Come Together Right Now, or Συνερχεσθαι

Illuminating the ancient philosophers, Takis Poulakos points out the shift in Plato and Isocrates’ use of the term to describe people coming together in the instance of the formation of cities. While Poulakos only affords a brief paragraph highlighting this shift in words, the act of “coming together” deserves a closer look. Originally, Plato used Άθροίξεσθαι, or hathroizesthai, meaning people coming together out of necessity in numbers.[1] Bloch offers a similar definition of Plato’s hathroizesthai in Protagoras, saying, “the origin of the law was to be founding hathroizesthai, a “self gathering”; accordingly the state must offer its services to all people.”[2] However, Isocrates later chose to use Συνερχεσθαι, or sunerchesthai, which instead means coming together willingly and deliberately. Having come together out of a decision, rather than a necessity for survival, a city’s binding force was logos of the polis. Reflecting Poulakos, Ekatarina sees Isocrates’ description of why cities were formed as ‘expand[ing] the reach of logos beyond the realm of practical skills.’[3]

Eventually, Christianity would come to use the term sunerchesthai. In the book of Corinthians, conjugations of the word are used four separate times. Chauvet has translated slightly differing meanings in Corinthians, sunerchesthai now meaning “assemble” and sunagethai meaning “come together”. Chauvet goes on to say “the “coming together” of the Christians is the distinguishing characteristic of Christian worship.”[4] In the text of the letters, Paul explains to the Corinthians how they are to come together in worship. Like Isocrates, he chooses the sunerchesthai rather than hathroizesthai. The latter could have given the connotation that out of necessity and numbers Christians will come together. But by choosing sunerchesthai, there is a call to action instilled in the word with a political element. Wannenwetsch proposes that by “coming together”, worship “sets up the agenda for ethical enquiry” as it is logos that defines them.[5] Just as cities came together out of choice so does a church; the individual being a citizen of the Christian polis.

In our modern day, there is a duality of why people come together. With the more positive Isocratic outlook, people unite based on logos, making a decision to do so with the goal of betterment and improvement for whatever polis to which they belong, just as the aforementioned Christians did. Isocrates would argue that this is in fact the only way in which people come together. However, less favorably, people do still aggregate in numbers out of necessity. The new cities of our world, squatter cities, have done so in this way. With poverty inherent to the city model they breed crime and disease and all government absent. Well the ancient Greeks may have had the luxury of a simpler time and smaller communities, today, over one billion people live in squatter communities and the number is still rising.[6] If this is the future for our cities, the polis has little hope if hathroizesthai persists. For if there is no choice to come together than there can be no logos, and thus, no polis.

6 Neuwirth, Robert (2005). Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World. New York, NY: Routledge.

[1] Poulakos, Takis (1997). Speaking for the Polis. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press. P 16

[2] Bloch, Ernst (1996). Natural Law and Human Dignity. First MIT Press. P 8

[3] Haskins, Ekaterina (2004) Logos and Power in Isocrates and Aristotle.

Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press. P 88

[4] Chauvet, Louis Marie (1995). Symbol and Sacrament: A Sacramental Reinterpretation of Christian Existence. The Liturgical Press. P 185

[5] Wannenwetsch, Bernd (2004). Political Worship: Ethics for Christian Citizens by Bernd Wanenwetsch. Oxford University Pres. P 70, 71


Kairoi is the ancient Greek term used to signify an opportune or supreme moment, sometimes seen as the spelling “Karios” [1]. It was used in a wide variety of Greek texts such as: Parmenides by Plato, Ajax by Sophocles, Agamemnon by Aeschylus, etc [2]. The Greeks had two terms to signify time. Chronos was used to specify sequential or chronological time and had a quantitative meaning. While, kairoi was used to signify an indefinite amount of sequential time in which something significant occurs [3].

