Concept Excavation Three: Flattery

Stephanie Purtle

Flattery was always negative in Plato’s times. Rhetoric is a branch of flattery according to Gorgias, and from there a definition of flattery can be constructed. Flattery is an art which falsely represents other arts that “always have the greatest good of the soul or the body in view.”[1] Flattery’s misrepresentations don’t consider the greatest good; instead enticing the ignorant with pleasure so they view that art as most important. Plato calls flattery foul.[2]

Stengel’s history of the term provides another Greek conception of flattery: Flattery is undemocratic. Greeks disapproved of hierarchies [3], and flattering someone was identifying something above average about that person. It was also self-abasement. Politicians who flattered the demos [4] for personal gain were called demagogues. Plato believed “political oratory… was to improve men, not gratify them,”[5] and his primary complaint about democracy was the demos are too easily deceived. (Hence Plato placed demagogues just above tyrants in his hierarchy of souls.[6]) The Greeks viewed flattery as democracy’s potential downfall because it could allow disingenuous demagogues to gain power.

Eventually flattery’s conception shifted. The Greeks didn’t concern themselves with flattering individuals because it was flattering the demos that could destroy democracy. “As Greek democracy came undone… flattery turned inward and became more private and personal… There was no demos to flatter.”[7] Social hierarchies led people to flatter their superiors because now everyone wasn’t equal. One was expected to flatter the king not the person ruling as king, position over person. However, once Western society became more individualistic, one had to flatter the individual’s attributes, not the position, which brings us to today.

Flattery’s contemporary conception differs because now any praise is flattery.[8] Stengel says we’re more relativistic than ancient Greeks, and we think flattery is “a manipulation of the truth.”[9] Today, the speaker’s sincerity is scrutinized instead, and flattery is just a necessary tool for success.[10] Flattery isn’t automatically a bad thing.

Stengel’s expert definition: “Flattery is strategic praise,” and uses language to accomplish and conceal goals simultaneously.[11] The concepts’ tensions derive from its evolution. Since flattery became more individualistic we imagine “used car salesman” not someone flattering the masses. Regan and Clinton flattered America constantly, it’s still a reasonable fear, but we don’t unusually make that connection.[12] Plato is warning against our current politicians and I hadn’t noticed. Understanding these different definitions allows us a more nuanced understanding of Plato’s classification of rhetoric.


[1] Plato’s Gorgias p. 25

[2] Plato’s Gorgias p. 25

[3] Obviously only for citizens, not for slaves or women

[4] meaning “people” in the collective sense

[5] Stengel, Richard. (2000) You’re Too Kind: A Brief History of Flattery. (p. 94)

[6] Plato’s Phaedrus p. 31

[7] Stengel, p. 91


Max Archer

4 April 2008

Concept Excavation #3 – Punishment

In Plato's Gorgias, readers are taught to recognize the value of punishment in making the criminal and society better. In punishing, “we do not desire to kill or banish or confiscate,” but instead we teach others about our desire for what is good (Gorgias, p. 30). By punishing those who offend the established collective order, we reaffirm the importance of that structure by performing rituals which encourage the criminal to avoid the offense again while teaching others to shy away from similar offenses. Gorgias establishes a critical framework for evaluating the efficacy of punishment in that “everyone who is punished, and rightly punished, ought either to be benefited and become better, or serve as an example to others that they may behold these sufferings and through fear become better” (Gorgias, p. 104).

Punishment is derived from the Latin word pūnīre, which is also related to poena, which means pain or penalty (Dictionary.com). The word is also based in the Greek word poinē (Dictionary.com). The Greek term can be traced back further to mean blood-money, fine, penalty, or punishment (Online Etymology Dictionary). During the time of Ancient Greece, “the range of possible punishments included death, imprisonment, loss of civil rights (i.e., the right to vote, the right to serve as a juror, the right to speak in the Assembly), exile, and fines” (Linder).

In modern times, “tough love” has been manipulated to rationalize extreme suffering. In the case of Abu Ghraib, we can see how the punishers care for “nothing but the gratification they bring” when punishing others (Gorgias, p. 74). Prisons define American culture, so that torture has become commonplace to the point where all means of violence can be rationalized (Franklin). While justice and self-control are the qualities of a lawful soul (Gorgias, p. 79), seeing soldiers arranging bodies into spectacles of suffering denies the positive potential of punishment based on the ancient teachings outlined above. In examining this modern construction of punishment, we remember Gorgias' lesson, that “to do injustice is the greatest of all evils” (Gorgias, p. 31). In performing these extreme acts of humiliation and dehumanization against those who have committed crimes, the US loses its moral high ground to criticize others. The punishment in these cases may match the crimes the offender has committed, but by inflicting such suffering, punishment only denies the pursuit of the good by enacting suffering that is fundamentally unjust and thus, unjustified.


Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/punish

Franklin, H. Bruce. (2004). “Abu Ghraib…Shocking? What Happened There is Commonplace at U.S. Prisons.” http://hnn.us/articles/8842.html

Linder, Douglas. (2002). “Criminal Procedure in Ancient Greece
and the Trial of Socrates. http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/socrates/greekcrimpro.html

Online Etymology Dictionary. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=penal


Perhaps one of the most elusive definitions of any word is that of wisdom. A quick Google search will revel 86 million pages where people attempt to define wisdom, but at least its origins are clear. According to the Perseus website, it is derived from Greek word ἄριστος meaning best, or most excellent. This could explain why the philosopher (one who seeks wisdom) was considered one of the noblest professions in Greece. The OED defines wisdom as “the quality or character of being wise.” Roughly that it is the “capacity of judging rightly in matters relating to life and conduct; soundness of judgement in the choice of means and ends; sometimes, less strictly, sound sense, esp. in practical affairs.” The second definition in the same text is also worth the read. “Knowledge (esp. of a high or abstruse kind); enlightenment, learning, erudition; in early use often = philosophy. Also, practical knowledge or understanding, expertness in an art.”

