Socrates Argument on Rhetoric Use
Socrates argues against the use of rhetoric in communicating true knowledge because he feels that rhetoric is a talent used for persuading people by telling them exactly what they want to hear, instead of arguing from a point of truth and knowledge. He further thinks that telling people what they want to hear does not improve their virtue in any way. Hence, people who use rhetoric are not virtuous as they also lack knowledge on the subject matter. Contrary to his argument Socrates still uses the same rhetoric, which he is against, in making his argument. This paper supports the thesis that Socrates uses rhetoric to a great extent in making his argument against the use of the same to Gorgias and Polus.
All through the conversation, Socrates uses rhetoric to pass his point across; that rhetoric should not be used in communicating true knowledge. When looking closely at the approaches used by Socrates and Gorgias, a great similarity is noted. Socrates goes a step ahead and also presents his argument in a vigorous manner, compared to the attempt made by Gorgias to defend his position. For example, You c may wonder why I'm asking you for an explanation, and not stating my own view of the matter, however vague that may be. It doesn't actually have anything to do with you; I just want the course of the discussion to show us as clearly as possible what it is we're talking about. (453c)
I suppose these are the kinds of areas of expertise you were talking about when you said that there are some which rhetoric bears no relation to. Or am I wrong? (450c-d) In this quote, Socrates showcases confidence, making the audience believe that he actually knows what he is talking about. This is rhetoric as he is trying to persuade the audience to believe him through his confidence.
By using interesting examples of possible situations that they may be in, Socrates grabs the attention of the audience who become keen to know what he is trying to drive at. In the script, Socrates has used such imaginary plays frequently. For instance, Well, suppose a doctor, a trainer, and a businessman--who are the people responsible for the qualities the song-writer commended--were standing right there next to you. And suppose the doctor went first and said, 'Socrates, Gorgias 'isn't telling you the truth. (451e-452a)
Additionally, Socrates also makes use of rhetoric by delving deeply into meanings of ideas and concepts, thus trying to prove his argument when in reality he is trying to discredit the points made by others. The trick here is, it becomes difficult to fully understand what he says, thus Gorgias and the others are left thinking of what he says, and hence giving prominence to the ideas he gives instead of his words. Now, here's another idea of yours, Gorgias, which is open to question and in need of a great deal of clarification. For instance, I'm sure you've heard the song people sing at parties which offers a list of human advantages: 'The very best thing is health, second good looks, and third'--according to whoever made up the song--'honest wealth.' (451d-e). Here, Socrates appears to be focusing on discrediting Gorgias idea, but what he is actually doing is using an example to support his argument against the use of rhetoric.
In conclusion, this use of rhetoric, although not openly made, helps his argument. This is because he ends up doing most of the things which he argued as wrong. For instance, instead of leading the conversation to truth, he leads the audience to believe his view by playing around with rhetoric.
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