The term is used by Isocrates in Encomium of Helen, “But speeches of general import and credibility and the like are devised and spoken through many forms (ideai) and circumstances (kairoi) that are difficult to learn.” [4] Here Isocrates is discussing speech formation and the proper circumstance, or opportune moments, to deliver them. The term is used by Isocrates again in Against the Sophists, “But to choose from these the necessary forms…not to mistake the circumstances (kairoi) …and to speak the words rhythmically and musically…require much study and are the work of a brave and imaginative soul.” [5] Again Isocrates is discussing rhetoric and the proper uses. He states that determining the proper circumstances, or supreme moment, to deliver such rhetoric is in fact of large significance to the success of what is being said. This opportune moment of releasing the ideas into the world, require substantial study, significant imagination and braveness to execute at the proper moment.

In contemporary American society, the English term of circumstances, derived from kairoi, has come to mean the societal limitations or advantages of a particular situation or group with no regard to the proper moment [6]. Rhetorically, this is a drastic alteration in meaning. An opportune moment is difficult to specify and entirely subjective upon the objective of the rhetor. However, situational factors are much more specific and pragmatic when constructing rhetoric. This more defined use of the term gives greater control to the rhetor and removes a level of subjectivity that is undesirable in a field of specification and exactness.

Extraordinary Circumstances: The Journey of a Corporate Whistleblower is a book regarding a particular situation and the conditions that allowed the completion of an action [7]. This book is not sighting the significance of a particular opportune moment; rather it is relaying the situational factors that played a significant role in allowing the author to accomplish her goal. In addition, the same usage is applied in pedagogical situations. The Critical Pedagogy Reader is a book containing essays on pedagogy from some of the major critical thinkers in the field. It uses the term circumstances to specify situational conditions, “These circumstances include the control of black bodies…the surveillance and repression of black bodies…and the coercive control of black bodies...”[8] Here in a book designed for the most critical users of pedagogy, is an example of the use of circumstances, not as an opportune moment for something specific to occur, but rather as the situational factors surrounding an occurrence.

Word Count: 499

[1] http://www.lexilogos.com/english/greek_ancient_dictionary.htm
[2] http://old.perseus.tufts.edu/cache/perscoll_PersInfo.html
[3] http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Kairos
[4] Isocrates. Encomium of Helen.
[5] Isocrates. Against the Sophists.
[6] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/circumstance
[7] http://www.amazon.com/Extraordinary-Circumstances-Journey-Corporate-Whistleblower/dp/0470443316/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1254329259&sr=1-2
[8] Darder, A., Baltodano, M., Torres, R. D. (2003) The critical pedagogy reader.


In ancient Greece, liturgies functioned as a form of taxation on wealthy Athenians who were required to provide financial backing for matters of public interest, primarily the maintenance of military vessels and the training and performance of choruses for civic festivals.[i] The term liturgy can be traced to its Greek roots, finding leitourgia (λειτουργ-ία) as a referent of this ‘public service’ performed by Attica’s most affluent citizens.[ii] Greek texts suggest those who funded liturgies could then highlight their service as a means to indicate greater status and heightened virtue for the fulfillment of their liturgical duties, “My ancestors were foremost of the citizens… For who were thought worthy of higher offices, or made greater contributions, or served as choregi more handsomely, or discharged other special public services with greater magnificence?”[iii]

However during the time of the Peloponnesian War, members of the elite class began to find it more difficult to satisfy the rising demand for private funding of public engagement and liturgies became increasingly textually associated with expressions of anxiety for one’s financial security and questioning of the liturgical system, which granted special notoriety to those making the contributions[iv] It is here where we perhaps begin to see a shift in the term as it is democratized to encompass “any service to the country.”[v] Leitourgia also has a specified connotation of public service toward the gods,[vi] which perhaps draws a stronger connection with choruses performed during liturgical festivals, as the likely subject matter involved the Greek’s relationships with their gods. This path may be traceable to a more contemporary interpretation of liturgy. We can find leitourgia used in the Epistles both as “service toward [God]”[vii] and as ministration.[viii] Just as the Greek chorus stems from an oral tradition which often uses stories of the gods to enlighten the populous on virtue and ‘living the good life,’ it seems reasonable to associate the early Christian church with a similar form of ‘public service’ or liturgy.

