areas to start or get to…
- Right to know
- Credibility and trust
- Reading scores
- Drop in magazine readership
- Ignorance, willful ignorance, celebrating ignorance…
- “true concept of democracy”
- “Why not trust the experts? Also, what’s wrong with highway signs having pictures instead of words?
Gorgias’ “Encomium of Helen”
I actually gave you a link to the wrong translation, but the one I wanted to give you is no longer available. I went on the “WayBack Machine” and found the one I assigned previously and put that on Canvas for future reference. If you read the Kennedy translation, you’ll notice a big difference between it and Thomas Martin’s translation.
This speech is most likely a refined oratory used for didactic purposes, a class lesson. Observing the structure is obvious (especially in the Kennedy translation with the subheadings), so let’s consider what makes it persuasive. Thinking forward to your rhetorical analyses, how is meaning built into this speech? What might be a priori, and what might be a posteriori?
Consider Gorgias’ views on:
- The Gods
- Persuasion (good, bad, beautiful)
This speech is an often anthologized work from the 5th century B.C.E., so it’s a major work of Western Civilization. Did Gorgias just argue that no crime of passion should be seen as unjust? After all, love etches itself on the soul and may shape an individual’s actions. Can one really be to blame if they commit a crime of passion, such as murder?
Initial Information about Plato
Normally, I start with Plato’s Gorgias and then move onto Phaedrus, but, in the interest of having more figures to study (and after including Aristotle’s three Books of On Rhetoric), I decided to have us just read Phaedrus. Instead of thinking about Plato’s different ideas across his texts, I’d rather us just focus on a single work. We could spend the entire semester on Plato…In fact, you could do an entire degree just on Plato. In Gorgias, Plato has nothing good to say about rhetoric, but he seems to believe it has a place in Phaedrus. Keep in mind that Plato (via Socrates) believes in absolute truth and that perfect types exist. However, it’s hard to know if Plato believed we could ever reach a full understanding of perfection or good. It seems that we can get close if we’re really devoted to philosophy.
“Plato sought a cure for the ills of society not in politics but in philosophy, and arrived at his fundamental and lasting conviction that those ills would never cease until philosophers became rulers or rulers philosophers.” Hamilton, Walter. Trans. Phaedrus and Letters VII and VIII. Radice, Betty. Ed. New York: Penguin, 1973: 1.
Platonic “Forms, of which shifting phenomena of the sensible world are imperfect imitations or copies…The Forms are in fact universals given the status of independent and absolute entities.” (p. 17)
Questions for Phaedrus
Before Lysias’ Speech
- What is the nature of the dialogue between Socrates and Lysias?
- Is it important for Socrates to draw (or drag) out the word-for-word speech Lysias brought with him?
- Why is Socrates close to dismissing the myths “too ingenious and labored” and, instead, claims he wants to know himself before worrying about “other such monsters” (pp. 24-25, 230)?
Curious parts of Lysias’ Speech
- p. 27: Love is fickle: it “value[s] any new love in the future more than the old.”
- p. 27: Love is a disorder. Lovers aren’t in their right minds, so their intentions can’t be trusted.
- p. 28: Those in love “are apt to interpret anything as a personal slight.” They don’t like their partners with others.
- p. 30: Love the one who’s most grateful and “gratitude will be proportionate.”
Socrates 1st Speech
- p. 36: “Most people are unaware that they are ignorant of the essential nature of their subject.” Consider the benefit of starting a speech by defining your terms.
- pp. 36-37: “in each one of us there are two ruling and impelling principles…a desire for pleasure…and an acquired conviction which cause us to aim at excellence.”
- p. 37: “The conviction which impels us towards excellence is rational…self-control.”
- “the desire which drags us towards pleasure is irrational…excess.”
- p. 40: “the companionship of a lover, besides being injurious, is in the highest degree disagreeable to the object of his passion.”
- pp. 40-41: “While he is in love the lover is a tedious nuisance, but” he’ll leave you when “his passion cools” regardless of any vows, oaths, or promises made.
- p. 41: Socrates concludes “that it is far better to yield to a non-lover who is in his sober senses than to a lover who from the very nature of things is bound to be out of his mind.”
- p. 41: Socrates also warns that lovers aren’t friends, and an older man has an appetite for a young boy that he needs satisfied.
- Socrates gets a divine sign that makes him stay and redo his speech on love. This sets up his 2nd speech. Before he talks, though, he seems to set up his argument and warns that they risk being seen as uncivilized if anyone heard them talk this way.
- Question: “Is Plato being genuine here? Why bring up something so specific (the idea of lover in the previous speech) just to refute it? Is he trying to hide what he really thinks? Perhaps he’s shunning the corrupt “illusion” of love that some maintain between each other.
Socrates on Souls
After explaining “that soul is uncreated and immortal,” Socrates explains the myth of the charioteer and how souls come to earth and, eventually, get freed.
- pp. 52-53: The main gods (Zeus et. al. on Mount Olympus) have horses that take them on easy journeys, allowing them to see truth. The lesser gods and lower (humans) don’t get that glimpse and see varying degrees of the truth.”
- p. 53: Those souls beneath gods don’t get the entire “absolute knowledge…in the fullest sense.”
- p. 53: The lesser souls struggle with their horses and “depart without achieving initiation into the vision of reality, and henceforth upon mere opinion.”
- Opinion: has the appearance of knowledge but isn’t reality, which is “knowledge of the real world of the forms” (Hamilton, note 1, p. 53).
- p. 54: The hierarchy of souls—how much they glimpse of the truth.
- 1st: seeks wisdom, beauty, or love—a philosopher
- 2nd: monarch or warrior commander
- 3rd: manager of a household or financier (banker)
- 4th: lover of physical activity
- 5th: soothsayer
- 6th: poet or other (imitative) artist
- 7th: artisan or farmer
- 8th: popular teacher or demagogue
- 9th: tyrant
- Apparently, it takes 10,000 years for a soul to regrow wings…unless—
Love is Regrowth
- p. 57: the corrupted man “feels no fear or shame in pursuing a pleasure which is unnatural.”
- pp. 58-59: the soul that glimpses its love and is shut off will be awestruck when it sees its love again.
- p. 58: “he is ready to be a slave and to make his bed as near he is allowed to the object of his passion.”
- p. 61: “every man desires to find in his favourite a nature comparable to his own particular divinity.”
Notice what’s happened here. Instead of aiming to love a lesser soul, as Socrates advocated in his first speech, he claims true love is a desire to be with one comparable to oneself.
Rhetoric and Philosophy
- p. 92: Once the speaker knows the types of souls and knows them when he encounters them, “then can he be said to have perfectly mastered his art.”
- p. 94: Socrates has a problem with probability and, therefore, rhetorical training because “probability establishes itself in the minds of the populace because of its likeness to truth.”
- p. 97: “once a thing is [written] it circulates equally among those who understand the subject and those who have no business with it.”
- Who is a suitable and unsuitable reader? Any parallels in American history?
I hope I went over the Leading Class Discussion Assignment. If not, I hope this is a reminder, and it isn’t after 8:45…
There’s no class next Monday (1/20) in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Please Read Aristotle’s On Rhetoric, Book 1 for our next class meeting on 1/27.