A major part of the Interpretative Essays by Plato revolves around how any speech must have a head which the talk revolves around. He states that whatever you may go into during your talk, say love, rhetoric, or anything, but you must have a head, or a subject, that which these ideas relate back to. The problem with this is if you’re discussing one topic, if another subject is introduced to relate to it, can you focus on the new information instead of trying to relate it back to the original topic? My classmates and I discussed this and came up with a different twist on the head. We theorized instead of having the head act as the overarching theme that the talk focuses on, instead the head acts as a point to begin the conversation. Once it gets going, the head becomes less important and the tangents you might go off on are completely fine; there is no need to focus the conversation on this head so long as the conversation is able to flow and teach its audience something. Why should one’s conversation have to be hindered by a head that the entire talk should focus on?
On another note relating to discussion, we talked about the significance of writing itself. Socrates speaks of how writing is basically a disease as it prevents people from gaining true knowledge. You can think of it as much like today’s world with smartphones. Just as writing allows you to forget what you learn, as there’s no need to remember, smartphones have cursed us with never having to keep anything stored in our minds. If we forget something or just want an answer to a question, we can just look it up in seconds; why remember if we can just find it out again? Thus, just like what smartphones have done to us, writing in Socrates’ time made people no longer have to truly remember anything. So in this sense, yes, writing is a sort of disease that has damaged people and the way they go about their lives.
However, there is also a positive side to writing that shouldn’t be ignored. During our discussion, we talked about how writing can act as a medium between the author and his audience. Additionally, writing means to issue a response out of the reader. For example, we all read the Interpretative Essays for class, we each had something to say from doing the reading, and then had a discussion which was only able to happen because we had done the reading. Thus, writing might have consequences for how we are able to remember, but it opens a world of conversation for everyone. Writing sparks a response in all of us, gifting everyone with the ability to have a discussion. Even if it has resulted in many problems in how we remember things, but isn’t that worth being able to have amazing conversations created from writing?
Finally, we brought up the idea of a true rhetorician. There’s this idea that to be a “true rhetorician”, one would have to learn about all of the different types of souls in the world to be able to understand them and thus deliver persuasive speeches to all of them. As such, this is quite impossible because of the fact that understanding all of the different souls cannot happen. However, what if this was possible? If it was, this person would be able to manipulate everyone. Some people never even know their own soul. Imagine if there was a person who was able to control you through something you weren’t even aware of yourself. It’s something like this which gives rhetoric a great power. In the right hands, or the wrong hands for that matter, rhetoric opens a world of possibilities in persuasion and control. As an example a classmate brought up, wasn’t Hitler just someone who spoke and convinced his followers with rhetoric to follow his words? As we prepare for the 2016 election, we need to acknowledge we are voting on who will stand behind the podium and address our nation with words that surely involve rhetoric. If used correctly, rhetoric has the power to do some amazing, or horrible, things.
Plato, and Stephen Scully. Plato’s Phaedrus. Newburyport, MA: Focus Pub./R. Pullins, 2003.
Tallmon, James. Phaedrus and the Nature of Rhetoric. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2016.
Jones, Sarah. Fact Checkers Prove That 91% of the Things Donald Trump Says Are False. N.p.,
31 Mar. 2016. Web. 23 Sept. 2016. <http://www.politicususa.com/2016/03/31/ninety-one-
Humans have shorter attention span than goldfish, thanks to smartphones. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept.