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Keeping up Appearances: Shame and Oratory in Cicero's Thought
Unformatted Document Text:  manipulator, the rhetorician is little more than a flatterer, able to produce conviction in his audience not because of his knowledge but instead because he “guesses at what’s pleasant with no consideration for what’s best.” 5 Thus he stands in relation to the true statesman as does the maker of confections to the physician: both may win their cases if competing against experts before audiences of non-experts, but only because they utilize pleasures that appeal to those without knowledge. Without knowledge, the rhetorician not only lacks power – in the sense of being to get what he wants – but may be positively harmful. By contrast, the true practitioner of oratory, in Gorgias, would aim at “getting the souls of the citizens to be as good as possible and of striving valiantly to say what is best, whether the audience will find it more pleasant or more unpleasant.” 6 Moreover, Socrates thinks that the orator who possesses knowledge – especially of the just – would not commit injustice in the first place. 7 These same dangers of rhetoric can be seen in the so-called quarrel between rhetoric and philosophy or, more properly, the quarrel between rhetoricians and philosophers. 8 As May and Wisse note, this quarrel – whose terms were largely set by Plato – seems to have begun in the 4 th century B.C.E (its earliest participants being Plato and Isocrates), and centered on three broad issues: rhetoric’s status as an art, rhetoric’s 5 Ibid. 465a. 6 Ibid. 503b. 7 Ibid. 460c. 8 For a general account of the quarrel, see George A. Kennedy, The Art of Persuasion in Greece (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963). 321-328. 3

Authors: Kapust, Daniel.
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manipulator, the rhetorician is little more than a flatterer, able to produce conviction in
his audience not because of his knowledge but instead because he “guesses at what’s
pleasant with no consideration for what’s best.”
Thus he stands in relation to the true
statesman as does the maker of confections to the physician: both may win their cases if
competing against experts before audiences of non-experts, but only because they utilize
pleasures that appeal to those without knowledge. Without knowledge, the rhetorician not
only lacks power – in the sense of being to get what he wants – but may be positively
harmful. By contrast, the true practitioner of oratory, in Gorgias, would aim at “getting
the souls of the citizens to be as good as possible and of striving valiantly to say what is
best, whether the audience will find it more pleasant or more unpleasant.”
Moreover,
Socrates thinks that the orator who possesses knowledge – especially of the just – would
not commit injustice in the first place.
These same dangers of rhetoric can be seen in the so-called quarrel between
rhetoric and philosophy or, more properly, the quarrel between rhetoricians and
philosophers.
As May and Wisse note, this quarrel – whose terms were largely set by
Plato – seems to have begun in the 4
th
century B.C.E (its earliest participants being Plato
and Isocrates), and centered on three broad issues: rhetoric’s status as an art, rhetoric’s
5
Ibid. 465a.
6
Ibid. 503b.
7
Ibid. 460c.
8
For a general account of the quarrel, see George A. Kennedy, The Art of Persuasion in
Greece (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963). 321-328.
3


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