As the Christian faith grew, so to, perhaps, did an understanding of liturgy more specific to the Christian tradition, “public worship conducted in accordance with a prescribed form.”[ix] Therefore we can view a modern construction of liturgy as sacred ritual within the institution of the church.[x] However other arguments have been made representing liturgical manuscripts as “living literature”[xi] that require less precise ritual and may, potentially, be adapted to fit the public for whom it serves. To this end, liturgies are being reinterpreted to fit both ecological[xii] and feminist frames. Others still, discuss liturgy in relation to the medium through which it is communicated, some expressing concern with new media’s influence on elements of liturgical practice.[xiii] Perhaps such concern, while clearly in reaction to observable changes, may be muted if we consider the evolution of leitourgia. Recent reinterpretation or reconstitution of liturgical practices, in so far as they continue to represent acts of ‘public service,’ may not have veered as far from the Greek or early Christian understanding of liturgy as one might initially perceive.[xiv]

[i] Too, Yun Lee. (2000). Introduction. In D.C. Mirhady & Y.L. Too (Trans.), Isocrates I (pp. 201). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
[ii] Liddell, Henry George & Robert Scott. (1940). A Greek-English Lexicon. revised and augmented throughout by. Sir Henry Stuart Jones. with the assistance of. Roderick McKenzie. Oxford. Clarendon Press.
[iii] Isocrates. (1980). Isocrates with an English Translation in three volumes, by George Norlin, Ph.D., LL.D. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd.
[iv] Christ, Matthew R. (1990). Liturgy avoidance and antidosis in classical Athens. Transactions of the American Philological Association, 120, 147-169.
[v] Christ, Matthew R. (1990). Liturgy avoidance and antidosis in classical Athens. Transactions of the American Philological Association, 120, 155.
[vi] Liddell, Henry George & Robert Scott. (1940). A Greek-English Lexicon. revised and augmented throughout by. Sir Henry Stuart Jones. with the assistance of. Roderick McKenzie. Oxford. Clarendon Press. [vii] Philippians, 2:30.
[viii] Corinthians II, 9:12. [ix] liturgy (1989). In The Oxford English Dictionary. Second Ed. Online. Retrieved at http://dictionary.oed.com.
[x] Jacobs, Janet L. (1993). [Review of the book Sociology and liturgy: Re-presentations of the holy]. American Journal of Sociology, 99,2, 534-536.
[xi] Bradshaw, Paul F. (2002). The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship: Sources and Methods for the Study of Early Liturgy. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
[xii] Küschner-Pelkmann, Frank. (2009). Courageous prophecy & ecology. Media Development, 56, 2, 42-45.
[xiii] Forsberg, Geraldine E. (2009). Media ecology & theology. Journal of Communication and Religion, 32, 1, 135-156.
[xiv] Word Count: 499.


(Word Count: 468)

Inspiration for my second concept excavation came during discussion of Isocrates and his view on being just, an often complex and rich concept. The ancient Greek educator once said: “The noblest worship is to make yourself as good and as just as you can.” [1] Dikaios (δίκαιος) can be traced back to ancient Greece and is translated as “correct, righteous” or “just”. [2] In addition, dikaios comes from the word diké (δίκη) the greek word for “justice”. To encompass our modern idea of what is just, it can be defined as “consistent with what is morally right; righteous”. [3] When comparing the two, dikaios and the modern just seem very similar, especially in terms of both being related to righteousness.

Use of dikaios as a concept can be traced back to Homer’s The Odyssey: “As he spoke he handed her the cup. Athena thought that he was just [dikaios] and right to have given it to herself first; she accordingly began praying heartily to Poseidon.” [4] This use of the word just fits well with the literal translation and definition of correct.

Isocrates also used dikaios for this reason, yet used it in additional forms as well. The word just can be found 16 times in Panathenaicus [5]. This is one of the earlier recordings of it being used as an adverb, implying placement in time.

