Historical Rhetorics/Cicero's Public and the Greek Tradition/DiLorenzo, Raymond. "The Critique of Socrates in Cicero's De Oratore: ornatus and the Nature of Wisdom." ''Philosophy & Rhetoric'' 11 (1978): 247–261.

From Wikibooks, open books for an open world
Jump to navigation Jump to search
  • DiLorenzo begins by recalling the setting of the third book of Cicero’s De Oratore and those present, notably Crassus, and his short account of Greek philosophy, which includes his explanation of “the disruption of the traditional Greek conception of wisdom and philosophy” (247), a split of “things belonging together in reality” (247) which Crassus blames almost entirely on Socrates, mostly because of Socrates’ failure in defending himself before the Athenian court (248). One of the reasons DiLorenzo cites for Crassus’ rejection of Socrates is a notion of wisdom that includes “both thinking and ornate speaking” (249), referred to as ornatus, a theoretical vision which Crassus attempts to explain to his audience using metaphors such the relationship between the light and that which the light falls on (250, 251), and “the bonded character and harmonious relations of the different arts” (251), and the idea of eloquence as a river; DiLorenzo says that ornatus “is the name of that part of rhetorical style which the figures of words and thought comprise” (251) and that we must understand this theory in order to understand the critique of Socrates which appears within it.
  • DiLorenzo argues that when Crassus charges Socrates with “separating wise thinking from ornate speaking, with disassociating the teachers of thinking from the teachers of speech, with severing the heart from the tongue” (252) Crassus is also making a statement about “the nature of wisdom” (252); tracing the Latin rhetorical terminology of the words ornatus and ornare and their correspondence to the Greek words kosmos and kosmein DiLorenzo claims that Crassus’ (and the old Greeks’) use of these words emphasizes a belief in the interdependency of the universe (253) which DiLorenzo then applies to wisdom and speaking.
  • Citing Plato’s Gorgias, DiLorenzo explains that Socrates uses the notion of kosmos to explain how the arts and crafts are related, and how a rhetor, like a craftsman, “must work to fit words to words in order to make his hearers just and temperate” (257), a use of kosmos which seems to coincide with the position of Crassus in De Oratore; but DiLorenzo claims that Socrates and Crassus differ “in their conception of the necessity of cosmetic speech” (257), most notably in Socrates’ transformation of kosmos “into what he calls ‘flattery’ (kolakeia), irresponsible gratification of the sense of others.” (257). Crassus, on the other hand, insists that “the cosmetic power of speech” (257) is an essential element of good speaking because ornatus, or rhetorical ornamentation, “partakes of the nature of wisdom” (258) and, in fact, DiLorenzo argues, for Crassus, it is the nature of wisdom to be kosmos, to be ornatus: “Wisdom is not knowledge simply for Crassus. Wisdom is knowledge embodied in speech which, by attracting others at the level of their senses, enters into them at the level of their convictions and becomes the impetus of their actions. In short, the old and plenary wisdom which Crassus praises is like the old and plenary wisdom conception of kosmos” (258).
  • DiLorenzo goes on to say that when Socrates ruptured the bond between wisdom and speech he also “ruptured the integrity of education as a process of formation in both speaking and thinking; he ruptured the pristine communion of action and speculation” (258) and ends with Crassus’ claim that if forced to choose between the orator and the philosopher, the palm must go to the learned orator, for, Crassus says, “If this man is called a philosopher, there will be no more controversy. If, however, the philosophers persist in separating themselves from orators, then they will, when measured against the perfect orator, show themselves his inferiors; for the perfect orator necessarily has the knowledge of the philosopher, but the philosopher does not necessarily have the eloquence of an orator” (259), to which his hearers responded with silence.