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Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 11 months ago

Primal Scenes



Encomium of Helen


  • display
  • pedagogy
  • persuasion


For either by will of Fate and decision of the gods and vote of Necessity did she do what she did, or by force reduced or by words seduced (or by love possessed). (6)


There have been discovered two arts of witchcraft and magic: one consists of errors of soul and the other of deceptions of opinion. All who have and do persuade people of things do so by molding a false argument. For if all men on all subjects had (both) memory of things past and (awareness) of things present and foreknowledge of the future, speech would not be similarly similar, since as things are now it is not easy for them to recall the past nor to consider the present nor to predict the future. ...For it is easy to see how the force of persuasion prevails; persuasion has the form of necessity, but it does not have the same power. (10-12)


I often heard Gorgias say that the art of rhetoric differs from all the other arts. Under its influence all things are willingly but not forcibly made slaves. - Plato, Philebus


Tragedy bloomed and was celebrated, a marvelous sound and spectacle for the men of that time and one which by means of myth and suffering produced "a deception," as Gorgias says, "in which the deceiver is more justly esteemed than the nondeceiver and the deceived wiser than the undecieved." The deceived is more justly esteemed because he succeeds in what he intends, and the deceived is wiser, for a man that is not imperceptive is easily affected by the pleasure of words. - Plutarch, On The Fame of the Athenians


...the sight engraves upon the mind images of things, which have been seen. And many frightening impressions linger, and what lingers is exactly analogous to (what is) spoken. Moreover, whenever pictures perfectly create a single figure and form many colors and figures, they delight the sight, while the creation of statues and the production of works or art furnish a pleasant sight to the eyes. Thus it is natural for the sight to grieve for some things and to long for others, and much love and desire for many objects and figures in engraved in many men. (17-18)

The Gorgias


  • Rhetoric contra Philosophy
  • The Invention of the Soul in 3 Parts: soul vs body; selfless selfishness; "slave morality" (tyrants); present vs. future (immortality)


S: Yes, Callicles, if he have that defence, which as you have often acknowledged he should have—if he be his own defence, and have never said or done anything wrong, either in respect of gods or men; and this has been repeatedly acknowledged by us to be the best sort of defence. And if any one could convict me of inability to defend myself or others after this sort, I should blush for shame, whether I was convicted before many, or before a few, or by myself alone; and if I died from want of ability to do so, that would indeed grieve me. But if I died because I have no powers of flattery or rhetoric, I am very sure that you would not find me repining at death. For no man who is not an utter fool and coward is afraid of death itself, but he is afraid of doing wrong. For to go to the world below having one’s soul full of injustice is the last and worst of all evils.


S: So pastry baking, as I say, is the flattery that wears the mask of medicine. Cosmetics is the one that wears that of gymnastics in the same way; a mischievous, deceptive, disgraceful and ill-bred thing, one that perpetrates deception by means of shaping and coloring, smoothing out and dressing up, so as to make people assume an alien beauty and neglect their own, which comes through gymnastics. So that I won't make a long-style speech, I'm willing to put it to you the way geometers do - for perhaps you follow me now - that what cosmetics is to gymnastics, pastry baking is to medicine; or rather, like this: what cosmetics is to gymnastics, sophistry is to legislation, and what pastry backing is to medicine, oratory is to justice.


S: ...I'm afraid to pursue my examination of you, for fear that you should take me to be speaking with eagerness to win against you, rather than to have our subject become clear. For my part, I'd be pleased to continue questioning you if you're the same kind of man I am, otherwise I would drop it. And what kind of man am I? One of those who would be pleased to be refuted if I say anything untrue, and who would be pleased to refute anyone who says anything untrue.... For I count being refuted a greater good, insofar as it is a greater good for oneself to be delivered from the worst thing there is than to deliver someone else from it.


S: You'd get dizzy, your mouth would hang open and you wouldn't know what to say. You'd come up for trial and face some no good wretch of an accuser and be put to death, if death is what he'd want to condemn you to.


S: Listen, then, as story-tellers say, to a very pretty tale, which I dare say that you may be disposed to regard as a fable only, but which, as I believe, is a true tale, for I mean to speak the truth...

The Sophist


  • Dialectic and Transcendence
  • Rhetoric contra Philosophy
  • The Copy vs. The Simulacrum
  • Genealogy/Taxononomy/Abstract Economy (soul-selling)
  • Human/Diving & Mortal/Immortal


V: One part of the wage-earning type approaches people by being agreeable, uses only pleasure as its bait, and earns only its own room and board. I think we'd call it flattery, or expertise in pleasing people. ...T: But doesn't the kind of wage-earning that actually earns money, though it claims to deal with people for the sake of virtue, deserve to be called by a different name?


