The Rhetoric of Plato'S RepublicDemocracy and the Philosophical Problem of Persuasion

The Rhetoric of Plato'S RepublicDemocracy and the Philosophical Problem of Persuasion

James L. Kastely

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780226278629

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

This book argues for a major reconsideration of Plato as a rhetorical theorist and for a radical reframing of the relationship of rhetoric and philosophy. In the Republic, the failures of normal democratic discourse and of Socratic elenchic discourse (a discourse based on refutation) to defend justice, a foundational value for a democracy, produce a crisis that is both rhetorical and philosophical. The dialogue represents the crisis over the absence of a persuasive defense of justice as a situation beyond the scope of normal rhetorical practice and one that requires philosophy as a response to a world that is unjust and likely to remain so. In response to this crisis Plato develops a complex theory of persuasion as an act of constitution. This innovative philosophic rhetoric responds to the contingency and temporality that pose a continual threat to any political order, and especially to democracy. To develop a philosophical discourse that is politically effective and can speak to a non-philosophic audience, Plato appropriates literature and uses it rhetorically to reconstitute a citizenry so that they value justice. In this turn to literature as a rhetorical practice, the Republic becomes Plato’s democratic epic poem in which he represents mimetically the heroism of Socrates and his interlocutors as they pursue a revolutionary political discourse that can provide a genuine defense of justice.