’ Style Essay, Research Paper
In Gorgias by Plato, Socrates’ beloved craft of philosophy comes into conflict with the art of oratory, used by the Sophists Gorgias, Polus, and Callicles. In the ensuing discussion, aimed at discovering the true nature and purpose of oratory, a sharp contrast in the style of speech used by Socrates and that utilized by the orators comes into view. The two sides employ very distinct methods of speech, each method supporting the end of the speaker’s speech.Socrates’ method of speech is a dialogue. He engages in an even exchange between himself and the other participants. He allows for feedback and even refutation of his points, as well as encourages others to present their own points. Sophists, however, use the art of oratory. Oratory is a one-sided speech in which the speaker tends to speak to his audience as opposed to speaking with his audience. The audience of an orator is merely a group of listeners for the speaker to communicate his ideas to, but when participating in a discussion with Socrates’ one is expected to receive and consider the ideas of the speaker, as well as formulate his own ideas and contribute feedback to the speaker’s thoughts.When Socrates’ speaks of a topic, he generally has knowledge of what he speaks. The facts he presents are known by him to be actual true facts. His ultimate purpose is to arrive at the truth through a logical discussion of the known facts that he presents. Conversely, a Sophist need not necessarily be informed about the subject he presents to his audience. A Sophist cares not about the actual possession of knowledge, but instead the appearance of knowledge, and thus cannot accurately speak the truth about the subjects of their speeches. This is of little significance to a Sophist, however, for he has little regard for what is true and what is not. The entire aim of a Sophist’s speech is to persuade the audience to formulate an opinion in keeping with the personal interests of the speaker himself. Whereas Socrates’ views the proliferation of inaccurate information as the greatest of all evils, a Sophist practices it daily and seeks to excel at the art of deception, in order to become better able to win people over with flattery and false facts.Socrates’ arguments are based on deductive reasoning. He arrives at valid conclusions by first stating general, well-known facts, upon which he bases more relative facts, and eventually forces his opponent to either concede, based on facts he himself has agreed are true, or refute Socrates through the use of logic and true facts. The tool used by the Sophists in their attempt to validate their arguments is inductive reasoning. They create broad generalizations based upon observed evidence and popular opinion. This is somewhat less concrete than Socrates’ method, for his arguments lie on a foundation of indisputable facts, while the “facts” presented by the Sophists are true only because they are commonly accepted, though it is certainly debatable whether or not they have any actual truth in them.Another point of contrast between Socrates’ and the Sophists is that Socrates bases his arguments on a realist point of view. He believes that there exists a definite bad and good, right and wrong. The purpose of many of his arguments, in fact, are to establish exactly what is good or bad, or right or wrong. Sophists, however, follow a more relativist philosophy. They seem to think that such qualities as bad and good, or right and wrong exist only in man’s interpretation of such things and there is no actual definition of such terms.
Socrates’ style of speech is beneficial to him in that it aids him in his quest to determine the truth. His logical, factual foundation helps build up to a logical, fact-based conclusion. Although he is not particularly crafty in the art of oratory, he has no desire to persuade people to any opinion other than that of the truth. Similarly, yet oppositely, the Sophists excel at the art of oratory, which is beneficial to them in that it allows them to better persuade people and thus it makes them more capable in the art they practice, though Socrates’ opinion of how helpful this is to the Sophists is quite different. He believes that even if a Sophist is able to persuade any person he likes, his art is still not beneficial to him. In fact, Socrates goes as far as to say that, just like a tyrant, the orator of a town has the least amount of power (466b). His basis for such a theory is that since both the orator and the tyrant are uninformed on the topic about which they speak, they cannot make informed decisions and therefore, they do not what is necessarily what is good for them and thus what they want, but simply what they see fit at the time. As Polus seemed to indicate, the orator’s philosophy is one of pure hedonism. Instant pleasure is the goal of their every action.There are certain inconsistencies in both parties’ style of speech, however. In Socrates’ case, for example, it was previously stated the Socrates’ utilized deductive reasoning as opposed to inductive reasoning, whose conclusions were less firm, yet Socrates’ at times makes use of inductive reasoning. In fact, the many of the most basic facts upon which he bases his arguments are, of necessity, true only because man has defined them as such, or because it is in keeping with what is generally believed by the majority of people, but has never been or cannot be scientifically proven. For instance, there is no scientific way to prove that something is the color yellow, at some point it merely comes down to the fact that something is the color yellow only because that is what man has defined it as. Socrates’ definitions as things such happiness as well, while not necessarily untrue, are impossible to prove. Happiness is different things to different people and though Socrates’ opts to believe in a popular interpretation of the word, he has no factual basis for his claims.Obviously, there are many conflicts in style of speech between Socrates and the Sophists, but despite these numerous differences, each of their methods is well tailored to their purpose and serves to support and even amplify the points that the speaker puts forth. Each style certainly has its benefits as well as drawbacks, yet it is difficult to judge which is more effective, as each has its own different goal in mind and each fulfills its end quite effectively when in the hands of a talented speaker.