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.



Anthony Wachs

Paideia is a rich word that originally meant child rearing.[1] Eventually, it was “connected with the highest areté possible to man: it was used to denote the sum-total of all ideal perfections of mind and body.”[2] Paideia is used, and weakly translated in its broadest sense, to mean “civilization, culture, tradition, literature, or education. But none of them really covers what the Greeks meant by paideia.”[3] Plato defines the essence of “all true culture, or paideia…as ‘the education in areté from youth onwards, which makes men passionately desire to become perfect citizens, knowing both how to rule and to be ruled on a basis of justice’.”[4] In other words, “The nearest equivalent to our concept of culture in the Greek world is the word paideia—education in the highest sense, which guides a human being to genuine humanity. In Latin the same idea is expressed in the in the word erudition: a man is freed from roughness [ex + rudis] and is trained in true manliness.”[5]

Rhetoricians today can learn from the Greek understanding of paedeia. Before we can create a true/good paideia we must first have an idea of what genuine humanity is.[6] We must ask ourselves: “Are religious skepticism and indifference, and moral and metaphysical ‘relativism’, which Plato opposed so bitterly and which made him a fierce and lifelong opponent of the sophists, essential elements of humanism?”[7] If the answer to this question is no, then we must ask ourselves why these have become essential elements of our discipline’s paideia. If the answer is yes, then current paideia of indifferentism and relativism should be applauded and nourished. Essentially, before we ourselves are paideia[8] and create paideia we must first engage in philosophy. “To put it in Platonic terms, everything depends on man’s ability to tell the real good from the mere appearance of good, the true from the false.”[9] Philosophy must guide our paideia, not vice versa.[10] “The experience of the past century, with its heavy toll of war and violence, culminating in the planned extermination of whole peoples”[11] provides insight into the results of paideia guiding philosophy.


Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to H.E. Mary Ann Glendon New Ambassador of the

United States of America to the Holy See, given Friday, February 29th 2008.

Isocrates I. David C. Mirhady & Yun Lee Too, Trans. Austin: U of Texas P, 2000.

Jaeger, Werner. Paideia:The Ideals of Greek Culture. v1. New York: Oxford University Press, 1939.

________. Early Christianity and Greek Paideia. Cambridge, MA.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1961.

Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. On the Way to Jesus Christ. Trans. Miller, Michael J. San Francisco Ignatius Press, 2004.

Walker, Jeffery. Rhetoric and Poetics in Antiquity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

[1] Jaeger, Werner. Paideia:The Ideals of Greek Culture. v1. New York: Oxford University Press, 1939, p. 5, 286.

[2] Ibid., 286.

[3] Ibid., v.

[4] Ibid., 113.

[5] Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. On the Way to Jesus Christ. Trans. Miller, Michael J. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004, p. 44.

[6] To not do so would be extremely irresponsible. It would be like attempting constructing a chair without knowing what a chair is; the chances of actually building a chair in this manner are beyond slim.

[7] Jaeger, 1939, 301.

[8] Paideia also refers to the quality or character of being educated.

[9] Jaeger, Werner. Early Christianity and Greek Paideia. Cambridge, MA.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1961, p. 65.

[10] For Isocrates, and the other sophists for that matter, philosophy and truth are products of hē tōn logōn paideia (culture of discourse). The education that Isocrates offers at his school is called logôn paideia (discourse education) (Walker, 29).

[11] Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to H.E. Mary Ann Glendon New Ambassador of the United States of America to the Holy See, given Friday, February 29th 2008.

Speaking Freely

Neal Stewart

The Greek word parrhesia (παρρησία) comes from para (beyond) and resis (speech), and means “to speak freely.” Parrhesia appears in Isocrates’ “To Nicocles,” a letter in which he expounds his views of what a good ruler should do to sustain healthy democracy. Mirhady & Too (2004) translate parrhesia as outspokenness, and they observe that parrhesia can be “readily transferred to a democratic context” (158). Isocrates identifies parrhesia, along with legal and economic circumstances, as the prime factors influencing the lives of the average Greek citizen. Rulers should likewise acknowledge this outspokenness, and “grant free expression (parrhesia) to those who are sensible so that you may have good advisers to draw on when you are in doubt" (163). A ruler’s council should be free to speak truth to power; sycophants must be avoided. Isocrates also advises that granting free speech to people gives them great power, and, as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility. Isocrates implies that speech has power equal to action when he states that slanderers should be punished equally to criminals (163). To make responsible decisions (and discern slanderers from good persons), a ruler should “listen to what people say about each other, and try to discern the characters of both the speakers and those they speak about" (163).

