Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spirited/Reasoning: Reflections on Gorgias

Gorgias' prose is very troubling. It looks simple, but it is deceptively frustrating. The text is corrupt, to be sure, but his actual way of writing is more problematic than that. Most of his sentences require the reader to work backward to understand the meaning and even then are often quite confusing. His prose is often so repetitive that editors make emendations to try to make it less so.

Plato's prose often plays with words, repeats words for a particular effect, but there is something less confusing than Gorgias' prose which seems meant almost to move the audience into such a befuddled state as to trick them into following his lead. Plato's prose, to be sure, manipulates his readership, but he does it in one of two ways. Either he uses the elentic argument where the questions that Socrates asks and his interlocutor answers cudgel the reader into a particular thought pattern or, when Socrates provide answers the audience is carried through various flights of rhetoric and myth which leave the audience questioning many things and possibly wondering about the logic, but, at least for many, not in such a way that they simply agree like the interlocutors do. Maybe I am assuming every reader follows Plato the same way that I do. I now think I understand why the sophists appeared as such a threat to Plato.
Encomium of Helen (BCP Greek Texts) (English and Greek Edition)
Propertius II and I are finished up the Encomium of Helen tomorrow. I am hoping that the Greek starts to get easier with Isocrates' Helen, but maybe I just have lost the logic of Greek prose.

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