Rhetoric versus Dialectic

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Nicholas
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Rhetoric versus Dialectic

Post by Nicholas »

Plato thought poorly of the deceptive tendency of rhetoric and valued instead the honest dialectical way of thinking. Here are some passages from the Phaedrus:
SOCRATES: I think it will become clear if we look at it this way. Where
is deception most likely to occur—regarding things that differ much or
things that differ little from one another?
262 PHAEDRUS: Regarding those that differ little.
SOCRATES: At any rate, you are more likely to escape detection, as you
shift from one thing to its opposite, if you proceed in small steps rather
than in large ones.
PHAEDRUS: Without a doubt.
SOCRATES: Therefore, if you are to deceive someone else and to avoid
deception yourself, you must know precisely the respects in which things
are similar and dissimilar to one another.
PHAEDRUS: Yes, you must.
SOCRATES: And is it really possible for someone who doesn’t know what
each thing truly is to detect a similarity—whether large or small—between
something he doesn’t know and anything else?
PHAEDRUS: That is impossible.
SOCRATES: Clearly, therefore, the state of being deceived and holding
beliefs contrary to what is the case comes upon people by reason of certain
similarities.
PHAEDRUS: That is how it happens.
SOCRATES: Could someone, then, who doesn’t know what each thing is
ever have the art to lead others little by little through similarities away
from what is the case on each occasion to its opposite? Or could he escape
this being done to himself?
PHAEDRUS: Never.
SOCRATES: Therefore, my friend, the art of a speaker who doesn’t know
the truth and chases opinions instead is likely to be a ridiculous thing—
not an art at all!
PHAEDRUS: So it seems.
A true mind and true intent bring truth within truth. True practice and true cultivation take the truth beyond truth. True behavior and true conduct add truth to truth. In everything and every way, be true, true, true. Master Hua
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Nicholas
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Re: Rhetoric versus Dialectic

Post by Nicholas »

Then in the Sophist the Visitor shows the difference between a propagandist using rhetoric vs a dialectician who reasons clearly.
VISITOR: Aren’t we going to say that it takes expertise in dialectic to
divide things by kinds and not to think that the same form is a different
one or that a different form is the same?
THEAETETUS: Yes.
VISITOR: So if a person can do that, he’ll be capable of adequately discriminating
a single form spread out all through a lot of other things, each of
which stands separate from the others. In addition he can discriminate
forms that are different from each other but are included within a single
form that’s outside them, or a single form that’s connected as a unit
throughout many wholes, or many forms that are completely separate
from others.* That’s what it is to know how to discriminate by kinds how
things can associate and how they can’t.
THEAETETUS: Absolutely.
VISITOR: And you’ll assign this dialectical activity only to someone who
has a pure and just love of wisdom.
THEAETETUS: You certainly couldn’t assign it to anyone else.
VISITOR: We’ll find that the philosopher will always be in a location like
254 this if we look for him. He’s hard to see clearly too, but not in the same
way as the sophist.
THEAETETUS: Why not?
VISITOR: The sophist runs off into the darkness of that which is not, which
he’s had practice dealing with, and he’s hard to see because the place is
so dark. Isn’t that right?
THEAETETUS: It seems to be.
VISITOR: But the philosopher always uses reasoning to stay near the form,
being. He isn’t at all easy to see because that area is so bright and the eyes
of most people’s souls can’t bear to look at what’s divine.
__________________________
* Alternatively, the two previous sentences can be translated: “So if a person can do
that, he’ll adequately discriminate a single form spread out all through many, each of
which stands separate from the others, and many forms that are different from each
other but are included within a single form that’s outside them; and another single form
connected as a unit through many wholes, and many forms that are all marked off
in separation.”
A true mind and true intent bring truth within truth. True practice and true cultivation take the truth beyond truth. True behavior and true conduct add truth to truth. In everything and every way, be true, true, true. Master Hua
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Nicholas
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Re: Rhetoric versus Dialectic

Post by Nicholas »

