Sunday, January 02, 2011


"Academe, n.: An ancient school where morality and and philosophy were taught.... Academy, n.: A modern school where football is taught". Ambrose Bierce , decades before the arrival of..... the Lombardiocracy...

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This week's cyber-sermon concerns the uses and misuses of language --and other things--and comes from Socrates of Athens (as notated by Plato in his dialogue entitled "Gorgias"   featuring the quasi Nietzschean character Callicles (or...imagine Schwarzenegger with triple digit IQ, or Johnny McCaint, Edward Teach,   or is it Goering, or Tim ur lan, or Lawrence Taylor) for another instance: "I do not remember the exact words, but the meaning is, that without buying them, and without their being given to him, he carried off the oxen of Geryon, according to the law of natural right, and that the oxen and other possessions of the weaker and inferior properly belong to the stronger and superior......"

""Polus: Then what, in your opinion, is rhetoric?

Socrates: A thing which, as I was lately reading in a book of yours, you say that you have made an art.

Polus: What thing?

Socrates: I should say a sort of experience.

Polus: Does rhetoric seem to you to be an experience?

Socrates: That is my view, but you may be of another mind.

Polus: An experience in what?

Socrates: An experience in producing a sort of delight and gratification.

Polus: And if able to gratify others, must not rhetoric be a fine thing?

Socrates: What are you saying, Polus? Why do you ask me whether rhetoric is a fine thing or not, when I have not as yet told you what rhetoric is?

Polus: Did I not hear you say that rhetoric was a sort of experience?

Socrates: Will you, who are so desirous to gratify others, afford a slight gratification to me?

Polus: I will.

Socrates: Will you ask me, what sort of an art is cookery?

Polus: What sort of an art is cookery?

Socrates: Not an art at all, Polus.

Polus: What then?

Socrates: I should say an experience.

Polus: In what? I wish that you would explain to me.

Socrates: An experience in producing a sort of delight and gratification, Polus.

Polus: Then are cookery and rhetoric the same?

Socrates: No, they are only different parts of the same profession.

Polus: Of what profession?

Socrates: I am afraid that the truth may seem discourteous; and I hesitate to answer, lest Gorgias should imagine that I am making fun of his own profession. For whether or no this is that art of rhetoric which Gorgias practises I really cannot tell: from what he was just now saying, nothing appeared of what he thought of his art, but the rhetoric which I mean is a part of a not very creditable whole.

Gorgias: A part of what, Socrates? Say what you mean, and never mind me.

Socrates: In my opinion then, Gorgias, the whole of which rhetoric is a part is not an art at all, but the habit of a bold and ready wit, which knows how to manage mankind: this habit I sum up under the word "flattery"; and it appears to me to have many other parts, one of which is cookery, which may seem to be an art, but, as I maintain, is only an experience or routine and not an art:-another part is rhetoric, and the art of attiring and sophistry are two others: thus there are four branches, and four different things answering to them. And Polus may ask, if he likes, for he has not as yet been informed, what part of flattery is rhetoric: he did not see that I had not yet answered him when he proceeded to ask a further question: Whether I do not think rhetoric a fine thing? But I shall not tell him whether rhetoric is a fine thing or not, until I have first answered, "What is rhetoric?" For that would not be right, Polus; but I shall be happy to answer, if you will ask me, What part of flattery is rhetoric?

Polus: I will ask and do you answer? What part of flattery is rhetoric?

Socrates: Will you understand my answer? Rhetoric, according to my view, is the ghost or counterfeit of a part of politics.

Polus: And noble or ignoble?

Socrates: Ignoble, I should say, if I am compelled to answer, for I call what is bad ignoble: though I doubt whether you understand what I was saying before.""

Gorgias: Indeed, Socrates, I cannot say that I understand myself.

Socrates: I do not wonder, Gorgias; for I have not as yet explained myself, and our friend Polus, colt by name and colt by nature, is apt to run away.

Gorgias: Never mind him, but explain to me what you mean by saying that rhetoric is the counterfeit of a part of politics.

Socrates: I will try, then, to explain my notion of rhetoric, and if I am mistaken, my friend Polus shall refute me. We may assume the existence of bodies and of souls?

Gorgias: Of course.

Socrates You would further admit that there is a good condition of either of them?

Gorgias Yes.

Socrates Which condition may not be really good, but good only in appearance? I mean to say, that there are many persons who appear to be in good health, and whom only a physician or trainer will discern at first sight not to be in good health.

Gorgias True.

Socrates And this applies not only to the body, but also to the soul: in either there may be that which gives the appearance of health and not the reality?

Gorgias Yes, certainly.

Socrates And now I will endeavour to explain to you more clearly what I mean: The soul and body being two, have two arts corresponding to them: there is the art of politics attending on the soul; and another art attending on the body, of which I know no single name, but which may be described as having two divisions, one of them gymnastic, and the other medicine. And in politics there is a legislative part, which answers to gymnastic, as justice does to medicine; and the two parts run into one another, justice having to do with the same subject as legislation, and medicine with the same subject as gymnastic, but with a difference. Now, seeing that there are these four arts, two attending on the body and two on the soul for their highest good; flattery knowing, or rather guessing their natures, has distributed herself into four shams or simulations of them; she puts on the likeness of some one or other of them, and pretends to be that which she simulates, and having no regard for men's highest interests, is ever making pleasure the bait of the unwary, and deceiving them into the belief that she is of the highest value to them. Cookery simulates the disguise of medicine, and pretends to know what food is the best for the body; and if the physician and the cook had to enter into a competition in which children were the judges, or men who had no more sense than children, as to which of them best understands the goodness or badness of food, the physician would be starved to death. A flattery I deem this to be and of an ignoble sort, 465Polus, for to you I am now addressing myself, because it aims at pleasure without any thought of the best. An art I do not call it, but only an experience, because it is unable to explain or to give a reason of the nature of its own applications. And I do not call any irrational thing an art; but if you dispute my words, I am prepared to argue in defence of them.

Cookery, then, I maintain to be a flattery which takes the form of medicine; and tiring, in like manner, is a flattery which takes the form of gymnastic, and is knavish, false, ignoble, illiberal, working deceitfully by the help of lines, and colours, and enamels, and garments, and making men affect a spurious beauty to the neglect of the true beauty which is given by gymnastic.

I would rather not be tedious, and therefore I will only say, after the manner of the geometricians (for I think that by this time you will be able to follow)

astiring : gymnastic :: cookery : medicine;
or rather,

astiring : gymnastic :: sophistry : legislation;

as cookery : medicine :: rhetoric : justice.
And this, I say, is the natural difference between the rhetorician and the sophist, but by reason of their near connection, they are apt to be jumbled up together; neither do they know what to make of themselves, nor do other men know what to make of them. For if the body presided over itself, and were not under the guidance of the soul, and the soul did not discern and discriminate between cookery and medicine, but the body was made the judge of them, and the rule of judgment was the bodily delight which was given by them, then the word of Anaxagoras, that word with which you, friend Polus, are so well acquainted, would prevail far and wide: "Chaos" would come again, and cookery, health, and medicine would mingle in an indiscriminate mass. And now I have told you my notion of rhetoric, which is, in relation to the soul, what cookery is to the body. I may have been inconsistent in making a long speech, when I would not allow you to discourse at length. But I think that I may be excused, because you did not understand me, and could make no use of my answer when I spoke shortly, and therefore I had to enter into explanation. And if I show an equal inability to make use of yours, I hope that you will speak at equal length; but if I am able to understand you, let me have the benefit of your brevity, as is only fair: And now you may do what you please with my answer.

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