Parrhesia’s meaning is refined over time to include an ethic of courage. The Bible describes the Apostle Paul’s parrhesia in evangelizing his beliefs about Christianity, though he received abuse from many people, and his unwavering outspokenness eventually cost his life.

The term parrhesia has been picked up by modern scholars, most notably by Michel Foucault. In his book Fearless Speech, Foucault seeks to explore how Greek philosophy problematizes truth, truth-telling, truth-tellers, and the relationship therein. He addresses parrhesia through the concepts of frankness, truth, danger, criticism, and duty. The notions of frankness, truth, danger, and duty have already been addressed, but Foucault’s inclusion of criticism adds an element of inferiority; that is, one exercising parrhesia is speaking to a superior interlocutor. There is even a journal of critical philosophy titled Parrhesia. It aims to “examine the intersections between questions of subjectivity, politics, ethics, aesthetics and truth.”


Keefe, Carolyn (1991). Paul of Tarsus: The Ancient Model of "Parrhesia" or Freedom of Speech.

Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Speech Communication Association (77th, Atlanta, GA, October 31-November 3, 1991).

Mirhady, D. C. & Too, Y. L. (2000). Isocrates I. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

Sylva Rhetoricae. "Parrhesia." Brigham Young University.

Zapata, F. R. (2005) Review: Michel Foucault, Fearless Speech. Foucault Studies, 2, 150-153.

Political Knowledge

Max Archer

Protagoras (178) says the natural tendency for human beings is to create communities that enable collective protection against threats. The missing piece in such arrangements was lack of political knowledge, or Politikē Technē, humans had when they formed the city-state. Lack of education about how to be just and respectful to others thus required a connection be made between the polis and technē in order for the city to survive.

Politikē technē can be broken down into separate terms or translated to English when excavating its ancient meaning (Wallach 2001). Politikē is meant to entail a more systematic conception of political skill while technē is the Greek word for practice, in this case, practice of civic affairs. Together, the English equivalent would be “political art,” or “political skill.” Socrates saw it as a civic art to be fostered through the dialectic, philosophy imparted initially by Zeus to the Athenians (Anderson 1995). Ancient usages of the concept around the Fourth Century B.C. reflected a sense of patriotism; Athenians were so proud of the polis they built, where citizens were viewed as equally skilled in their capacity for politics, that they elevated their notion of politikē technē to be seen as superior to all other cultures and peoples (Galpin 1984).

Modern deployment of the concept has maintained the assumption that political skill is a worldview that needs to be taught. Contemporary theories have taken from Protagoras the beliefs that the more skillful political speaker can dominate others and that effective deliberation requires this political skill (Yunis p. 98). This has led some to question the efficacy of existing political systems, as politicians now follow these rules as justification for keeping politics in its current business-as-usual design. Elitism has moved the concept of politikē technē away from its classical meaning to a more hegemonic form where political decisions are to be made by supposedly objective and benign experts (Cockshott & Cottrell 1993). Because Protagoras’ approach has been adopted as the rules to govern deliberation, ordinary people are now left out under the assumption they are not taught the unique expertise for political judgment.

Anderson, A. (1995). Why Prometheus Suffers: Technology and the Ecological Crisis.

Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology, 1 (1-2).

Cockshott, W. & P. Cottrell. (1993). Towards a New Socialism. Accessed 5 March 2008
at http://www.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/socialism_book/new_socialism.pdf.

Galpin, T. (1983-1984). The Democratic Roots of Athenian Imperialism in the Fifth

Century B.C. The Classical Journal, 79, 100-109.

Wallach, J. (2001). The Platonic Political Art: A Study of Critical Reason and

Democracy. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Yunis, H. (1996). Taming Democracy: Models of Political Rhetoric in Classical Athens. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.


Michael Trynosky

The term I decided to excavate is logographers, ancient Greece term of λογογράφος. There were two types of logographers, those that were professionals in creating legal speeches and those that acted in many ways as a historian.

Logographers wrote prose speeches for the courts, mythographies, geographies, reports on non-Greek customs, local stories, including founding legends, and chronological works like kings' lists.”

