Historical Rhetorics/Plato's Relationship to Rhetoric/A Tincture of Philosophy, A Tincture of Hope: The Portrayal of Isocrates in Plato's ''Phaedrus''

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Goggin, Maureen Daly and Elenore Long. "A Tincture of Philosophy, A Tincture of Hope: The Portrayal of Isocrates in Plato's Phaedrus." Rhetoric Review. 11.2 (Spring 1993): 301-324.

In Phaedrus 279A, Plato seems to be praising Isocrates, and concludes the passage by asserting that “For that mind of his, Phaedrus, contains an innate tincture of philosophy.” Experts are divided as to whether this passage is “underhanded and sarcastic” (301) or meant to be taken at face value. Goggin and Long maintain that Plato is all too easily reduced to sets of binaries, but that his view of rhetoric in the Phaedrus is not a binary but a continuum.

The authors show that the elements of the soul represented by the bad horse—emotion, irrationality, and probability—are to be “harness[ed], not banished” (303).

Plato demonstrates in the Phaedrus that the dialectic is actually a tool of rhetoric (317)—a change of heart from his position in Gorgias. This reversal, which is attributed to Plato’s growing realization that for humans most knowledge, even of Truth, is contingent, is the ground for commonality between Plato and Isocrates.

Although the Myth of the Soul places the sophists in the lowest possible position, save for the tyrants, the authors of this article believe that Plato’s thinking is refined enough to exempt Isocrates from the rest of the group of the sophists—in other words, “sophists” does not refer to all of those known primarily as rhetors, but only to those who “were insensitive to the dangerously manipulative potential of rhetoric and who were ready to build arguments for argument’s sake, oblivious to whether their speeches offend the divine or social order” (319).