V: ...let's collect it all together. We'll say that the expertise of the part of acquisition, exchange, selling, wholesaling, and soul-wholesaling, dealing in words and learning that have to do with virtue - that's sophistry in its second appearance.


V: When we say that he deceives us about appearances and that he's an expert at deception, are we saying so because his expertise makes our souls believe what is false?


V: The sophist runs off into the darkness of that which is not, which he's had practice dealing with and he's hard to see because the place is so dark.


V: Imitation of the contrary-speech-producing, insincere and unknowing sort, of the appearance-making kind of copy-making, the word-juggling part of production that's marked off as human and not divine. Anyone who says the sophist is of this "blood and family" will be saying, it seems, the complete truth.


...it may be that the end of The Sophist contains the most extraordinary adventure of Platonism: as a consequence of searching in the direction of the simulacrum and of leaning over its abyss, Plato discovers, in the flash of an instant, that the simulacrum is not simply a false copy, but that it places in question the very notions of copy and model. This final definition of the Sophist leads us to the point where we can no longer distinguish him from Socrates - the ironist working in private by means of brief arguments. Was it not necessary to push irony to that extreme? Was it not Plato himself who pointed out the direction for the reversal of Platonism? - Deleuze, The Logic of Sense

Upshots and Aftereffects


The Soul vs. the Body (Gorgias):

Also: Pain vs. Pleasure; Medicine vs. Pastries, etc.


The Copy vs. The Simulacra (Sophist)

Also: The Transcendent vs. the Infinite; the True (authentic) vs. the False; the Actual vs. the Virtual


What then? Am I fit to play this part? How can I be? And are you fit to hear the truth? Would that it were so! Nevertheles since I am condemned, it seems, to wear a white beard and a cloak, and since you come to me as to a philosopher, I will not treat you cruelly as though I despaired of you, but will say, Young man, who is it that you want to make beautiful? First get to know who you are and then adorn yourself. You are a man, that is, a mortal creature, which as the power to deal with impressions rationally. What does 'rationally' mean? Perfectly, and in accordance with nature. What then is your distinctive possession? Your animal nature? No. Your mortality? No. Your power to deal wiht impressions? No. Your reasoning faculty is the distinctive one: this you must adorn and make beautiful. Leave your hair to Him that formed it in accordance with His will. Tell me, what other names have you? Are you man or woman? - Epictetus ("On Adornment")


Adorn Man then, not Woman. Woman is born smooth and tender, and if she has much hair on her body it is a prodigy, and exhibited in Rome as a prodigy. But in a man it is a prodigy not to be hairy: if he is born smooth it is prodigy, and if he make himself smooth by shaving and plucking, what are we to make of him? Where are we to show him, and what notice are we to put up? 'I will show you a man who prefers to be a woman.' What a shocking exhibition! Every one will be astonished at the notice: by Zeus, I think that even the men who pluck out their hairs do so without understanding that this is what they are doing! Man, what complaint have you to make of Nature? Is it that she made you a man? Ought she to have made all to be women? Why, if all were women, there would be no on to adorn yourself for. ..If you are not satisfied with your condition as it is, do the thing completely. Remove - what shall I call it? - that which is the cause of your hairiness; make yourself a woman out and out, and not half-man, half-woman, and then we shall not be misled. Whom do you wish to please? Your darling womenkind? Then please them as a man.- Epictetus ("On Adornment")


Now one way of arming ourselves against these assaults will be always to remember that, — since our souls are made up of two different parts, the one sincere, honest, and reasonable, the other brutish, false, and governed by passion, — the friend always adapts his advice and admonitions to the improvement of the better part (like a good physician, who preserves and advances an healthful constitution where he finds it), whilst the flatterer claws and tickles the irrational part of the man only, debauching it from the rules of right reason by the repeated suggestion of soft and sensual delights. For as there are some sorts of meat which assimilate neither with the blood nor with the spirits, and invigorate neither the nerves nor the marrow, but only provoke lust, swell the paunch, and breed putrid flabby flesh; so he who shall give himself the labor to observe will find that the discourses of a flatterer contribute nothing to the improvement of our prudence and understanding, but either only entertain us with the pleasure of some love-intrigue, or make us indiscreetly angry or envious, or blow us up into an empty troublesome opinion of ourselves, or increase our sorrows by pretending to share in them; or else they exasperate any inbred naughtiness that is in us, or our illiberality or distrustfulness, making them harsh, timorous, and jealous, with idle malicious stories, hints, and conjectures of his own. For he always fastens upon and pampers some distemper of the mind, growing, like a botch or bile, upon its inflamed or putrid part only. Are you angry? Revenge yourself, says he. Covet you any thing? Have it. Are you afraid? Fly. Suspect you this or that? Believe it. - Plutarch (How to Tell A Flatterer From a Friend)

Moment of Zen



My own reaction to men who philosophize is very much like that to men who speak haltingly and play like children.

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