The type of logographer that I am most interested in is that of the professional speech writer. My choice is based on the generally negative attitude that the classical rhetoricians’ have held regarding the logographers. The various classical rhetoricians at one point or another seem to attack the practice of logography. Isocrates in Antidosis illustrates this when he makes a comparison between philosophy and that of the logographers, “those who appear to be skilled in judicial speech are tolerated on the day they happen to be pleading, whereas the others are well regarded and highly respected in all public gatherings at all times. In addition, if the if the former are seen twice or three times in the law courts, they are hated or criticized, whereas the latter are more admired the more often they appear and the more people hear them.” Here we see, through Isocrates, that the logographers are viewed in a very negative light.

I believe that the classical rhetoricians’ negative view towards the logographers stems from the negative perception of speaking the logographers create. The logographers were who the ancient Greeks would turn to in order to help win their cases. They were turned to because they had the necessary knowledge and skills to secure victory due in part to literacy. “If an ordinary person had to consult a logographos in the first place, he would most probably have been unacquainted with the rhetorical handbook and various rhetorical techniques.” Perhaps the logographers were a face to rhetoric that the classical rhetoricians disagreed with.

Our field no longer seems to attack a specific career like the logographers but has become more of one of respectful criticism. A contemporary logographer would perhaps be considered a speech writer. There seems to be a general acceptance of all communication behavior and styles now with our field only seeking to improve and evaluate rather than negative view other communication attempts.

Isocrates I. David C. Mirhady & Yun Lee Too, Trans. Austin: U of Texas P, 2000. 0-292-75238-5



Once More, the Client/Logographos Relationship

I. Worthington

The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 43, No. 1. (1993), pp. 67-72.

Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0009-8388%281993%292%3A43%3A1%3C67%3AOMTCR%3E2.0.CO%3B2-H

Speaking Well

Sarah Schwartz

Certain terms, like beauty and honor, are subjective creations from the culture and time from which they emerge. As a result, their definitions remain transient. Poulakos (1997) presents a phrase in Speaking for the Polis that also demonstrates this deciduous quality. Eu legein is defined as “the art of speaking well” (p. 64). While “speaking” has an enduring explanation, the definition of “speaking well” proves to be elusive.

Poulakos provides us with insight into the evolution of this phrase. Eu legein, paralleled with the term eloquence, is commonly associated with aestheticism in Homeric poetry. The great speaker Nestor in The Iliad is initially described as “sweet of speech…from whose tongue flowed speech sweeter than honey” (Book 1: lines 247-250). As explained by Poulakos (1997), “Homer and the tragedians, delighted audiences by deploying mythic material and produced pleasure by appealing to the senses” (p. 76).

However, Isocrates recognized that eu legein could not be merely relegated to its aesthetic form. Instead, Isocrates maintained that “his version of rhetoric [is] eloquence and wisdom in one: “the power to speak well (legein) is taken as the surest index of a sound understanding (phronein)” (p. 71). Isocrates modified eu legein to encapsulate not only eloquence, but wisdom and, most importantly, that no disparity should exist between the two qualities.

This modification is referenced as early as Plato in Ion, “Well spoken… Socrates; but still I shall be surprised if you can speak well enough to convince me…(p. 536)”. Plato acknowledges the addition of intelligence in Isocrates’ eu legein and uses it to support argumentation. However, Isocrates’ aesthetic portion of eu legein is unreferenced. Unfortunately, this exemplifies a trend in modern scholarship and contemporary rhetoricians continue to bemoan this problem. Bradford (2002) laments, “[b]eyond unfortunate equations of rhetoric with grandiloquence, this scarcity [aesthetic capacities] in recent rhetorical scholarship corresponds to general humanistic and social scientific prejudices against the topic of style” (p. 223). In other words, Isocrates’ eu legein, became rationalized during the limbo between mythos to logos. A dilemma just as problematic as considering eu legein as eloquence without wisdom emerges: considering eu legein as wisdom without eloquence.


Homer. The Iliad. Retrieved February 5 2008 from http://www.perseus.tufts.edu.

Plato. Ion. Retrieved February 5 2008 from http://www.perseus.tufts.edu.

Poulakos, T. (1997). Speaking for the Polis. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.

Vivian, B. (2002). Style, rhetoric, and postmodern culture. Philosophy and Rhetoric, 35(5), 223-243.