In just the first two definitions of the OED, you can see that there seems to be several different types of wisdom. These different concepts can be traced back to Aristotle where wisdom a major focus of his Nicomachean Ethics, where he “divides the intellectual virtues into the practical and theoretical on the basis of whether they are concerned with what can, or what cannot, be otherwise” (Arnaud & LeBon) Basically, Aristotle separates wisdom into two different categories: practical wisdom and theoretical wisdom. Practical wisdom is knowing the right thing to do in a particular circumstance, while theoretical wisdom is the knowledge of those things that do not change. In the same work, Aristotle claims that “only the person who is morally virtuous will be able to be practically wise.”

The quest to define wisdom can also be seen in Plato’s dialogues. For example, in “Phaedrus” Socrates is speaking of Homer and other poetic writers that claim to base their work on truth, and argues that they should not only be called poets, orators, and legislators, but they are worthy of a higher name, befitting the serious pursuit of their life. Socrates continues saying they should not be called “wise” because that is “a great name which belongs to God alone. Lovers of wisdom or philosophers is their modest and befitting title.”

While Plato saw wisdom as only attainable by God, we use the term more casual today, often using it interchangeably with the term knowledge. Many contemporary definitions include knowledge in its definition, but add “and the ability to use it to its best means” to the end. If wisdom is the “traditional goal of philosophy” as the OD of Philosphy says, and the major aim of rhetoricians in Greece, then the field of rhetoric could benefit by evading the elusiveness of the word wisdom and agreeing on a common definition so that we can all understand what we are working towards.

Works Cited:
Perseus website
Oxford English Dictionary
Plato’s Phaedrus
Oxford Dictionary of Philosphy
Arnaud, D. & LeBon, T. ‘Practical and Theortical Wisdom” Practical Philosophy March 2000 Volume 3.1 Pages 6-9


Love Sick

In Plato’s Phaedrus those that seek knowledge are compared to a lover or those in love.  At first glance, comparing philosophers to lovers seems silly, as those in love are seldom in search of “Truth”.  Nevertheless, Plato continues to state that some souls remember reality of the gods better than others.  He orders groups of people and trades by the level the souls in that group remember divine reality.  Plato depicts that we have all seen real beauty, that of the heavens, and when we are reminded of it, our souls past wings begin to grow back.  Interestingly, at the top of the list is a lover.  Further, he states those whom remember Reality the most will enter into a future seeking wisdom, knowledge or love/ be a lover.  Through out Phaedrus, love is used as a metaphor in the search for knowledge and Truth, and lengthy depictions are given about the madness of love. 

            A word search of Lover on Persus yielded some fascinating results.  While some of the definitions were to be expected, one who longs for or, filled with passion, one particular definition stood out.  The Greek word, ἐρᾶν is listed in 115 documents, showing up 2,692 times. Two meanings are noted in Persus, the first being love, the second and more notable of the two, means to pour forth, and or vomit!  With some thought this definition of love seems to make a bit of sense.  Those in love often express feelings of being ‘love sick’, and ill.  In an intimate relationship you are expected to pour forth feelings, and to some degree, lovers vomit out the deep secrets of their souls to each other. 

            Due to this definition, it is a bit perplexing why Plato would state that the search for knowledge is like vomiting.  Perhaps, the quest for knowledge is like a lover, in that searching for Truth often produces small amounts of substance leaving the seeker frustrated and disappointed, much like frustration and unproductive nature of dry heaves.  Furthermore it is often said that, the more one learns, the less he/she knows. Future rhetorical pedagogy might benefit from remembering this comparison of Plato.  While some students think they have knowledge, teaching this definition and comparison could help remind seekers of knowledge that the quest for understanding is ongoing, yielding lots of dry heaves, and small amounts of real substance.

Pain - Here today, gone tomorrow.

In both Latin and Greek etymology, “pain” originally meant punishment. The Greek poine indicates a punishment or penalty, while the Latin poena means punishment, hardship and suffering. Another Greek word, algos, indicates physical pain. The Greek suffix –algia is derived from the noun for physical pain, and the verb, algein, “to feel pain.” The verb algein also historically means “to care about.” [1]

Plato’s works contain many different references to pain; however, Gorgias contains the most direct examples. Plato refers to pain in terms of physical, emotional and spiritual suffering. One specific reference to pain in Plato’s Gorgias is when he states, “to feel pleasure is not to fare well, no is to feel pain to fare badly,” (497, p. 68). This quote illustrates the historic duality of this term. It is obviously talking about algos and algein in the sense of feeling pain, but also in caring about something. We care about what we are pursuing, and Plato speaks of pain in reference to pursuing true arts. In his view, the pain is part of the necessary pursuit of virtue. It should not be eliminated by false arts, such as cookery. Enduring pain was considered virtuous to Plato, and it could be considered a way to achieve truth in a physical and soulful sense.

Plato sees pain in a very different light than most people today. While we still believe that hard work and sacrifice are important values, when it comes to pain, most of our effort is spent trying to eliminate it. This is because our current definition of pain is, “hurt or distress due to physical injury or illness, etc.”[2] Many words today that relate to pain relief stem from the very same Greek words. For example, analgesic is a mixture of Greek algos (“pain”) and the prefix an-, which means “without.” Today, we view pain much more in the sense of punishment and suffering than in the terms of something we care about. Historically, pain’s dual meaning of suffering and caring has changed to a focus of pain alleviation. Plato believed that the evil and the painful were not the same, however today we view them as congruent. When something is painful, we immediately take steps to change it. Would Plato view some of our methods as cookery? One must wonder what he would think of prescriptions, therapy and alternative medicine.

1. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/pain

2. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=pain&searchmode=none

3. Plato, Gorgias


Jesyca R.

Narrative – An excavation by Jesyca Rodenberg

Narrative has a fascinating history. From the Latin “narrare”, it moved to the Middle French in 1450. Its usage dropped dramatically in the mid-1600’s when it developed a “Scot stigma” 1 and is actually the root/inspiration for story, history, and romance of all things. A further branch of interest is that a part of Latin definition included the verb, “to recount”, which inspired the Old English definition of narrative “to account,” which is how it came to be said that to share a narrative is to give an account of something, or why we believe or disbelieve a story based on another individual’s account. An interesting link that supports the theory of narrative as persuasion.

My mistake, however, was assuming that narrative preceded narration. Not that I obsessed with making the distinctions between nouns and verbs, but the verb narrate, to make a narration, has a history much more complex and traceable back to Proto-Indo-European roots. “Narrare” comes from PIE bases that mean “to know” and “to make acquainted with…” To share what you know was identified by language BEFORE the concept of what we were sharing was.

Now, the idea that our discipline is based around an oral tradition is nothing new. But to find a new way of supporting and defending the continuation of that tradition through language is an exciting thing. Especially if you have spent a third of your life work in an audio-based field and are now in the middle of an existential crisis because your academic career is going to be judged on a piece of written work.

So what’s the application? I have recently stumbled across the Yiddish Radio Project. Among its many treasures from a lost radio empire are recordings of a radio-show called “Reunion.” This was from 1948 when Holocaust was a word hardly used, let along a concept or event commonly understood. There is no way to describe the sound that a man and his father separated for 8 years by the Gestapo make when seeing each other for the first time; having, until then, no idea the other was alive. And that’s my point. There are some narratives that CANNOT be written down, some tales that must be heard to be understood.

If the root of narrative is in the act, not the item, we as a discipline must defend the act and keep it alive. 2

narrative." Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary. MICRA, Inc. 04 Apr. 2008. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/narrative>.

“narration” Online Etymology Dictionary 04 Apr. 2008


NPR’s Yiddish Radio Project at www.yiddishradioproject.org

  1. What or why the stigma was is unknown to this author at this time.
  2. It would be very nice to tie this piece back to a defense of oral thesis, but not in 400 words.



Audience analysis originated with Plato’s notion of the speaker’s recognition of the types of souls comprising an audience. A contemporary rhetorical scholar does not think of an audience as souls to be led; minds to be persuaded, perhaps. In modern English, the soul is “the spiritual part of man in contrast to the purely physical” [1]. We may refer to it as the psyche, the spirit, the self, the intellect or the subconscious. That without which we would be mere bodies.

In Plato’s “Gorgias,” Socrates and Gorgias discuss the difference between soul and body [2]. In Greek the word translated by Helmbold as “soul” is ψυχή, or psuchê, which translates literally to English as “breath" [3]. In “Phaedrus,” Socrates speaks elaborately of the nature and hierarchy of souls, and again, the Greek word is psuchê, breath [4]. Our modern notion of the soul is expressed by the OED as “the principle of thought and action in man, commonly regarded as an entity distinct from the body" [5]. It is evident through context that Plato agrees with this definition of what the soul is; his Socrates in “Gorgias” speaks of calling the “body” something and the “soul” something else [6] and of the soul as master of the body [7]. The philosopher asserts in “Phaedrus” that “there neither is nor ever will be anything of more real importance in heaven or earth than the soul” [8]. So why, if Plato is definitely speaking of “the immaterial ‘I’ that possesses conscious experience, controls passion, desire and action, and maintains a perfect identity from birth (or before) to death (or after),” [9] is the Greek word in the text psuchê? I suppose a better question might be why does psuchê translate literally as “breath” if it is used in all these instances in reference to a person’s soul? According to the Perseus database, it appears over a thousand times in Plato’s texts. It appears to be a case of synonym in the language, where the Greeks thought it unnecessary to differentiate.

The idea of a person being infused with a life force that makes them more than just a body, having a soul, is sometimes referred to as the breath of life, that which makes a person alive, and which leaves their body upon death. The ancient Greek language makes no distinction between the inhalation of oxygen, giver of life, and the internal life force we call the soul.

[1] Oxford English Dictionary Online.
[2] Helmbold, W.C. and W.G. Rabinowitz. (1956). "Plato: Phaedrus." MacMillan Publishing Company. 270-271.
[3] Perseus
[4] Phaedrus, 244-257.
[5] Oxford English Dictionary Online.
[6] Helmbold, W.C. (1997). "Plato: Gorgias." Prentice Hall Inc. 464.
[7] Gorgias, 465.
[8] Phaedrus, 241.
[9] Blackburn, Simon. (2005).“Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy.” Oxford University Press. 346.

Truth as Aletheia

Plato’s Gorgias, entails a discussion about the difference between false knowledge and true knowledge. This is a movement from a concept of truth that is understood as Alethéia to the conception of truth that is roman in nature as Veritas[i]. Aletheia is understood as unconcealment of being by the greeks. Aletheia is to just see and recognize something or someone in that moment for how they are. Most importantly Aletheia tries not to establish relation to anything else, such as thinking about someone or something[ii]. This form of truth is much different from Veritas, as it means a way of understanding the world as something that can and should be subject to human rationality[iii]. This rationality is dictated by understanding the world in dualism[iv]. This dualism is proven in Gorgias with the discussion and assertion that there is only two kinds of knowledge, true knowledge and false knowledge.

Current Research including William Spanos’s Americas Shadow, look to see how the understanding of the world through terms of Veritas instead of Aletheia is problematic and at the root of what he calls Pax Metaphysica[v]. Pax Metaphysica is according to Spanos at the root of genocides, isms, and war.