Modern use of the word has seemingly shifted to focus more on the inclusion of morality in the concept. While just seems to merely add into the overall idea of justice, it is often used in scholarship and religious rhetoric. For example, examine the title of this 1996 book: God's just vengeance: crime, violence, and the rhetoric of salvation by Timothy Gorringe. Another book, published again in 2000 for a third edition: Just and unjust wars: a moral argument with historical illustrations by Michael Walzer. Both of these books use just as a literal way of justifying their claims, mostly through morality. However, when morality is left to be interpreted by the reader, individual viewpoints can differ drastically.

This led me to an investigation of the word justification, which is defined as “a fact or circumstance that shows an action to be reasonable or necessary”. [6] This concept, I found, is much more common in modern usage as it gives a person a reason for acting or believing a particular way. Therefore, if someone is “justified” in performing a certain action, it may be increasingly easier to convince others that this action is indeed morally just. However, this once again brings morality into question, which is anther excavation entirely.

Overall, I feel the use of the word “just” is very much linked to Socrates’ view on rhetoric itself. If used correctly on an ignorant audience it can easily persuade, and perhaps, disillusion

[1] Isocrates, (2009), Retrieved September 29 2009 from www.wisdomquotes.com/003248.html

[2] Dikaios, (2009) Retrieved September 29, 2009 from http://strongsnumbers.com/greek/1342.htm

[3] Just, (2009) Retrieved September 29, 2009 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/just

[4] The Odyssey, Homer, Translation by Samuel Butler

[5] “just” Perseus Search Results, Retrieved September 30, 2009 from http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/searchresults?page=1&documents=Perseus:text:1999.01.0144:speech=12&q=just

[6] Justification, (2009) Retrieved September 30, 2009 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/justification


I think it’s safe to say that generally, humans like to be right. There’s a certain sting associated with being told that one is wrong and we often try to avoid such criticism in a variety of ways. Socrates, on the other hand, argues that we shouldn’t avoid it; in fact, he goes as far as to say that he prefers being refuted than refuting another, declaring that it is better to be saved from injury than to save someone.[1]

Though prominently featured in Plato’s Gorgias, the actual word refute only dates back to 1545, coming from the Latin refutare, which means to suppress or check.[2] Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary declares that to refute means to “prove wrong by argument or evidence: show to be false or erroneous.”[3] The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy goes further, stating that refute is “a success word; to attempt to disprove something is to argue against it or to reject it, repudiate it, or rebut it, but not yet to refute it.”[4] When refutation has happened, the debate is over, and clear judgment has been made that one party is in the wrong.

With this new understanding of refutation, let’s put it back into place in Gorgias and Socrates’ discussion of the concept. Socrates argues that being refuted is far better than refuting someone. We must understand that Socrates is not merely saying that it is good and proper for argumentation or debate to take place; rather, he is saying that actually being entirely disproven and shown to be wrong isn’t just a good thing, but rather, it’s the ideal thing. Essentially, Socrates states that there is greater value in being wrong than right.

Later in the dialogue, Socrates puts forth the idea that it’s better to let a tyrant rot in his own tyranny; he makes the controversial claim that a tyrant should not be refuted but instead allowed free reign to be wrong and thus further jeopardize his own soul. Refutation would simply bring this tyrant to justice; it would be a sort of revenge to assist the tyrant in becoming an even worse person. I found this startling; typically they liked to promulgate virtue and acted to oppose it.

It’s unsurprising that this extreme opinion is rarely echoed today. More surprising is that Socrates’ claim that it’s best to be refuted isn’t a concept modern society is familiar with. Conceptually, it’s a great idea – being able to take criticism. However, most studies put the focus on how to avoid refutation by bolstering arguments.[5]

Accepting refutation is perhaps then an area of studied that needs to be studied in greater depth. While it is important to study and analyze better ways to make stronger arguments, learning to accept defeat and criticism is an important idea that deserves more scholarship. This could perhaps be its own subgenre of rhetoric, akin to what argumentation is today. The acceptance of refutation is an important concept that deserves a greater share of critical acceptance and study today.

Word count = 500

[1] Plato’s Gorgias.

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

[3] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/refute

[4] The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, 2005.