Dani Wellemeyer

The Greek word apologia, according to Isocrates, means “a defense speech.” He explains that Gorgias claimed to have written an encomium about Helen, a formal expression of praise, but that “he has actually spoken a defense (apologia) for what she did” (10.14). An apologia was a justification or explanation of one’s actions in the event that those alleged actions unintentionally hurt or offended another. Aristotle places apologia, defense, in opposition to kategoria, accusation, as the two categories of forensic speaking. Apologia can also be connected to the Greek word apologue, meaning “appeasing and persuading the rude or ignorant through comparisons made in the form of a fable.”_ The OED makes this link, which may help explain the evolution of the classical definition of apologia toward our colloquial use of the term apology.

An apology (a term usually mistakenly used interchangeably with apologia) is “the pleading off from a charge or imputation...; defense of a person or vindication of an institution, etc., from accusation or aspersion.”_ While an apology may offer justification for one’s actions, it is an act of contrition, supplication or appeasement (relating it to the term apologue). An admission of guilt, often an apology’s purpose is to beg forgiveness for some transgression. So, the term makes the very interesting move from a statement of self-defense to one of confession.

In contemporary communication studies apologia is a genre unto itself, referring to the statement made by an individual or organization after a crisis of some kind. The rhetorical act may or may not contain an apology. According to a classic article on apologia, the defining factors of verbal self-defense are denial, bolstering, differentiation and transcendence._ Since 1973, genre criticism has gained prominence in the field of rhetoric, as have apologia studies. Oratory by public figures is analyzed using Ware & Linkugel’s method or some variation of it, such as Hearit’s social legitimacy theory as applied to the Exxon oil spill crisis in 1989._ Critics find it useful to classify rhetorical acts by genre, something the ancient Greek thinkers, with their rhetorical categories and taxonomies, already knew.

1 Burton, Gideon O. Silva Rhetoricae. Brigham Young University. Accessed 3/5/07 at http://humanities.byu.edu/rhetoric/silva.htm_2 Oxford English Dictionary. Accessed 3/5/07 at http://dictionary.oed.com_3 Ware, B.L. and Wil A. Linkugel. (1973) “They spoke in defense of themselves: on the generic criticism of apologia.” The Quarterly Journal of Speech, 53, 279-289._4 Hearit, Keith Michael. (1995). “‘Mistakes were made’: organizations, apologia and crises of social legitmacy.” Communication Studies, 46, 1-16._


Jesyca Rodenberg

Excavation of Natural

The mysteries are daunting surrounding the word natural as utilized by Isocrates within the context of a student’s “natural ability.” A singular usage of the phrase is isolated from the many to focus our study of Isocrates’ intent. From Antidosis, 188, his thesis on the concept; “Both teachers and students have their own parts to play: in particular, the pupil’s requisite natural ability…”

The word as a whole is complex, expressed by two core nouns and an adjective. That adjective has upwards of three dozen singular definitions. That myriad of meaning could be attributed to the winding road the word took. Stemming originally from the Latin: naturalis, translated now to mean “by birth, according to nature.” The first direction it went was to Old French on to Scotts. Natural there meant to lack refinement or talent, or to be a bastard. The other to the Greek, where the language, according to Perseus, accepted over 100 versions of the word, with meanings along a continuum from an in-born trait, to being deprived of affection, to being a psychic.

The key adjective definition found that best seemed to embrace the spirit of Isocrates’ work led to έμφυτος, the Greek for “born in a person.” However, a review of the original Greek reveals Isocrates’ use of the word phusis, which in isolation means “content of character, constitution.” This would seem to be much closer to the Greek for the noun natural, physis, which would lead this author to believe the meaning is more connected to the negative derivations of the word, including blank and talentless. 1

In 2000, Haskins made the link between poetics and rhetoric via Isocrates, saying, “Isocrates’ performative concetion of speech education, according to which identification and performance both activate and sustain one’s civic identity.”

This can be linked to our original interpretations of the translation of natural to claim that Isocrates proffered you had to be born to receive the education that would link to your civic duty. This logic would support the claim that Isocrates promoted an oligarchy. However, our field would be changed if the meaning of phusis was reexamined and found to be a derogatory descriptor. If an individual with this “talent” was in fact, talentless, we would find a whole new reason behind why his teachings were to be applied to epideictic speech only. 2

Author’s Notes

1. As far as my understanding of etymology takes me, when the definitions of natural comes from nature, it seems to take on a vent of untreated and untouched by man and hence uneducated. When the definitions come from birth, there they take on the vein of the talented and/or soulful.

2. To be frank with the reader, the original thesis and direction of this work was to highlight the ironic movements promoting the need for “natural talent” in the courtroom, especially on the witness stand. However, the surprising discovery of the rogue Greek word and the exploration of its intent left no words for this application.

Dissoi Logoi

In the third century AD, dissoi logoi first appeared in the Sextur Empiricus manuscripts (Britannica.com). It was used by sophists like Protagoras, Gorgias, or Socrates (Dissoi Logoi*, 296). Its original meaning means “different words,” or the ancient practice of arguing both sides (niu.edu). With opinions and Truth involved in arguments, one side should be right, and the other wrong. The sophists thrived on dissoi logoi to win a case. Because contracts did not exist, people had to fight to keep their goats, food, many wives, land, or their life.

According to Protagoras, the opposing reasons are juxtaposed, so we should learn how to craft our debates to win. Goodness of arguments can be formed in many ways, and the different positions taken might be true, but by an absolute standard one is going to be stronger and win. Plato and Aristotle had beef with the sophists because of these arguments. There is only Truth, and instead of arguing two sides of an argument, rhetoricians should look towards teaching Truth.

Today, dissoi logoi is played out in culture systems and our judicial system. First, every culture systems have ethnocentricism which is responsible for sparking wars, misunderstandings, and bad blood throughout centuries. By trying to argue that one is right over another is hard to do. In Dissoi Logoi, the author says “what some consider being good in one situation could be bad for another…and vice versa” (296). In some cultures it might be acceptable to sleep with your sister and eat your parents, while in an American culture one might be jailed or excluded from society. Right and wrong are different from each person, culture, and time. Plato would roll over in his grave if he knew what was going on today in the judicial system. The job of hiring a lawyer is to argue your side of the story, means that dissoi logoi is being practiced by writing out the other side of the argument, examining weak spots, and find common ground that would resolve in cooperation (www.niu.edu) instead of finding Truth.

Roochnik, David. "Teaching virtue: the contrasting arguments (dissoi logoi) of antiquity." Journal of Education 179.n1 (Wntr 1997): 1(13). Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. Kansas State University Libraries. 5 Mar. 2008 .

Olbrys, Stephen Gencarella. "Dissoi logoi, civic friendship, and the politics of education." Communication Education 55.4 (Oct 2006): 353(17). Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. Kansas State University Libraries. 5 Mar. 2008 .



Dyke or justice’s meaning changes, in the mythic world justice comes from the Gods, later in the 5th century it must be imposed by the law. This shift coincides with the change in Arete from natural virtue to Protagoras justice as arête. “The procedure of which dikê is a symbol is conducted by oral exchange” as practiced in a preliterate society. The king’s judgment is pronounced orally and thus his position before the people is one of a speaker before an audience.”[1]

Dyke translated from Protagoras is related to a sense of justice when relating to others, this concept is closely related to aidos, the shame man feels for not living up to their society[2]. In Protagerus’s myth of the origin of the Polis, Zues sends Hermes to bring people the knowledge of the city which is Justice and Respect.[3] Justice is given as a gift from the gods, something in which all society can share. Aristotle and Plato view justice as originating with the state, the focus on rhetoric as a techne works to stop uncertainty. Protagoras writes of the similarity between a writing teacher and a city anyone who goes outside the rules or law is punished, and “punishment of this kind, in Athens and everywhere else, is straightening, since justice makes straight. [4]

Dyke today is a derogatory term to refer to lesbians. This usage pops up in the late 18th century, and it often appears as bulldyke. Krantz investigates bull’s origin as unknown, intermediary, or falseness stemming from Old French and Middle English, think of bullshit.[5] Reclamation of the term dyke, by the GLBQT community is a powerful tool that can highlight those excluded in order to build the city of heterosexism. Butler writes, “Heterosexism is a power system that operates through structuring itself as natural, and rendering itself the original term.”[6] Dyke reclaimed challenges the goddess dyke the enemy of falsehood.[7] Dyke operates outside the heterosexist binary therefore taking this term and redeploying it challenges the original aims of the word as Derrida writes “there is no justice without some interruption and some disproportion.”[8]

[1] Petrochilos, George A. "Kalokagathia: The Ethical Basis of Hellenic Political Economy and Its Influence." History of Political Economy (2002): 599-631.