Other research includes McPhails inquiry into the study of rhetoric and how dualistic thought and speech inevitably divides and is at the root of racism[vi].

Michelle Ballif makes arguments that rhetoric that is embracing this concept of Veritas will inevitable commit insidious violence because of the relationships it demands when encountering the other.

[i] Mader, Rodney. "'New world' or 'American' empire?." College Literature 29.4 (Fall 2002): 137(7). Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. Kansas State University Libraries. 4 Apr. 2008

[ii] Michael Inwoord - A Heidegger dictionary - Oxford, Blackwell Publishers, 1999, pp. 13-14

[iii] Mader, Rodney. "'New world' or 'American' empire?." College Literature 29.4 (Fall 2002): 137(7). Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. Kansas State University Libraries. 4 Apr. 2008

[iv] ibid

[v] ibid

[vi] Mark Lawrence McPhail, Associate Professor of Communication in the Department of Communication at the University of Utah. Zen in the Art of RHETORIC; An Inquiry into Coherence. 1996

Hysterical Wandering Wombs

hys·ter·ic (h-strk)
A person suffering from hysteria.
2. hysterics
(used with a sing. or pl. verb)
A fit of uncontrollable laughing or crying.
An attack of hysteria.


[From Latin hystericus, hysterical, from Greek husterikos, from huster, womb (from the former idea that disturbances in the womb caused hysteria).]

The wandering sickly womb placed in text by Plato in Timaeus, is named hysteria[2]. The female womb as a disembodied organ, woman defined as opposite of soul, creating nature, disordering culture . She is nothing until form is she is nothing before infused with sperm as form, creating Woman as pregnant matter.[3] This division of form/matter severs Woman from her body and writing, as Cixous writes “It is time to for woman to mark her cuts in written and oral language”[4]. Hippocratic medicine cured hysteria with intercourse[5], and catharsis, alluded to in Aristotle’s Poetics, a performance in Greek Tragedy in which an actor restores harmony to the social order through mirroring pain for his audience.[6] The hysterically disembodied Woman as Wandering Womb brings to light the impossibilities of Woman as a hyper-hysteric strategy to make visible the wounds of her inscriptions.

Clement shows how guilt “fixes reproduction on the ill female organs”, with punishment of death by fire[7]. Hysteric is the culmination of sorceress and witch; we should not forget the murder of 60,000 witches in the 14th-15th century as one example.[8] Unknown ancient guilt shows up as Plato promised in Phaedrus, no longer delivered from God, now internalized in the unconscious[9]. Hysterical performances symbolize the original female guilt, a confessional of hysteric and spectator. Demon expelled through embodiment of Eros, so Woman can hide again.

Derrida points to what is produced through the exclusion of form/matter, it is Woman’s excess, the erotic.[10] Women’s sick wandering wombs are done transmuting forms at the price of invention of self, through speech, or writing. This deposit of Excessive Woman is where Irigay mimes phallgocentricsm, we take exclusion as our own, not hiding, silent, reproducers of hysterical guilt but as laughing innocence[11].

Biesecker argues for a rhetoric that “by moving through the body in order to steal back the unconscious as a site of plentitude and, hence source of speech, and of writing, women can unfix the sign “woman” and make it fly”. [12]The medium for such a gesture belongs in hypertext whose form has been “characterized as essentially feminine…as a means of moving beyond the linear logic of Oedipal hierarchy and transcendence. The language of the fragmented body exists on the margins of the social body as the limit of pleasure, ‘without any fixed term” to locate it’” Johnson’s cyber novel does this future of rhetoric in which Woman flys/steals- inside/outside- form/matter - riding internet wayvves.[13]

[1] The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/hysteria

[2] Ibid

[3] Plato. Timaeus. 91c Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 9 translated by W.R.M. Lamb. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1925 http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Plat.+Tim.+91c

[4] Biesecker, Barbara. Towards a Transactional View of Rhetorical and Feminist Theory: Rereading Helene Cixous’s The Laugh of The Medusa 1992 p. 90

[5] R. Satow, "Where Has All the Hysteria Gone?" Psychoanalytic Review 66 (1979/80): 463-477 (quotation, pp. 463-464).

[7] Clement, Catherine and Cixous, Helene. The Newly Born Woman. Theory and History of Literature, Volume 24 1975 reprinted 1996 p. 6

[8] Levack, Brian. The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe. Longman; Second edition (April 14, 1995)

[9] Plato. Phaedrus Translated by W.C. Hembold and W.B. Rabinowitz 236-245

[10] Derrida, Jaques, Positions, Alan Bass, ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1978)

[11] Irigaray, Luce “Plato’s Hysters” Speculum of the Other Woman 1 985

[12] Biesecker Ibid p. 48

[13] Johnson, Holly. Shelly Jackson’s Patchwork Girl: Hysteria, Hypertext and the Ethics of the Fragmented Body. Modified Saturday, May 13, 2006 6:38:27 PM, accessed April 2nd, 2008. www.darevirginia.com/patchwork/index.html

Awe(some): Positive or Negative?

St. Thomas Aquinas once quipped, “Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder.” Aquinas’ romantic approach to awe stands in stark contrast to its origins. For our purposes we will be looking at the word awesome (the suffix makes the word mean: a quality of awe). While the term awesome was first recorded in 1598,[1] there is an equivalent that was used during the writings of Homer and Plato called epainos, meaning dread.[2] Biblical writings started to put some positive connotations back into awesome. During this period the word added the element of veneration (directed at the Supreme Being, God).[3] In 1980 the word changed again, as it became a colloquialism meaning excellent. Today, it is commonly associated with power, and can be either positive or negative.[4]

Homer and Plato both utilized the term epinos in their writings. In Homer’s The Illiad Meleager’s mother is praying to the gods, calling on Hades and epinos (translated to mean dread) Persephone.[5] Plato references epinos in Laches as Lysimachus is congratulating Socrates on his reputation. In this instance, however, epinos is used to mean praise.[6] This could mean one of two things: either Plato was a very forward thinker, or the term had polarizing meanings during the time of the Greeks.

