Food for Thought July 2013 - Page 4


Gorgias (485-380 BC) was a great Sophist philosopher, rhetorician, and orator. In 427 BC, he moved to Athens as an ambassdor for his city ,Leontini, Sicil,y and introduced his study of rhetoric. He was well admired and the Athenians were filled with so much gratitude for his introducing rhetoric to the public that it has been rumored that they built a statue of him in Delphi (Smith 44).

Gorgias was a strong believer in the fact that speech is a powerful tool that can move people. He claimed that rhetoric is a "powerful lord who by means of the finest and most invisible body affects the most divine works"(Smith 44). He even goes on to compare speech to drugs. “The effect of speech upon the condition of the soul is comparable to the power of drugs over the nurture of bodies” (Higgins, C. Francis, "Gorgias"). He understood that rhetoric could be used for good, but also used to manipulate. This is why arete was so important to the Sophists. They taught their pupils to be people of good character and virtue in order for them to be leaders that informed instead of manipulated the public.

Gorgias was a marvelous orator. His speeches have been described as "antithetical and symmetrical in structure and overly alliterative and assonant in sound" (Bizzell, Patricia, and Bruce Herzberg, eds., "Gorgias"). This is because he "borrowed literary devices from poetry and used them in rhetorical context" (Smith 45).

Gorgias believed that present knowledge is the only type of knowledge we could have. According to him, knowledge is temporary and can be changed based on th present.Similar to the beliefs of Protagoras he didn't believe in a higher knowledge or higher powers. It is through the use of rhetoric that we can make sense of our world (Bizzell, Patricia, and Bruce Herzberg, eds., "Gorgias").

This influential rhetorician is considered the father of epideictic or ceremonial speaking. Ceremonial speaking is ued to "celebrate the good and chastise the bad" (Smith 45). In one of his works, Enconium of Helen, he praises and exonerates Helen of Troy while simulating to the public the effect speech can have on an individual.


School of Thought: Sophistic