Plutarch and Rhetoric: Rhetoric in Plutarch's Moralia, and its relationship with Ethics, Politics and Education

Doctoral Dissertation uoadl:2820865 226 Read counter

Κατεύθυνση Αρχαία Ελληνική Φιλολογία
Library of the School of Philosophy
Deposit date:
Tsiampokalos Theophanis
Dissertation committee:
Δημήτριος Καραδήμας, Αναπληρωτής Καθηγητής, Τμήμα Φιλολογίας, Φιλοσοφική Σχολή ΕΚΠΑ
Αμφιλόχιος Παπαθωμάς, Καθηγητής, Τμήμα Φιλολογίας, Φιλοσοφική Σχολή ΕΚΠΑ
Χρήστος Φάκας, Λέκτορας, Τμήμα Φιλολογίας, Φιλοσοφική Σχολή ΕΚΠΑ
Σοφία Παπαϊωάννου, Καθηγήτρια, Τμήμα Φιλολογίας, Φιλοσοφική Σχολή ΕΚΠΑ
Ειρήνη Ζαμάρου, Αναπληρώτρια Καθηγήτρια, Τμήμα Φιλολογίας, Φιλοσοφική Σχολή ΕΚΠΑ
Γραμματική Κάρλα, Επίκουρη Καθηγήτρια, Τμήμα Φιλολογίας, Φιλοσοφική Σχολή ΕΚΠΑ
Βασίλειος Βερτουδάκης, Επίκουρος Καθηγητής, Τμήμα Φιλολογίας, Φιλοσοφική Σχολή ΕΚΠΑ
Original Title:
Πλούταρχος και ρητορική: η ρητορική στα Ηθικά του Πλούταρχου και η σχέση της με την ηθική, την πολιτική και την εκπαίδευση
Translated title:
Plutarch and Rhetoric: Rhetoric in Plutarch's Moralia, and its relationship with Ethics, Politics and Education
The present study focuses on the way rhetoric is being discussed in Plutarch‟s texts.For the purpose of this enquiry, rhetoric is defined as a system of discursive practices,whose primary function is to assist speakers in attempts to present reality in variousways enabling them to construct their own truths about things. Plutarch's attitudetowards this system is not very clear. The fact that he belongs to theAcademic/Platonic philosophic tradition could make a case for a hostile attitude.Plato's early criticism against rhetoric was still relevant at that time. However,throughout his work Plutarch never goes so far as to assume a clear-cut hostile stancetowards rhetoric; nor an admittedly favourable one. In passages, in which Plutarchlooks at rhetoric, his position is always that under certain presuppositions and inparticular fields of action rhetoric could be useful, yet not in the usual form, in whichthe sophists teach it, but in a form allowing it function in support of philosophy. This is a position requiring interpretation though. Since there is no reason tobelieve that all these differences marked by Plutarch and all these categorizationsappearing in the texts do really correspond in ontologically existing differences andsubstantive categories, and since we can always say that all these are simply the staff,which the author uses, in order to construct his own ontologies, it may be easilyassumed that the aforementioned moderate attitude towards rhetoric is not necessarilyindicative of a personal opinion but it could rather be a pose. Inevitably, then, we willhave to look at the cause of this attitude and the purpose it might serve. Existingliterature does not immediately give us such answers. The commonly held opinion isstill captive of traditional categorizations that want Plato and philosophy to be on theone side, and sophists together with rhetoric on the other. My own approach, on the contrary,does not deny that rhetoric may have an intimate place in the field of philosophy, butit takes from the beginning as a point of reference the fact that rhetoric is adifficult topic to be handled by a philosopher.The reasons for this difficulty are mainly historical and social. The factthat rhetorical education used to attract more students than the number of students thatthe philosophers were managing to attract, has occasionally led many of the latter to publicly attempt to downplay the importance of rhetoric. Plato and, later on, all of thephilosophers, who were systematically encouraging their pupils to engage in politics,used to argue that rhetoric, in its „conventional‟ form, is a useless or even dangerousthing. Plutarch is at an advanced stage in this tradition. He does not have only theteachers of rhetoric against him. The version of Platonic/Academic philosophy herepresents is also one form of philosophy among other competing forms. At that time,what could have distinguished him from the others, granting him at the same time theprestige he needed, in order to establish himself as a dominant figure within his fieldof action, would have been his commitment to a body of doctrines and opinions heldby earlier philosophers, whom he would have declared as predecessors andauthorities. This is the question of orthodoxy, whose expectation is the first andforemost limitation that would have existed for Plutarch. With respect of theseconditions and with the intention of contributing to the aforementioned scientificdiscussion, I argue in the present thesis that Plutarch‟s attitude towards rhetoricshould be examined on the basis of the following hypothesis: the aforementionedmoderate attitude is not indicative of a low evaluation but rather a consequence of thephilosopher's effort to achieve a balancing point between the professionalrestrictions, which he is susceptible to in the field of education, and a favourable view of rhetoric in the field of politics.Apart from the Introduction the present thesis is divided into two major parts.The first of these (Part 2: Menemachus and rhetoric) focuses mainly on the way inwhich rhetoric is discussed in the text of Political Precepts. By presenting animpressive density and abundance of information, this particular text constitutes themainstay of my analysis. Information collected from other texts is normally discussed incomparison and in relation to it. After a preliminary theoretical chapter defining theway in which I believe that the Political Precepts should be read (Ch. 2.1), I attemptto analyze Plutarch's attitude towards rhetoric by keeping track of the function ofthree critical oppositions. These are the opposition of teaching and persuading (Ch.2.2), the opposition of speech and character (Ch. 2.3) and, finally, the opposition ofrhetoric (seen as a means to legitimize power through speech) and euergetism (Ch.2.3). The second part of the study (Part 3: Plutarch and the sophists) constitutes anattempt to put Plutarch's notorious criticism against the sophists on a different basisby admitting first the existence of a common ground for philosophers and sophistswithin the field of the higher education. Final pages offer the concluding remarks(Part 4: Conclusion). An Appendix (Part 5) is added, in which there is a list ofabbreviations for the titles of Plutarch's texts in Greek.
Main subject category:
Language – Literature
academy, orthodoxy, middle platonism, second sophistic, rhetoric and philosophy
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