Today, awe/awesome has taken a turn back to its Greek origins. The war in Iraq has resulted in several new expressions being developed to describe military strategies and stances. During the first Iraq war, the phrase “shock and awe” was used to describe a method of coercing people, either physically or psychologically, to do what you want. This thinking is modeled off of Sun Tzu and Karl von Clausewitz and hopes to strike dread or epinos in enemies without actually having to go to war. In essence it is a form of diplomacy.[7]

As you can see awe/awesome have become contextual words. Perhaps Anthony Robbins was correct when he said, “Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy. Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.” The word awesome has the ability to give power or take it away, depending on how it is used.

[1] Online Entomology Dictionary (2001) Douglas Harper

[2] Crane, G.R., Perseus Project (2007)

[3] Online Entomology Dictionary (2001) Douglas Harper

[4] A Google Scholar search of “awesome power” resulted in the phrase being used in the titles of 44 books, articles, and papers.

[5] Homer (1924). The Iliad with an English Translation by A.T. Murray, Ph.D. in two volumes. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd.

[6] Plato (1955). Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 8 translated by W.R.M. Lamb. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd.

[7] Ullman, H. (2007). “Origins of Shock and Awe.” United Press International May, 16.


Neal Stewart

Allegory comes from the Greek word allegoria, meaning “the description of one thing under the image of another.” Quintilian defines it as "continuous metaphor uninterrupted by clarification." It is a combination of the Greek words allos (another, different) and agoreuein (speak openly), and Plato refers to it in Phaedrus as an amusing diversion not for serious philosophers. Allegory goes from a diversion outside the scope of proper philosophy in Ancient Greece, to an avenue for significant intellectual inquiry in the Medieval period, to a controversial point of departure for post-modern scholars today.

In Phaedrus, Plato refers (through Socrates’ character) to allegory as a sort of crude philosophy. Plato writes, “Now I quite acknowledge that these allegories [such as Orithyia and Pharmacia] are very nice…”, but they are ultimately unworthy of philosophical pursuit (229). This allegory also includes chimeras, pegasuses, and other fantastical creatures and events that would not hold up to the rules of logic. “I have no leisure for such inquiries…” (229). It is interesting to note that roughly ten years after writing Phaedrus, Plato included “The Allegory of the Cave” in his Republic as a way to explain philosophy to uneducated people. Perhaps Plato felt that allegories used to make philosophical points were acceptable, while those used to make religious / mythological points were not.

Plato’s negative view of religious allegory is abandoned several centuries later, as allegory instead becomes an avenue for medieval intellectual inquiry. Around the 5th century CE, as Christianity grew in popularity, allegory became a way for the church to reconcile the differences between the Old and New Testaments. Over the next thousand years, as the Church grew in scope and power across western society, understanding God’s instructions for humankind became a central facet of life; these instructions were accessible through reading allegory into religious texts.

Today, the term is often a dividing point for rhetoricians regarding the factual accuracy of allegory. If the universe is a story, “traditional” scholars would seek to find the facts (universal Truths), whereas post-modern scholars are more interested in the interpretation of the story. PM scholars argue that we don’t have access to “the facts,” so the story can only be seen as an extended metaphor (thus allegorical, ala Quintilian). The interpretation of the metaphor leads to the idea of socially-constructed truths versus universal Truths.

Allegory has turned 180-degrees from Plato’s time, where it was a “crude” way to study the world, to today where (according to post-modern scholars) allegory might be the only way to study the world.

greektexts.com Phaedrus.

W. T. H. Jackson The Nature of Romance Yale French Studies, No. 51, Approaches to Medieval Romance (1974), pp. 12-25

Online Etymology Dictionary “allegory”


The rhetorical figure apostrophe shows up in Ad Herennium, 100 BC, as “the figure which expresses grief or indignation by means of an address to some man or city or place or object…” (283). It is also noted that the appeal has to do with an audience present or absent, and dead or alive. What is now known today as the exclamation point was called an apostrophe at one point in time. Since it has appeals to audience’s emotions or pathos, the word excaimatio was closely associated with it (www.byu.edu/rhetoric/silva.htm). Excalimatio relates to the use of punctuation at the end of the sentence. For example: O tempora! O mores! Cicero (http://humanities.byu.edu/rhetoric/silva.htm).
Apostrophe is used up to 1500 AD, and less than a hundred years after that a critical turn takes place and apostrophe is known now as a possession to something. Apostrophe can also be…”the ejecting of a letter or syllabi out of one word” (http;//dictoiinary.oed.edu). Now the word becomes a symbol in our language looking like this ’. Rules of the new symbol and replacement of letters take over the writing system. Although the symbol appeared before it was not until 1600 that it was named. Currently when apostrophe is searched, the possessive uses are outlined (purdeowl.edu). Was the intention of this rhetorical symbol to turn into an English lesson taught in 3rd grade?
If not, the first meaning of the apostrophe has taken on a new term or word today in the rhetorical sphere. It is now called the second persona. Second persona encompasses most of what the apostrophe was meant to be in Ad Herennium, while still possessing the appeal to pathos in speech giving. Black mentions the second persona as… “What equally well solicits our attention is hat there is a second persona also implied by a discourse, and that persona is its implied auditor…We are told that he (second persona or audience) is sometimes fitting in the judgment of the past…present (or future)… depending on whether the discourse is…epideictic, or deliberative” (89). Black goes on to mention appealing the audience and their age, and the audience’s feelings towards the subject. Black continues to explain the function of the discourse, which the author of the rhetorical handbook would be pleased with stating a “how to” craft the speech to fit the audience, and how the “discourse” chosen will help influence the audience.