Rhetoric is called oratory by its famous exponent Gorgias. Nowadays we call it advertising or propaganda.
SOCRATES: Now I think you’ve come closest to making clear what craft
you take oratory to be, Gorgias. If I follow you at all, you’re saying that
oratory is a producer of persuasion. Its whole business comes to that, and
that’s the long and short of it.
Or can you mention anything else oratory
can do besides instilling persuasion in the souls of an audience?
GORGIAS: None at all, Socrates. I think you’re defining it quite adequately.
That is indeed the long and short of it.
SOCRATES: Listen then, Gorgias. You should know that I’m convinced
I’m one of those people who in a discussion with someone else really want
to have knowledge of the subject the discussion’s about. And I consider
you one of them, too.
GORGIAS: Well, what’s the point, Socrates?
SOCRATES: Let me tell you now. You can know for sure that I don’t know
what this persuasion derived from oratory that you’re talking about is, or
what subjects it’s persuasion about. Even though I do have my suspicions
about which persuasion I think you mean and what it’s about, I’ll still ask
you just the same what you say this persuasion produced by oratory is,
and what it’s about. And why, when I have my suspicions, do I ask you
and refrain from expressing them myself? It’s not you I’m after, it’s our
discussion, to have it proceed in such a way as to make the thing we’re
talking about most clear to us.
[...]
GORGIAS: The persuasion I mean, Socrates, is the kind that takes place
in law courts and in those other large gatherings, as I was saying a moment
ago. And it’s concerned with those matters that are just and unjust.
SOCRATES: Yes, Gorgias, I suspected that this was the persuasion you
meant, and that these are the matters it’s persuasion about. But so you
won’t be surprised if in a moment I ask you again another question like
this, about what seems to be clear, and yet I go on with my questioning—
as I say, I’m asking questions so that we can conduct an orderly discussion.
It’s not you I’m after; it’s to prevent our getting in the habit of second-guessing
and snatching each other’s statements away ahead of time. It’s
to allow you to work out your assumption in any way you want to.
GORGIAS: Yes, I think that you’re quite right to do this, Socrates.
SOCRATES: Come then, and let’s examine this point. Is there something
you call “to have learned”?
GORGIAS: There is.
SOCRATES: Very well. And also something you call “to be convinced”?
GORGIAS: Yes, there is.
SOCRATES: Now, do you think that to have learned, and learning, are the
same as to be convinced and conviction, or different?
GORGIAS: I certainly suppose that they’re different, Socrates.
A true mind and true intent bring truth within truth. True practice and true cultivation take the truth beyond truth. True behavior and true conduct add truth to truth. In everything and every way, be true, true, true. Master Hua
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Nicholas
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Re: Rhetoric versus Dialectic

Post by Nicholas »

For this whole dialectical method, which works by negations, may conduct us
to what lies before the threshold of the One, removing all inferior things and by
this removal dissolving the impediments to the contemplation of the One, if it
is possible to speak of such a thing. But after going through all the negations,
one ought to set aside this dialectical method also, as being troublesome and
introducing the notion of the things denied with which the One can have no
neighbourhood.
Proclus, On Parmenides
The fact that [Socrates'] respondents state everything of themselves is considerable evidence
for the view that souls project logoi from themselves, and all they required was
someone to arouse them. They are not unwritten tablets receiving impressions
from the outside. Rather, they are tablets ever inscribed and the writer is inside,
though not all souls are able to ascertain what is written nor even that there is
any writing at all, since their eyes have become clouded by the forgetfulness of the
world of becoming.
Proclus, On Alcibiades - "all learning is recollection" says this Dialog.
A true mind and true intent bring truth within truth. True practice and true cultivation take the truth beyond truth. True behavior and true conduct add truth to truth. In everything and every way, be true, true, true. Master Hua
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Nicholas
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Re: Rhetoric versus Dialectic

Post by Nicholas »

Here is how Proclus, via Mindy Mandell, outlines the dialectic process:

A true mind and true intent bring truth within truth. True practice and true cultivation take the truth beyond truth. True behavior and true conduct add truth to truth. In everything and every way, be true, true, true. Master Hua
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