[2] Payne, David. "Rhetoric, Reality, and Knowledge: A Re-Examination of Protagoras' Concept of Rhetoric." Rhetoric Society Quarterly 16.3 (1986): 187-197.

[3] Protagoras. "Excerpts." Woodruff, Michael Gagarin and Paul. Early Greek Political thought from Homer to the Sophists. Cambridge University, 1995 p. 173

[4]. Ibid p. 183

[5] Krantz, Susan E. "Reconsidering the Etymology of Bulldike." American Speech 70.2 (1995): 217-221.

[6] Butler, Judith. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of 'Sex'. . New York: Routledge, 1993. P. 125-126

[7] http://www.theoi.com/Ouranios/HoraDike.html

[8] Derrida, Jacques. "A Discussion with Jacques Derrida." Theory & Event 5.1 (2001).


The Greek “Doxa” meant “common belief or popular opinion.” In rhetoric it is a tool for the formation of argument using common opinions (Oxford Dictionary). However, it is important to understand that between the third and first centuries, with the Biblical translation from Hebrew to Greek, the scholars translated the Hebrew “Kabot” as the Greek “Doxa” and thus gave the word a new meaning: “glory” (Kais al-Kalby, 622).
In Jarrat’s book, Rereading the Sophists, the Sophists used doxa to persuade audiences in different regions of Greece. “Of special interest to the sophists was the range of group behaviors they observed in traveling through the Greek city-states (Guthrie 55). They understood that any discourse seeking to effect action or shape knowledge must take into account those differences. Not only was it essential to judge the circumstances obtaining at the moment of an oration, its kairos, but even more essential was the orators/alien’s understanding of the local nomoi; community-specific customs and laws (Jarrat 11). In layman’s terms, doxa can be seen by orators as relating to the audience. The sophists adapted their message to their audience and were more persuasive because of it.
The rhetorical implication of “doxa” is our study of intercultural communication. Culture is defined as all the behaviors, ways of life, arts, beliefs and institutions of a population that are passed down from generation to generation. Different definitions of culture also reflect differing theories for understanding (Oxford Dictionary). By studying societies differnces in beliefs, a rhetor can adjust the message to best fit the audience.
I can most relate the persuasiveness the Sophists must have gotten by implementing doxa into their arguments by comparing it to traveling abroad. If you go to South America and speak to a shop keeper in English using traditional North American beliefs and opinons, the price of the item you are purchasing will be significantly higher than that if you were to speak using the native language, beliefs, and opinons. The Sophists understood how to implement beliefs and opitions into their arguments, and to be secsesful with different audiences, you must too.

(WC 348)

Oxford English Dictionary
Isocrates I
Rereading the Sophists
Kais al-Kalby - http://muhammad.net/biblelp/biblelp12.html



Dispite the diversity in definitions of “pistis,” Mirhady and Too’s translation of Isocrates’ Encomium of Helen and Busiris defines the term as both “argument” and “basis for argument.”[1] The argument under consideration does not necessarily have to be a tangible claim, but can actually be an indefinite argument theme. Mirhady and Too also explain that pistis can also be translated as faith or proof.[2] Faith, proof, and argument are not words considered to have especially common meanings, but they are all tied together by the importance of conviction, and the role conviction plays in people’s principles and reception to persuasion.

Plato used pistis in a few different ways, but one of them that must be considered was as “a strong argument or proof for the immortality of the soul or the existence of gods.”[3] This has lead pistis to have common consideration in Christian doctrine through the New Testament. The Greek-English dictionary lists pistis as a “faith credit argument.” In book six of Plato’s Republic, he discusses a “divided line” that establishes an epistemological, metaphysical hierarchy. The second lowest level of this line consists of beliefs, which Plato also labels as pistis.[4] He discusses how this pistis (belief) exists in the world of becoming, and is therefore a spiritual reality, not a tangible, physical reality.

Though pistis has several levels of definitions and residence in several parts of history, it most commonly appears in contemporary rhetorical pedagogy as a type of argument. Pistis is often viewed as the result of argument, as a conviction involving trust and engagement that comes as a response to an appropriate argument.[5] However, its links to more than one definitive term in today’s English is still worth considering. As Carver (2004) states, “pistis can be rightly translated as proof, argument, reasoning, persuasion, belief, trust, faith, conviction, obligation and confidence.”[6] Being able to find and understand the connections between the different meanings of pistis give it a particular power in rhetorical studies. While most of pistis’ definitions involve argument and argument effects, it should be interesting to note that pistis also translates into Lithuanian as the word “fuck.” Now there’s an excavation for outside of class…

[1] Mirhady, D. C. & Too, Y. L. (2000 Translation) Isocrates. University of Texas Press. pp. 37 & 58.
[2] Mirhady, D. C. & Too, Y. L. pp. 267.
[3] Hay, D. M. (1989). Pistis as “ground for faith” in Hellenized Judaism and Paul. The Journal of Biblical Literature, 108/3: p. 462.
[4] Dombrowski, D. (2006). Rethinking the ontological argument: A neoclassical theistic response. pp. 8.
[5] Smith, P. C. (1998). The Hermeneutics of original argument: demonstration, dialectic and rhetoric.
[6] Carver, E. (2004) For the sake of argument: practical reasoning, character and the ethics of belief. pp. 3.

Temperance or Sophrosyne

James Adam notes, “We may define Temperance as accord between the naturally better and the naturally worse, on the question which of them should rule.”[1] It is this idea of a middle ground that has been debated from Socrates to the Temperance Movement. Temperance comes from the Greek word “sophrosyne” and was used by Cicero to mean moderation.[2] The word was an ideal to aspire to in early Greek writings, a call for abstention from vices in the 19th century, and today an evaluation tool.

Homer approached sophrosyne as a state of mind. When the nurse comes to Penelope’s chamber and awakens her to report the arrival of Odysseys, Penelope responds, “Dear nurse, the gods have made thee mad, they who can make foolish even one who is full wise, and set the simple-minded in the paths of understanding…”(Homer, 23.10-12).[3] Since the time of Homer, temperance has become elevated in stature.

The idea of temperance was important to Plato. He argues that temperance is a gift for your soul and is the best form of medicine one could hope for.[4] Additionally, temperance was given the same respect as justice, memory, and intelligence.[5] While Isocrates and Plato did not agree on much, Isocrates did value temperance as a quality desirable in leaders.[6]

Modern scholarship utilizes temperance as an evaluation tool. While numerous articles have been written critiquing and evaluating the Temperance Movement of the 1800’s,[7] temperance has become a way to explore how people interact with each other. Of growing importance is the idea of temperance evaluating how we tell and seek truth. Some see temperance as a form of explicitness and if it is not used correctly, instead of finding truth, individuals may focus on each others’ flaws.[8]

Temperance has come full circle: it has moved from a state of mind, to a tool for the soul, to finally being a way to evaluate ideas such as what it means to live and the search for truth. James Adam was right, what sort of temperance do we want in our lives, and will this temperance make us better or worse?[9]

[1] Adam, J. (1902). The Republic of Plato. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.
[2] Online Entomology Dictionary (2001) Douglas Harper
[3] Homer (1919). Odyssey The Odyssey with an English Translation by A.T. Murray, PH.D. in two volumes. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd.
[4] Plato’s Charmides, translated by Benjamin Jowett.
[5] Plato (1967). Plato Euthydemus, Protagoras, Gorgias, Meno. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 3 translated by W.R.M. Lamb. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd.
[6] Poulakos, T. (1997) “Speaking for the Polis: Isocrates’ Rhetorical Education.” University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, SC.
[7] Moore (2007); Stern (1999); Sandell & Stern (1998); Davnovitch (1984); Knight (1976)
[8] Lynch, T. (2001). “Temperance, Temptation, and Silence.” Philosophy 76, 296. pp. 251-269.
[9] Many of the classic texts were found using Perseus.

Encomium Excavation

Encomium of Helen, Gorgias attempted to give such a speech, and Isocrates does the same. However, Isocrates does identify that Gorgias did not in fact give an encomium like he claims, but instead gives an apologia[1]. Isocrates says that Gorgias gave a speech that is merely a defense of Helen and not a celebration of Helen. Encomium as defined by Merriam – Webster[2] says “glowing and warmly enthusiastic praise”, whereas Silva Rhetoricae echoes the praise aspect of the speech, it goes further to indicate that encomium is a type of epideictic speech.