Silva rhetoricae
Rose, Gillian. "Of Derrida's spirit." New Literary History 24.n2 (Spring 1993): 447(19). Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. Kansas State University Libraries. 4 Apr. 2008 http://find.galegroup.com/itx/start.do?prodId=EAIM.


“From universal mind (logos), man’s mind (logos) can reason (logos) to bring forth speech (logos).”[1] “For as long as rhetoric has been a formal object of study, logos has been one of its central terms.”[2] To say that logos has dual connotations would be an extreme understatement because it has so many usages. In its most basic form, logos means speech both as verbalization and the act we teach; other usages include reason, mind and “creatrix of culture and human society”.[3] Considering that the “double meaning of the verbal form ‘legein,’ means both to say, to speak, and to lay in the sense of bringing things to lie together,”[4] it makes complete sense that the sophists employed the method of dissoi logoi. Logos was a foundational aspect of Isocrates’ paideia, which he refers to as hē tōn logōn paideia, culture of discourse.[5] This makes sense because for Isocrates logos was both a maker and a guide.[6] “The word logos and its derivatives have long had a suggestion of divinity about them. For the ancient Greeks, it was often an expression for ‘universal mind’; and it retains something of this sense in Plato. Man could know because he was identified with the substance of God, that is, the universal mind.”[7] Through this philosophic foundation, the Christian theology of Christ as Logos flourished.[8] Essentially, logos leads to the Logos. “In this sense the Fathers did not associate Christianity primarily with the realm of religion and did not regard it as one of many religions; rather they associated it with the process of reasoning and discernment.... There is no way of approaching the uniqueness of the Christian faith and of its specific position in the intellectual history of humanity if one skips over this fact. Reason is critical of religion in its search for the truth; yet at its very origins, Christianity sides with reason and considers this ally to be its principal forerunner."[9]
Logos is still a central aspect of rhetorical studies. Specifically, reason is central to postmodernism in its abandonment of reason in favor of “plurality of values and techniques.”[10] Kenneth Burke wrote a book that develops the study of logology, which is primarily concerned with words about the Word.[11] In our studies of rhetoric, we should be mindful of the divine dimension of logos related to key concepts within our whole discipline i.e., speech, discourse, dissoi logoi, and reason.

Works Cited
Burke, Kenneth. The Rhetoric of Religion: Studies in Logology. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1970.
Encyclopedia of Rhetoric. Ed. Thomas O. Sloane. New York: Oxford University Press,2001.
Isocrates I. David C. Mirhady & Yun Lee Too, Trans. Austin: U of Texas P, 2000.
Jaeger, Werner. Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture. 3 vols. Trans. Gilbert Highet. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971.
Oxford English Dictionary
Poulakos, Takis. Speaking for the Polis: Isocrates’ Rhetorical Education. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.
Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. On the Way to Jesus Christ. Trans. Miller, Michael J. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004.
Sallis, John. Being and Logos: The Way of Platonic Dialogue. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1975.
Scott, Robert L. “On Viewing Rhetoric as Epistemic.” Central States Speech Journal.(February,1967): 9-17.

[1] Scott, Robert L. “On Viewing Rhetoric as Epistemic.” Central States Speech Journal.(February, 1967): 14.
[2]“Logos.” Encyclopedia of Rhetoric. Ed. Thomas O. Sloane. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
[3] Jaeger, Werner. Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture. 3 vols. Trans. Gilbert Highet. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971, p. 90.
[4]Sallis, John. Being and Logos: The Way of Platonic Dialogue. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1975, p. 7.
[5]Isocrates I. David C. Mirhady & Yun Lee Too, Trans. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000, p. 239.
[6]Poulakos, Takis. Speaking for the Polis: Isocrates’ Rhetorical Education. Columbia, S.C.:University of South Carolina Press, 1997, p 10.
[7]Scott, 14.
[8]“The Church Fathers found the seeds of the Word, not in the religions of the world, but rather in philosophy, that is, in the process of critical reason directed against the [pagan] religions,the history of progressive reason, and not in the history of religion. The fathers saw therein the real pre-history of Christianity—in those speculations whereby man broke through customs and traditions to arrive at the Logos, that is, to an understanding of the world and of the divine through the power of reason” (Ratzinger, 72-73).
[9]Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. On the Way to Jesus Christ. Trans. Miller, Michael J. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004, p. 73.
[10]“Postmodernism.” Oxford English Dictionary.
[11]Interestingly, Burke argues that words referring to the supernatural are adapted from words that reference natural phenomena and then sometimes become resecularized. He begins his book arguing: “‘Words’ in the first sense have a wholly naturalistic, empirical reference. But they may be used analogically, to designate a further dimension, the ‘supernatural.’ Whether or not there is a realm of the ‘supernatural,’ there are words for it. And in this state of linguistic affairs there is a paradox. For whereas the words for the ‘supernatural’ realm are necessarily borrowed from the realm of our everyday experiences, out of which familiarity with language arises, once a terminology has been developed for specific theological purposes the order can become reversed. We can borrow back the terms from the borrower, again secularizing to varying degrees the originally secular terms that had been given ‘supernatural’ connotations” (Burke, 7).


You must submit to supreme suffering in order to discover the completion of joy. – John Calvin. The aforementioned quotation postulates the familiar concept that in order to appreciate euphoria one must experience some degree of dysphoria. While experiencing this end of the polarization yields an optimistic result, in contrast, to indulge in other extreme (pleasure) has a negative connotation. This idea is emphasized through the pedagogy of some of the world’s most influential religious figures such as Jesus Christ, Gautama Buddha and Mohammed.