[5]Aikin, Scott. “Holding One’s Own.” Argumentation; Nov2008, Vol. 22 Issue 4, p571-584, 14p


Hegemony or Survival?

Polaukos’ dissection of Isocrates’ Hymn to Logos explains that the final lines of the hymn conclude with “in all actions as well as in all our thoughts speech is our guide.” In this case, the English word “guide” is a translation of the Greek word hegemon. [1] This translation is interesting given the way that the term hegemon and concepts of hegemony have sometimes taken on a different and more sinister meaning in the modern world. As the picture of Hugo Chavez speaking before the United Nations attests to, the concept of the hegemon is not only alive and well today, but being actively contested in important arenas. This excavation will trace not only the development of the word hegemon from ancient Greece to the present, but also its spectrum of meaning, from a benign guide to a coercive power exercised by a sovereign authority. It will conclude with a brief assessment of how rhetoricians are using the term in modern scholarship.

As mentioned above, the term hegemon (ηγεμονία) comes from the Greek language, and has definitions ranging from “the leader” to “guide” [2] The Greeks actually had several words related to the concept. The leadership of the hegemon was termed hegemonia, and it came to have a specific political meaning; the predominance of one city-state over another. [3] Other secondary meanings of the word included “princedom”, “to go before”, and even “domination.”[4]

After the decline of the Greeks the word fell into disuse, next arriving into usage during the 16th century, when it appeared in the English language. [5]Shortly thereafter, the rise of the nation state created a certain statist expectation upon the word and definitions started include the assumption that a hegemon is not only a nation-state or a city state, but also “great power,” capable of influencing the world stage. [6]

As time progressed, however, the term begins to shift from a term generally found in the study of politics to one that was applied to other parts of the social body. Karl Marx used the term hegemony in his writings, and the concept was more fully developed by Antonio Gramsci during the 1930s as an explanation for how capitalist regimes had so resisted the “inevitable” proletariat revolution. The idea of “cultural hegemony” was born and the term was liberated from its foundations in political science. [7]

Rhetoricians have readily borrowed these concepts. Some scholars are working to connect up the Greeks with Gramsci. For instance, two articles by Benedetto Fontana have traced the similarities between Gramsci and the Sophists, locating in ancient thoughts the same concepts that Marxists took up in the 1930’s. [8][9] Others have turned the lens provided by the concept of hegemony towards the present, analyzing the way that the rhetoric of hegemony has evolved along with American military dominance. [10] There are plenty of other examples of areas that rhetoricians have analyzed hegemony; it is quite simply a broadly applicable concept that will remain around for the foreseeable future.

Word Count: 500


[1] Poulakos, T. (1997). Speaking for the Polis: Isocrates Rhetorical Education. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press. P 17

[2] T. F. HOAD. "hegemony." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. 1996. Encyclopedia.com. 28 Sep. 2009 .

[3] Altay, Serdar. (2006) “Hegemony, Private Actors, and International Institutions: Transnational Corporations as the agents of transformation of the trade regime from GATT to the WTO” University of Trento School of International Studies, p. 71, http://www.ssi.unitn.it/en/dottorato/download/Research_Proposal_Serdar_Altay.pdf

[4] http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/He/Hegemony.html

[5] ibid

[6] http://www.thefreedictionary.com/hegemon

[7] Rockler-Gladen, Naomi. (2008) Hegemony and Media Studies: Antonio Gramsci's Theory of the HegemonicMedia, Media Literacy, http://medialiteracy.suite101.com/article.cfm/hegemony_and_media_studies

[8] Fontana, Bendetto. (2000) Logos and Kratos: Gramsci and the Ancients on Hegemony Journal of the History of Ideas 61.2 (2000) 305-326.

[9] Fontana, Bendetto. (2005) The Democratic Philosopher: Rhetoric as Hegemony in Gramsci, Italian Culture 23 (2005) 97-123.

