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The Rhetoric of Morality and Philosophy: Plato's Gorgias and Phaedrus Paperback – April 1, 2009

2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226042411 ISBN-10: 0226042413 Edition: Reprint

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The Rhetoric of Morality and Philosophy: Plato's Gorgias and Phaedrus + Plato's Symposium: A Translation by Seth Benardete with Commentaries by Allan Bloom and Seth Benardete
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Editorial Reviews

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"Benardete puts together, following Platonic clues, what the dialogues keep apart.... This bare sketch... cannot indicate the book's rich texture and fluidity of thought, sensitivity to the nuances of Greek, originality, and difficulty." - Canadian Philosophical Reviews"

About the Author

Seth Benardete (1930-2001) was a classicist and philosopher who taught at New York University and the New School. He is the author of many books, including The Tragedy and Comedy of Life: Plato's Philebus, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (April 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226042413
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226042411
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #627,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mark Twain on June 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Benardete requires as much work from the reader as does Plato, so it seems that only those who have faith in being benefited by him will stick with his work in the hope of its paying off. One has to persuade oneself that he is worthwhile. Luckily he is. Benardete is utterly fantastic, as he shows that there is a three-part structure of rhetoric extending from Gorgias to Callicles, and how that structure is akin to Socrates' tripartition of the soul in the _Republic_ (Gorgias wears the mask of rationality, Polus is the thumoeidetic part of the soul, and Callicles is the appetitive).

He is remarkable in showing the link between each of the interlocutors, or how each necessarily takes his bearings from experience, not knowledge. He thus shows that experience ultimately shapes their understanding of what knowledge is. Thus, the rhetorician who as rhetorician believes that he possess an art of persuasion is shown to have only persuaded himself that this is so: Behind Gorgias' assumption that knowledge issues in a state of being (so that one is what one knows) stands Callicles' assertion that man has no nature or is shaped by the vagaries of experience.

If knowledge belongs to the soul and experience to the body, then the presentation of the soul belonging to rhetoric is necessarily false, as it is really the body masquerading as the soul. Rhetoric and morality are thus shown to be part of tragedy, for all three subscribe to the tragic formula _pathei mathos_). Justice, Benardete suggests, is not actually known via some causal analysis, but is rather retroactivelly determined in light of one's experience of injustice (in light of one's certain moral indignation).
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14 of 28 people found the following review helpful By steven schwartzbard on June 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Benardete is an enormous brain, and classicists ignore him at their own peril. As for the Phaedrus, only the philosophers are guaranteed to come back in the next life in human form. Not nous and human form (Odysseus' men are turned into pigs, but keep their minds), but Logos and the human face. Nous and metis: nous is anonymous, it can be anyone (Odysseus' words to the Cyclops). The famous division of the Phaedrus in two contains a problem: how to put them together, how to put Socrates' unique self-knowledge in writing, which is anonymous and can be read by anyone. Hence the solution of Platonic writing, which says different things to different people. The supposed Socratic (Platonic) criticism of writing is a canard: Socrates puts the criticism of writing in the mouth of Theuth, a god! Socrates may speak for Plato, but surely he does not speak for an Egyptian god. The written law, by replacing the "unwritten law" (Antigone), is a necessary prelude to philosophy. The anonymity of the written word, by separating speech and thought, can save human beings from being turned into ciccadas, like the singing men who, neglecting food and drink, forgot themselves. That is, in part, Benardete's argument, and it is convincing.
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The Rhetoric of Morality and Philosophy: Plato's Gorgias and Phaedrus
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