In the Phaedrus, Socrates makes an argument that seems to coincide with those teachings. “When opinion leads through reason to what is best and dominates the other, the name given to this dominance is self-control; but when desire irrationally drags us toward pleasures and gains the mastery within us, this mastery is called wantonness” (17). Socrates then explains how those who fall victim to their desires are dishonorable. However, the description of these actions as wantonness or hubris (Greek) lends itself to interpretation.

Definitions of wantonness can be extremely negative from “without regard for what is right, just, humane”[1] to simply, “lewdness”[2]. Another translation of Phaedrus uses the term excess rather than wantonness to describe actions. Excess is rooted in need. For example, humans drink to quench thirst or eat to stifle hunger. Our inhibition to engage in a behavior may be completely necessary. With that in mind, using wantonness under the foremost definition seems completely inappropriate. The latter interpretation would further strengthen Socrates’ argument that excepting favors from a lover are superior over a non-lover if the pursuit of intimacy is recognized as need (by means of the term excess). This subtle, yet important, distinction between wantonness and excess lessens the negative connotation associated with over-indulgence (as perpetuated by our previously cited religious leaders).

Identifying the needs of an audience and using them as a means to motivate an audience is a fundamental concept in persuasion scholarship. While dialectic was used to discover the Truth, Socrates’ intentions may not have been entirely pure. Kinz (1997) explained that Socrates probably made this argument to persuade Phaedrus to become his ally in political debates[3]. Centuries ago, philosophers and rhetoricians alike were capitalizing on their audience’s needs. Such an attempts are still being perfected today.

[1] Dictionary.com

[2] Oed.com

[3] Kintz, S. E. (1997). Love’s litigation. Plato’s Phaedrus as trial by jury. Duke Law Journal, 46, 815-864.


I choose daimon as a word to excavate because of the unexpected positive turn it held for Socrates. “Socrates said he had a life-time daimon that always warned him of danger and bad judgment, but never directed his actions. He said his daimon was more accurate than omens of either watching the flights or reading the entrails of birds, which were two respected forms of divination of the time.”[1] We could simply claim that Socrates’s daimon is similar to Pinocchio’s Jimmy Cricket acting as his conscience and guide. There is an added element that is added to the idea of daimon in its source comes from a higher power in that it is, “a supernatural being of Greek mythology intermediate between gods and men.”[2] Furthermore it was seen as, “An inferior deity, such as a deified hero, an attendant spirit, a genius.”[3] A daimon was held as a quasi divine being sent by the gods. It makes for an interesting entity in that its residence is within the individual but its source was external.

So now I wish to briefly investigate the transition from daimon to demon. This probably saw its transition begin with the division between good and evil by the Greeks. “The ancient Greeks thought there were good and bad demons called 'eudemons' and 'cacodemons.’ Good daimons were considered to be guardian spirits, giving guidance and protection to the ones they watched over. Bad daimons led people astray.” [1] Late Latin held demon to be “an evil spirit, a source of great evil, harm, or distress.” [2] This terminology has become the more widespread usage.

Finally I want to show how daimon relates to our field. Daimon seems to be a nebulous source of wisdom and inspiration which cannot be limited down to anyone field. For Socrates it allowed him to strive towards finding the truth, from that we could claim that we seek to better understand our reality. To me, Daimon in our or any discipline represents references. They are external sources of wisdom, knowledge, and experience that we internalize to guide us in our study of knowledge. The Greeks viewed their deified heroes as daimons; I believe we do that same. Only our heroes are based on their academic achievements, even now we still turn to Plato thousands of years later for inspiration and guidance.

[1] "Daimon." Encyclopedia Mythica. 2008. Encyclopedia Mythica Online.04 Apr. 2008 <http://www.pantheon.org/articles/d/daimon.html>.

[2] “Demon.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 2008. Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online.
04 Apr. 2008 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/demon

[3] “Daimon.” The Free Dictionary. 2008. The Free Dictionary Online.
04 Apr. 2008 http://www.thefreedictionary.com/daimon



In his Antidosis, Isocrates’ discusses how a superior education in intellect and speech is what sets the Greeks apart from the Barbarians.[1] He further notes that one must respect the people who have received this education, because the educated are in a position of leadership over the uneducated. As is further discussed in Mirhady and Too’s Isocrates glossary, “leadership” stood in for the Greek term hegemonia, because hegemonia referred to the system of political and cultural leadership among the Greek states.[2] The Online Etymology Dictionary lists hegemony as being obviously rooted in Greek hegemonia (leadership), and hegemon (leader), but its meaning even in ancient Greek literature is about more than just leadership. Hegemonia continuously means leadership within military or governmental structures, and not leadership the way we think of it today.

Aristotle took care to differentiate between hegemony and imperialism by distinguishing two different types of government: a hegemony where the government led a group of equals with attention to the interests of all, and a despotic state which employed the domination of others in the ruler’s self interest.[3] When Thucydides wrote The History of the Peloponnesian War, he used hegemonia to mean leaders in both political and military alliances. He may be partly responsible for the shift in hegemonia’s meaning from one of leadership to a meaning focused on power and dominance. Thucydides explained how the voluntary alliance of Athenian states against the Persians, referred to as hegemonia, evolved into an Athenian empire with only self-serving interests.[4]

Hegemony’s place in today’s vocabulary can be greatly attributed to Marxist political theorist Antonio Gramsci. He considered hegemony to be the established supremacy of one group over another, and found it to be inevitable in the maintenance of a capitalist state.[5] Political activity is fundamentally centered on maintaining power, and hegemony is a way of oppressing groups without using violence or force. Contemporary rhetorical studies in theories dealing with oppressed political, racial or socio-economic groups often incorporate discussions of hegemony. Judith Butler’s writings on gender theories discuss the results and workings of a white heterosexual male society that oppresses all other groups through hegemonic superiority.[6] Clearly, hegemonia has taken a great shift from “leadership” within ancient Greece to the oppressive power structure it has come to represent in contemporary society.

[1] Isocrates I. Translation by Mirhady, D & Too, Y. 15. 293-294.
[2] Isocrates I. p. 266.
[3] Fontana, B. (2008). The History of Ideas Vol. 3.
[4] Wickersham, J. (1994). Hegemony and Greek Historians. Rowman & Littlefield p. 31-33.
[5] Haugaard, M & Lentner, H. H. (2006). Hegemony and Power: Concensus and Coercion in Contemporary Politics. Lexington Books p. 27-30.
[6] Butler, J. (1999). Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Routledge.



Stephanie Purtle

Nomos initially meant “pasture,” eventually evolving as habitation then, “habitual practice, usage, or custom.”[1] Nomos again evolved into something people “believed in, practiced or held to be right.” This definition is applicable to rhetoric because it’s a process of communicating culturally constructed beliefs, and is an argument for replacing Truth with socially constructed contextual “truth.”[2] Nomos’ implied relativity and spelling reminded me of the Afrocentric term nommo, the generative power of the spoken word. I initially thought Molefi Asanti reconfigured nomos Afrocentrically; however, after researching nommo I developed another hypothesis.

Nommo originates from the Dogon people of Mali’s creation narrative: “the Creator, Amma, sends nommo, the word (in the collective sense of speech), to complete the spiritual and material reorganization of the world.”[3] Nommo reflects the word’s power, “to call into being, to mold, to bear infinite meanings,” which is deeply rooted in the larger African culture. Example: African culture believes a child is born when it is named. Asanti expanded nommo in the 60’s to establish an Afrocentric paradigm. Asanti contends because slaves’ native languages and literacy were seen as threatening to whites they maintained their nommo heritage, formulating subversive communication patterns known today as Ebonics and “poor grammar.”[4] Because the word generates meaning, thus conflicting with Eurocentric logos, understanding nommo is imperative when studying African American rhetoric.[5]

Nommo’s creative element reflects Jarratt’s definition: “Nomos in its most comprehensive meaning stands for order, valid and binding on those who fall under its jurisdiction.”[6] Both generate “truth” socially through language. However, unlike the secular Sophistic nomos as a logic, nommo and spirituality/god are inextricable, it is “magic power”[7]. Thus nommo is also inextricable from African culture despite its relativism. This combined with the Sophist’s extensive travels and multicultural experience led me to postulate nommo came first, and through their travels, the Sophists discovered nommo, translated the concept into their secular logic, adapting nommo to their, for lack of a better term, nomos. Obviously I cannot test this hypothesis[8] here, but I predict our incomplete and Eurocentric record of the Sophists and Western philosophy would not be conclusive.

[1] Susan C. Jarratt’s Rereading the Sophists: Classical Rhetoric Refigured p. 41

[2] Jarratt p. 42

[3] From Maulana Karenga’s essay “Nommo, Kawaida, and Communicative Practice: Bringing Good into the World” in the book Understanding African American Rhetoric: Classical Origins to Contemporary Innovations edited by Ronald L. Jackson II and Elaine B. Richardson. (p. 8)

[4] Molefi Kete Asante’s book The Afrocentric Idea 1997 p. 95

[5] Karenga p. 9

[6] Jarratt p. 60

[7] William Handley’s article, “The House a Ghoast Built: “Nommo,” Allegory, and the Ethics of Reading in Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved’” from Contemporary Literature 1995 p. 677

[8] Ironic use of the scientific method!!!!!11


Peitho, the Greek goddess of persuasion, is linked with the goddesses of marriage not for her domestic skill but because of her seductive powers and trickery, depicts Jarrett.  Although persuasion is given to a Greek god as a divine trait, this persuasive power and trickery is often viewed more commonly as a sophistic trait. Plato depicts Gorgias as able to hypnotize and deceive audiences by his enchanting oral style.  Protagorous is often seen as using the same skill.  Seduction is also a common theme In Homer’s Iliad.


The Oxford dictionary definition of seduction is, “to attract someone to a belief or into an inadvisable course of action.”  When translated to Greek by Persesus, a wide range of definitions appear.  One of the words has a familiar definition, as to bring over or convince.  Surprisingly there are two words, πειράζω and πειράω, used in different tenses but share the same meaning, “to make proof, trail of, and attempt to do.” (Persesus) These two words are used more frequently than any of the other words for seduction and appear a combined 4,770 times in Greek literature. (Perseus)  This definition for seduction is very interesting, as it does not carry the same negativity as the oxford definition of alluring or attracting into an inadvisable action.  Nor is this definition seen as mere trickery.   


In rhetorical scholarship, women do not garner the same respect and visibility of their male counterparts.  According to Jarrett, platonic ideas commonly place sophistic rhetoric and women together.  Plato was opposed to the sophist’s ideas, and therefore placed them in the polar opposite of his philosophy as “the other”, thus viewing negatively.  According to Jarrett, the “other” is often labeled feminine, and garners the same negative views.  Perhaps if more rhetorical scholarship was done on this persuasive power, it might reveal more instances were people were being put to the test by this form of persuasion.  Furthermore this view could warrant a more liberal definition of seduction, shining a more positive light on the Sophists and persuasive skills they were practicing, thus dispelling some of the negative feminine connotations of seduction as trickery.




Oxford Dictionary


Jarratt, Susan C. Rereading the Sophists. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1998. 65-66.