Sunday, January 31, 2016

Plato vs. Protagoras

                As a member of the jury and a citizen of Athens, I found the trial between Plato and Protagoras an intriguing one. Not having any knowledge of dialectic or rhetoric previous to the trial, I am inclined to side with Plato. Plato’s argument of dialectic is much easier to understand and for me comprehend. The Gods are all powerful and all knowing. They are the reason for the good and bad things that happen in the world. Protagoras’ argument for rhetoric appeared to be a waste of time and would lead only to more debate and would never find a conclusion. The earth is flat and opening up the debate that it is not will simply create confusion and anger. For this reason, Plato has won the trial.
                Now, as a student of higher education in the year 2016, the debate between rhetoric and dialectic is not as simple. Having previous knowledge of both rhetoric and dialectic, I found that there is no clear winner of the debate. Both rhetoric and dialectic are correct in their own ways. Protagoras explained that he was always open to new ideas in an argument and that there was not an overarching truth. But, the earth is a sphere and that is a known fact. I believe this to be an overarching truth that cannot be denied. But, in the past, the earth was believed to be flat and that was a known truth. However, the concept of rhetoric and debate inspired scientists to discover that the earth is actually round. Without rhetoric we would have accepted the fact that the earth was flat and that would have been the end of it. Jay Heinrichs explains that rhetoric is much more complex than being open to argument. “Argument lies behind political labeling, advertising, jargon, voices, gestures, and guilt trips; it forms a real-life Matrix, the supreme software that drives our social lives. And rhetoric serves as argument’s decoder” Heinrichs says. Rhetoric is essensial to leadership. It allows one to persuade, teach, learn, and manipulate. But I guess the simple statement of them both being correct in their own ways proves that rhetoric won the debate.
   -Nathan Poppe


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