Gorgias: Rhetoric Analysis

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Jeffrey Malone PHIL 160D Plato Essay September 16, 2014 Socrates claims that rhetoric, as practiced by Gorgias, is not a tekhne, but is instead a form of flattery aimed at mimicking a genuine expertise. He uses the elenchus method of logical refutation to speak against Gorgias and the practice of rhetoric as a whole and proves that a rhetorician is a mere flatter not a true expert. Socrates begins his argument by requesting that Gorgias define rhetoric as he practices it. Gorgias beings the definition with the vague and unsatisfactory answer that rhetoric is speech. Socrates quickly disproves this statement and begins to pull information out of Gorgias and guide him to the realization that “rhetoric is an agent of the kind of persuasion which is designed to produce conviction, but no to educate people, about matters of right and wrong” (17). The key phrase in this statement is that rhetoric does not educate, but is simply used to convince the audience it is addressing. Socrates’ expertise, unlike that of the rhetoricians, seeks…show more content…
Based on this definition offered by Socrates, rhetoric is an “experimental knack for producing pleasure and gratification” (29). Rational understanding of the subject and true expertise, which rhetoricians lack, allows one to creatively solve problems that they have yet to encounter. A rhetorician is not guided by rational insight into what he is doing. Instead, their knack is acquired through habituation. Rhetoricians use their success in previous endeavors to achieve success in future discussions and arguments. The only “skills” a rhetorician needs, according to Socrates is “a mind that is good at guessing, some courage, and a natural talent for interacting with people”

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