Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Reading Guide and Blog Prompt for Week 3

Tuesday: The Case of Plato v. Sophists
Keith & Lundberg, “The Rhetorical Tradition,” 3-10.
Jay Heinrichs, “Open Your Eyes,” 3-11.

*What is the connection between rhetoric and democracy in the ancient world? What were the new contexts in which rhetoric was useful? (Keith & Lundberg) Why was rhetoric considered an art of leadership in the ancient world? (Heinrichs)
*What are the three goals of speeches at this time? What are examples of these different kinds of speeches? (Keith & Lundberg)
*What is the connection between rhetoric, identity, and power? (Keith & Lundberg)

Blog prompt: If you were a member of the jury, deciding the case of Plato vs. Protagoras, how would you vote? Write a judge's decision defending your position.

Thursday: Lessons on the Power of Language from Protagoras and Prodicus

Cate Palczewski, Richard Ice, and John Fritch, “Language,” in Rhetoric and Civic Life (State College, PA: Strata Publishing, 2012), 35-60.

*What does it mean to say that language constructs social reality?
*What is a "terministic screen"? How does language function as a terministic screen?
*What is an ideograph? What are examples of ideographs, and how do they mobilize collective action?
*What is a metaphor? Why do metaphors "work"?
*What is resignification? What is an example of how resignification works?
*What are the types of "misuse" of language? Be able to define doublespeak, euphemism, inflated language, and truncated passives.
*How does silence communicate?

Blog prompt: Identify a recent speech by a politician and analyze it using some of these terms. How do they use terministic screens, metaphors, and silence to make their point?


  1. If I were a voting member of the Jury, I would vote in favor of Protagoras. However, there are some very intriguing points that favor Plato. I'm going to start with Protagoras and what the goal of rhetoric does and what it accomplishes.

    Basically, he wanted us to think critically about issues. That makes sense. When serious issues come to light and the media or we discuss it, we have got to think critically about what is happening. This allows us to take different views on an issue. But, more importantly it allows us to find the root or cause of the issue and gives us different angles to show us how the issue works. It recognizes both sides of the argument and grants "good points." Finally, this would create conflict. Conflict allows us to find the best way to accomplish something. This "something" could be related to solving a problem or just simply trying to win a sporting contest. These qualities of rhetoric that Protagorous wants us to learn creates perception of opinion.

    However Plato does have some qualities that we should consider. He created a dialectic that means a preferable way to acquire knowledge. This makes the most sense in a school setting. The example could be math. There is a right and wrong answer. We have learned that 1 +1 =2. And that is the only way we know. Students are graded on assignments and right and wrong. This parallels Plato and what he was trying to do back in the day.

    Is it a good idea? Maybe in a sense. If we didn't have Plato's ideas set up in education for example, then we wouldn't ever be able to determine what is right and what is wrong. Who knows, we may be in college for ever. Even though, we will always be learning.

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  3. Gary Ritnour

    I would have to agree with Kellan, I would vote in favor of Protagoras if I was part of the jury. Also, I would agree that you have to look at Plato’s side as well. Both have compelling arguments about which is better, but I would lean toward Protagoras a little more.

    My belief is that critically thinking and taking in everyone’s opinion is the best way to come to the conclusion desired. A statement said in class, “there is some truth to everyone’s opinion” I think is absolutely correct. Everyone experiences things differently and the beauty of Rhetoric brings all those differences together for one solution. Looking at an issue at many different views allows us to come closer to the truth than looking at it as there is a right and wrong answer. I believe this to a certain point which is why I think you need to look at Plato’s side as well.

    Looking at both Plato and Protagoras’s view separately could get you close to the truth, eventually. This is why I was talking about that I believe what I said earlier to a certain point. A topic that was brought up in the play during class was building a building with egg shells. Now obviously that would not work, and if you looked at it during Plato’s view he would tell you know that it would not work. On the other hand, Protagoras would consider it and try it and find out that it would not work. Both coming to the same conclusion.

    In conclusion, if I was part of the jury I would vote for Protagoras which I think has the edge over Plato’s view. But, what I have been saying is that you need to look at both views. Both will come close to the truth, but using both views will come to that conclusion quicker and more efficiently.

  4. I have to agree with the deciding in favor of Protagoras. Plato’s ideas make sense if you are in an authoritarian society that wants to curb general knowledge and keep the people stupid and happy. In the case of Athens, it is an emerging society that is experimenting with democracy. For democracy to work, even in the early Athenian form, people have to be educated and be able to voice their opinions.
    Plato’s idea of “there is a wrong and right answer for everything” and only the smartest and most capable people should be able to decide what is right and therefore what is wrong is elitist and harmful to a society. The example of the two story house is probably the simplest way to explain why. Plato argued that if everyone can voice their opinions in this matter then eventually they will try to build a house of eggshells. This is ridiculous, but if someone wanted to try that, why not let them. His main point on the matter was that once you find a perfect way you should only repeat it. No more variations, just repeat what works and therefore society will function. Using Protagoras ideas in this situation might cause initial failure and waste of resources, but eventually something much better might come from it. Not only could experimenting with different people’s ideas work, it could be better and lead the way to three story houses or even taller ones.
    Plato’s fears of the public are an elitist view that is directly contradictory towards the role of a functioning democracy. It might be easier to only let a few of the philosopher-kings make decisions, but it will harm the specialization of the people. If only one person, or even a handful of people are left to make the decisions than there will be no expertise involved. They might be well rounded thinkers, but by opening the floor to everyone’s opinion you may get really dumb ideas, but you will also let the experts speak as well. The trick to making this system work is by being able to tell what the dumb ideas are and what the smart ones are. This is another whole issue that requires people like Protagoras to teach the public. To make them capable of rational decision making in order for the best ideas to not only be heard, but to be understood and clarified as the best decisions by the general majority.
    I rule in favor of Protagoras because it is in the best interest of the democracy and the society.