[10] Carillo-Rowe, Amiee Marie. (2004) Whose "America"? The Politics of Rhetoric and Space in the Formation of U.S. Nationalism, Radical History Review 89 (2004) 115-1349(2004) 115-134

The Path, The Way, The Method, The Process - Hodos

Hodos (ὁδός) is translated in Isocrates’ Encomium of Helen as the word method. “Method is formed from the Greek hodos (lit. road, way) combined with the prefix meta (with)”. [1] “Hod" is the prefix meaning "pathway" while “os” has been pegged as a suffix that signifies the masculine gender. [2] Over time, the term hodos has been combined with various other prefixes to form words such as period, "going around," from peri- "around" + hodos "a going, way, journey", and exodus, "a going out," from ex- "out" + hodos "way". [3] Modern words with similar definitions to hodos’ initial meaning are pathway, method or process.

Throughout the Antidosis, Isocrates gives countless examples that indicate his methods to unify and achieve an ultimate polis – using reason to gain moral knowledge and employing public speaking as a means of human improvement. [4] He had high expectations for the citizens and laid out a path for them to follow in order accomplish it.

Just as Isocrates used his speeches to show citizens the path to virtue, those on the religious front have holy texts to look to for guidance. The term hodos has also been adopted in the Christian realm to mean “the way” of God. [5] Hodos is often referenced when a believer is thinking, feeling or deciding on a course of conduct. This brings up the popular term WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) – what method or path or way would this higher being choose to take?

This sense of finding our path in life is ingrained in human nature. Once pointed in the right direction, we constantly strive for the best process or process to achieve our goal. K-State is working on implementing a new process to improve the university-wide general education program by tagging classes with the K-State 8 – including aesthetic experience and interpretive understanding, empirical and quantitative reasoning, ethical reasoning and responsibility, global issues and perspectives, historical perspectives, human diversity within the U.S., natural and physical sciences, and social sciences. [6] K-State feels that if a student partakes in one of each of the tagged classes, he or she will be proficient in that area and consequently develop “a breadth of knowledge in the areas and proficiency in the skills that [are the] hallmarks of being college educated.” [6]

In the proposal, the “task force” as they call themselves have listed rationales for why each of the eight areas are necessary – further detailing the method behind the madness. The tagging won’t take effect for several years and the method of tagging these classes and requiring students to collect all of their K-State 8 tags will most like be altered as the university strives for the most efficient process to provide students with a diverse general education so that they may choose the best hodos (way) when solving a number of conflicts with their myriad of skills.

1. Isocrates. Encomium of Helen, 34
2. http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/hod-
3. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=hodos
4. Isocrates. Antidosis
5. http://www.searchgodsword.org/lex/grk/view.cgi?number=3598
6. http://www.k-state.edu/kstate8/proposaal.pdf

* Without strict hodos, I guess we’d just be a bunch of Sophists, right?

Word Count - 494
Greek and Christian Logos

Word Count: 499

As a literal concept in English, logos (λόγος) would translate to “word, speech, discourse, or reason”.[1] One potential Greek origin of logos is from the word, leg. This word is most often translated as “to collect”; however, it does have a secondary derivative meaning “to speak”.[2] Interestingly, many times the “dictionary definition” does not encompass the vernacular use of the term in ancient Greece.

To illustrate the variance in the vernacular usage of logos, we turn first to Heraclitus (535–475)[3]. He is credited by scholars to have been the first to write extensively concerning the term logos.[4] Heraclitus is known to have used the term in contexts ranging from it referencing himself to how it determines the course of all that comes to pass.[5] Following him, the Sophists referenced logos in the context of argumentation.[6] Isocrates, entering the discussion near the end of the sophic era, believed logos to be a maker of and a guide to a civilized life.[7] Aristotle in his writings utilized logos as a something similar to a definition or a formula.[8] Following Aristotle, logos became a central pillar to Stoic philosophy describing it as a principle that governs the world . . . and sets the moral law for men.[9]

