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Gorgias has made remarkable literary contributions which have paved the way for rhetoric transplantation from his native Sicily to Athens and Attica. His works have also contributed to the diffusion of the Attic dialect as the language of literary prose. He is accredited for the rhetorical developments of structure and ornamentation, and he is also acknowledged for introducing paradoxes and paradoxical expressions.

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Gorgias proclaimed that rhetoric was the king of all sciences, as it possessed the powers of persuasion to sway judgments over any particular course of action. However, eminent philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle disagreed with Gorgias over the power and capabilities of rhetoric.

Gorgias lived to be over one hundred year old. He died at Larissa in around B. He had managed to hoard a great deal of wealth by the time of his death, and in his will, he commissioned a gold statue of himself, and donated it to a public temple.


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Famous Philosophers Biography, Facts and Works. Home List Blog Contact. Logos is described as a "powerful lord" B This should be contrasted with the view of Isocrates that logos is a "chief" or "commander" Nicoles The difference here is subtle, but Gorgias' dynastic concept of logos clearly turns it into a despotic overlord, while Isocrates' "commander" is a leader with delegated authority, an individual who fights along side his troops. This is similar to the assertion of Sextus Empiricus that equally convincing arguments can be formed against, or in favor of, any subject.

Gorgias may have believed in a relative notion of truth that was contingent upon a particular kairos an opportune moment or "opening" , that is to say, truth can only be found within a given moment. He seems to reject the idea of truth as a philosophically universal principle, and thus comes into conflict with Plato and Aristotle. Nevertheless, the rhetor orator is ethically obligated to avoid deception, and it is "the duty of the same man both to declare what he should rightly and to refute what has been spoken falsely" B In the epideictic speech Defense of Palamedes, Gorgias uses a mythical narrator Palamedes to further illustrate his rhetorical technique and philosophy.

In the Odyssey, Palamedes was responsible for revealing Odysseus' "madness" as a fiction, an act for which the latter never forgave him.

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Ultimately, Palamedes was executed for treason, after Odysseus accused him of conspiring with the Trojans. Gorgias focuses on the invention of arguments topoi necessary to exonerate Palamedes within the setting of a fictional trial, all of which depend upon probability.

Palamedes could not have committed treason with a foreign power since he speaks no language other than Greek B11a. In the second example, we see that topoi "embody the values of the community, in the sense that they comprise what the community considers important" Cosigny A fundamental difference between the topoi found within Aristotle's Art of Rhetoric and Gorgias' topoi is that Aristotle's are "acontextual, while Gorgias places his in the narrative context of the Palamedes myth" McComiskey Therefore, there is a direct relationship between kairos and invention.

Gorgias rejects the use of pathos emotional appeal in his Defense , with the assertion that "among you, who are the foremost of the Greeks He prefers to use ethos ethical appeal, or arguments from character and logos, as his instruments of persuasion.


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Gorgias' most famous critic is Plato. In the dialogue Gorgias, Plato through his mentor Socrates expresses his contempt for sophistical rhetoric; all rhetoric is "a phantom of a branch of statesmanship d The end result of rhetoric is a cosmetic alteration of language that conceals truth and falsity b. Furthermore, rhetoric is "designed to produce conviction, but not educate people, about matters of right or wrong a. Gorgias is portrayed as a man with an ambivalent attitude towards truth, a relativist, who boldly asserts that it does not matter if one truly has knowledge of any given subject, only that he is perceived by others to have knowledge, and that "[r]hetoric is the only area of expertise you need to learn.

You can ignore all the rest and still get the better of the professionals! There are a number of explanations for Plato's antipathy towards sophistic rhetoric. The first is simply philosophical; Plato was not a relativist, nor did he believe rhetoric had a pedagogical value. But there is also a political element to be considered. Bruce McComiskey points out that Plato believed in an "oligarchic government" for Athens, while many of the sophists "favored the Athenian Democracy the way it was" It is important to point out that during Gorgias' lifetime, both Leontini and Athens were democratic city states and a loose alliance existed between the two.

On a more practical level, the Greek city states also served as a market for those who would sell instruction in rhetoric.

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Aristotle dismisses Gorgias as a "frigid" stylist who indulges in excessive use of compound words such as "begging-poet-flatterers" and "foresworn and well-sworn" Art of Rhetoric b He also faults Gorgias for overly poetic language b4 , and we can see examples of this in Gorgias' description of logos as a great dynast or lord B The sophist compares orators to "frogs croaking in water" B3. Francis Higgins Email: colin louisiana. Gorgias — B. Life and Works Gorgias B. Philosophy Any student of Gorgias must immediately mark the distinction between his philosophy as expressed by Plato in the dialogue Gorgias see below and his philosophy found within the three works: On the Nonexistent , the Apology of Palamedes , and the Encomium on Helen.

General Summary

In its summation, this nihilistic argument becomes a "trilemma": i. Rhetorical Theory Most of what we know concerning Gorgias' views on rhetoric comes from the Encomium. Critics Gorgias' most famous critic is Plato. The Art of Rhetoric. John Henry Freese.

Gorgias | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

London: WM Heinemann, Barrett, Harold. Consigny, Scott. Gorgias: Sophist and Artist. Columbia: University of South Carolina, Freeman, Kathleen. Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers. Cambridge: Harvard, Encomium of Helen. Douglas MacDowell. Glasgow: Bristol Classics, Jarratt, Susan. Jarratt, Susan C. Rereading the Sophists: Classical Rhetoric Refigured.

Kennedy, George. The Art of Persuasion in Greece. Princeton N. Kerferd, G. Marias, Julian. History of Philosophy. New York: Dover, Maritain, Jacques. Introduction to Philosophy. Westminster MD: Christian Classics, McComiskey, Bruce. Gorgias and the New Sophistic Rhetoric.

Carbondale: Southern Illinois, Robin Waterford.