Encomium has a specific outline for how it should look[3]. The parts of the speech that would be had during an encomium are the following; first, describe the stock of the person, where does the person come from, who are their parents, what group of people do they belong to. Second, Describe the person’s upbringing, talk about what kind of education they received and what other kinds of instruction they received and from whom. Third, describe the results of their deeds, were they excellent with their mind, coming up with great ideas and policies, were they excellent with the body, did they have great speed, strength or beauty, and or their excellence in fortunes, including positions of power or wealth. Fourth the speech must also compare the person of focus to someone else in high esteem and compare them favorably to that person. Fifth, should be a prayer and or a call to act like the person of focus.[4]

Recent Scholarship seems to focus on how these types of speeches are inherently political and can shape the polis just as much as a more directly political speech. Gerard A. Hauser[5], says that these speeches are important because they provide the vocabulary to discuss politics.

[1] Introduction of Encomium of Helen in the book on pg 31 tells us this as does the actual text from Isocrates on pg 35

[2] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/encomium

[3] http://rhetoric.byu.edu/figures/E/encomium.htm

[4] All the steps are presented by Silva Rhetoricae at http://rhetoric.byu.edu/Pedagogy/Progymnasmata/Encomium.htm

[5] In Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 1. (Winter, 1999), pp. 5-23.

Ethos Excavation

The way we have come to understand the concept of “ethos” today is very different from its starting place. The first Greek usage of ethos means “an accustomed place” but can also be translated to mean “custom” or “habit.” From these translations, we eventually arrive at the transition for “disposition,” which leads to a more well known translation of ethos. Ethos, as most of us know it, derived from the Greek word “ethikos” (ἠθικός), which means “moral character.”

Aristotle’s Rhetoric is the first text to lay out the specifics of what ethos actually entails. Aristotle believed that ethos should be established with an audience as a device for persuasive proof. He states, “The orator persuades by moral character when his speech is delivered in such a manner as to render him worthy of confidence; for we feel confidence in a greater degree and more readily in persons of worth in regard to everything in general, but where there is no certainty and there is room for doubt, our confidence is absolute.”

Ancient rhetoricians had different views of ethos. Isocrates thought that moral character should be demonstrated both inside and outside of speech context. Aristotle disagreed with Isocrates. Aristotle believed that preconceived notions have nothing to do with a person’s ethos, and it ethos comes from the audience’s current view of the speaker. According to Aristotle, “this confidence must be due to the speech itself, not to any preconceived idea of the speaker's character; for it is not the case, as some writers of rhetorical treatises lay down in their “Art,” that the worth of the orator in no way contributes to his powers of persuasion; on the contrary, moral character, so to say, constitutes the most effective means of proof.”

Today’s word “ethics” is derived from the Greek “ethos”, and ethics means the study of values motivated by concepts of right and wrong. It is rare, outside the field of rhetoric, to hear the term ethos; however, modern day terms have stemmed from this concept. Today, we often use the term speaker credibility. Most of the current research surrounding speaker credibility is in the fields of business, politics and journalism. Currently, ethos of political figures is of utmost importance as we approach the coming presidential election. Research in politics states that ethos can be established in both written and spoken contexts and that candidates will often discredit another candidate’s goodwill.


Aristotle, Rhetoric (ed. J. H. Freese)



Murphy, J. M. (2004). The language of the liberal consensus: John F. Kennedy, technical reason, and the "new economics" at Yale University. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 90(2), 113-162.

Poulakos, Takis. Speaking for the Polis: Isocrates' Rhetorical Education. Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 1997.


Concept Excavation Description

Concept Excavation Assignment
This assignment offers an opportunity to explore an important rhetorical concept and build research skills. It also gives us an opportunity to play with linguistic origins. The task is to excavate an ancient rhetorical concept and construct a short paper that summarizes the concept’s meaning and usage.

1) Locate a rhetorical concept/term/phrase from a text we read in class
2) Research the meaning(s) and usage of the text in ancient writings
3) Explore how the concept is employed in contemporary scholarship/teaching
4) Write an informative summary describing the ancient definition and usage of the rhetorical concept (500 word max). Also address how the term is presently employed in rhetorical scholarship (a few brief examples). Include a list of references used (does not count toward word count)
5) Post your excavation on the class website.
6) Respond to two other concept excavations within 48 hours of assignment deadline, reflecting on the most interesting aspect of the excavation and how the concept is situated in contemporary rhetorical theory

Writing mechanics (i.e., clarity and grace)
Significance of concept
Depth of research (e.g., sources consulted)
Thoughtful reactions for peer responses