In addition to ancient Greek texts, another significant place we see the term logos is in the Biblical texts of the New Testament around the first century. Logos (λόγος) is used by various Biblical authors a total of 331 times.[10] Out of these uses the most famous is the opening line of the book of John. John uses the term logos, (“Word”) to delineate Jesus Christ as always having been, having communication with God, and as being divine.[11] Biblical scholars believe the choice by John of logos was created out his thinking of his Hellenistic and Jewish audience and consequently their philosophical leanings. John took one aspect of the Hellenistic concept of logos being “a rational principle that governs all things”[12] and combined it with the Jewish parallel concept of the “revealed word of God”.[13] This formed a new linguistic meaning of logos. Through the use of logos, John was able to convey a central principle of Christianity that Jesus Christ is both divine (is the word of God) and responsible for the rational universe. [14]

We, as critics, have to come to grips on how we are going analyze a text in light of rhetorical theory. Which is more important? The context/historical situation or how we view their words today? This simplistic study of logos provides evidence for the case supporting the importance of historical context. John’s argument becomes significantly more powerful in its attempt to define who Jesus is (whether you believe it or not) when looking at the historical weightiness of the term logos.[15] This example also helps support the concept of why original language can be so important. In rhetorical theory today, it must be emphasized that context and original language be incorporated into the study of any artifact.


[1] Harper, D. Online Etymological Dictionary. Retrieved September 28, 2009, from
[2] Harper, D.
[3] Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved September 28, 2009, from
[4] Encyclopedia of Classical Philosophy (1997). In Devereux D., Mitsis P. (Eds.).
Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, p. 304.
[5] Guthrie, W. K. C. (1962). A History of Greek Philosophy. v.1. London: Cambridge University
Press, p. 418; Encyclopedia of Classical Philosophy, p. 304.
[6] Encyclopedia of Classical Philosophy, p. 304.
[7] Class Notes on 28 September 2009. From Speaking for the Polis, by Takis Poulakos.
[8] Encyclopedia of Classical Philosophy, p. 305.
[9] Encyclopedia of Classical Philosophy, p. 305.
[10] Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordance (1999). In Goodrick E., Kohlenberger J. (Eds.).
Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, p. 3350.
[11] English Standard Version Study Bible (2008). In Dennis L. T. (Ed.). Wheaton, IL: Crossway
Bibles, p. 2019.
[12] The NIV Study Bible(1985). In Barker K. (Ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan
Publishing House, p. 1593.
[13] Vine, W. E. (1985). An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words with Their Precise
Meanings for English Readers. New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers, p. 683.
[14] The NIV Study Bible, p. 1593.
[15] Chart to facilitate the comparison of some of the Greek and Christian use of logos. (Because of the Blog formatting you have to click on the graph below to view it.)



Gorgias stated at the end of “Encomium of Helen” that not only did he write this speech for Helen’s encomium but for his own amusement. The word amusement seems innocent to us but I thought that it would be interesting to see if it meant the same for the Ancient Greeks. Perhaps this statement wasn’t as innocuous as it is now.
Amusement originates from the word amuse and can be traced back to the word muse, which is to become engaged in thought. In Greek mythology, “the Muses” were the goddesses over literature and art and were considered the source of knowledge. With the addition of the “a”, muse becomes amuse and then means the opposite of engaging in thought. The ancient Greeks used amusement in many different ways. Some of the most obvious ones fall under the theme of relaxation and play. It was most frequently used in reference to festivals and a way of spending time. But a few times amusement was described in a most interesting form. The ancient Greeks would occasionally use amusement when describing “the winning of men’s souls, or persuasion”. I found that this definition was very important when looking at the rhetorical history of the word amusement. Even though we find uses of amusement similar to the way we see it today, that wasn’t always the most popular meaning. Before it developed into a form of entertainment, amusement meant to deceive or cheat. This idea of leading someone away from his or her cares relates very well to the Greeks translation of amusement as persuasion.
It is possible then to look upon Gorgias’s statement as not being as innocent as it seems at first. Perhaps his amusement was meant not as play but as a form of deception or diversion from the real issues at hand. This could be why many of the Sophists were criticized for their rhetorical practices. People viewed their amusement with rhetoric as being deceptive and cheating through their teachings in order to gain power and wealth.
Today we continue to have amusement in the form of festivals and relaxation. There are positive and healthy ways to divert our minds from the concerns of the day. But, do we still encounter this type of amusement as deception and persuasion? I say that yes and in some very powerful rhetorical ways. “The Daily Show” with John Stewart is a form of amusement that diverts the attention of listeners. An even more severe form of deception and persuasion can be found when listening to speakers like Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann. This rhetorical style of amusement can be very powerful because listeners do not realize that they are being deceived. Most times listeners are in a state of relaxation when watching these shows. The elements of bias, exaggeration, and sometimes comedy in these shows can be very persuasive. However, it is also important to be aware of the persuasive nature within other forms of amusement that are not so obvious.

