Food for Thought July 2013 - Page 6


Isocrates (436-338 BC), a former student of Protagoras,became a teacher and speechwriter that later "expanded the province of rhetoric by arguing that it could enhance civic pride and lead people to their higher destiny" (Smith 46).

This shy rhetorician decided to become a speechwriter when he realized that he had stage fright and that would inhibit him from a career in politics. In the year 392 BC, he became a teacher and believed that with great practice, theory,imitation, while teaching arete, that his students would turn out to be politicians that displayed civic virtue (Smith 47).

As a speech writer he came to believe that word choice and style had a large impact on the credibility of the speaker. According to Isocrates, "the word choice or style of speakers would reflect on their character" (Smith 47). He also took great stock in spoken speeches as opposed to writing. He felt that an audience is more likely to be moved to action if the words are spoken than just read. Isocrates broke down the construction of a good speech by comparing it to body parts. The head is similar to the introduction, the torso is similar to substantial argument, and the feet are similar to the conclusion. With all these parts in place, anybody can write a speech persuasive enough to move an audience.

It has been said that Isocrates didn't really like being considered a Sophists. He focused more on the writing of speeches compared to retoricians,but the similarities that he had to his Sophist counterparts was the fact that he believed rhetoric could be used to persuade and that he didn't believe in transcendental or divine knowledge or beings.

School of Thought: Sophistic