Word Count- 499
Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories
Perseus, Henry George Liddell
Gorgias- Encomium of Helen

Talent: physis and talanton

Talent as it is translated in Isocrates’ Antidosis originates from the Greek word physis, or nature. The true Greek origin of the word talent is talanton, which refers to a measure of money (LSJ). In the LSJ Greek Lexicon, talent has 20 definitions. Of these, 17 are concerned with talent’s monetary version, e.g. “chiliotalantos, weighing or worth a thousand talents” (LSJ). It is worth noting that a talent’s worth in Ancient Greece was significant. Sir Charles Warren (1913) calculated that 6,000 drachmas equaled one talent (p. 60), and Corey (2002) found that the average laborer earned one drachma per day.

It is difficult to pinpoint the shift in talent’s connotation from a monetary measure to a gift or ability. The Bible, a primary Judeo-Christian text, relays a parable of talents, which tells the tale three men given talents (money). The parable’s moral follows that people should take care of and use a god’s gift wisely. (25 Matthew, King James Bible). Between the English translation of the Bible and the year 1400, talent’s new connotation was solidified. Indeed, the OED notes a 1450 definition of talent as, “He which schall..make here have a talente to hire mete,” (OED).

The new connotation of talent’s that appears in the 15th century has its roots in Isocrates’ teaching philosophy. Isocrates believed the power of instruction had limits, and his writings illustrate that speaking exercises could not replicate a natural ability such as speaking. In his Antidosis, Isocrates writes that teachers are only so powerful and that, “They can contribute in some degree to these results, but these powers are never found in their perfection save in those who excel by virtue both of talent and of training.” (Antidosis, 185.) Note that in this George Norlin translation, “talent” is derived from the Latin physis, or nature.

While there are myriad rhetorical applications of “talent,” the word is examined here in the arenas of public speaking theory and football. Keith (2008) argues that the collegiate instatement of public speaking programs has democratized its practice. A society offering its public the opportunity to learn the same techniques as the political elite becomes more civic-minded, if only in theory.

And it is in this translation between the world of theory and practice that talent becomes muddled. Zagacki and Grano (2005) offer an interesting analysis of LSU football fans who conflate the players’ athletic talents with the players’ individual qualities as college students. An analysis of fan and radio-host dialogue yields a distinct impression the fans equate with the talent of LSU athletes and a fervent obsession with their NFL prospects. It is with this discussion of football and fans that talent’s connotations come full circle. Today’s society places immense and literal value on talent (physis) as identified by Isocrates. Athletes and performers are paid in sums (talanton) beyond the majority’s comprehension. And while university curriculum suggests an egalitarian practice of teaching basic skills, ours is a society that clearly rewards talent as it appears naturally in an individual.

Word Count = 500

Corey, David Dwyer (2002). The Greek sophists: Teachers of virtue. Ph.D. dissertation, Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College. Retrieved from Dissertations & Theses: Full Text.(Publication No. AAT 3049199).

Keith, W. (2008). On the origins of speech as a discipline: James A. Winans and public speaking as practical democracy. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 38;3.

LSJ Greek-English Lexicon. (1995). Retrieved September 26, 2009, from http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/searchresults?q=talent.

OED. (2009). Retrieved September 28, 2009, from http://dictionary.oed.com.er.lib.k-state.edu

Warren, C. (1913). The Early Weights and Measures of Mankind. Whitefish: Kessinger Publishing.