[Air-l] Plato meets the Blogroll

Charles Ess cmess at lib.drury.edu
Wed Jul 9 07:17:26 PDT 2003

First, my thanks to Ed for continuing and refining this discussion!

Second, I can't resist what may seem to  be a small quibble:

> From: Ed Lamoureux <ell at hilltop.bradley.edu>
> Reply-To: air-l at aoir.org
> Date: Wed, 9 Jul 2003 07:01:26 -0500 (CDT)
> To: air-l at aoir.org
> Subject: RE: [Air-l] Plato meets the Blogroll
> Like all ancient "authors," Plato can be read many different ways. I teach
> oral rhetoric, so read the PHEADRUS (and other Platonic works) for their
> commentary about speech making. It is, for many rhetoricians, a
> foundational text proposing an "ideal" rhetoric (or presenting a rhetoric
> so idealized that none can aspire to it, thereby following Plato's normal
> habit of denigrating the art/practice).

By all means, Plato can be read in many different ways, and one of the
upshots of the reading I suggested earlier is that the apparent denigration
of arts/practices - including rhetoric as well as _poesis_ in the broader
sense - is just that, i.e., apparent.
Rather, connecting Plato's allegory of the cave with the _analogy_ of the
line in the Republic - coupled with some background understanding of the use
of analogy in both Greek mathematics prior to Plato and then subsequently in
the Western philosophical tradition - leads to a quite different
understanding of the relationship between theory and praxis / ideal and real
in Plato.  
In contrast with what is really a modernist/Cartesian reading that stresses
a dualistic opposition between theory and praxis / ideal and real (leading
to just the denigration of the latter that you are concerned about [and
rightly so, if this were indeed Plato's intention]) - the older readings
stress instead, via analogy, the inextricable and inviolable _connection_
between these domains.  Again, the upshot is an understanding of the
connection and complementarity between these domains - a complimentarity
manifested precisely in Plato's own use of rhetoric, poetry, myth, and
writing itself as superb vehicles within which to portray and encourage
philosophical reasoning and critique (including, of course, critique of
rhetoric, poetry, myth, and writing - insofar as these are divorced from
philosophy in the first place by the Sophists).

Of course,I realize that  the AoIR list, in the end, is probably not the
place for extended discussions of readings of Plato - but I think this
quibble is worth passing on to the list at large, first of all as it
suggests an alternative understanding of Plato that, in my view, argues for
a highly "interdisciplinary" understanding of the relationships between,
say, rhetoric and philosophy, as well as between orality / literacy / print
/ electronic technologies.
Further, such non-dualistic understandings of important figures in Western
philosophy have the advantage of establishing greater resonance (alongside
irreducible contrasts) between "Western" and "Eastern" views (terms
themselves highly contested, but perhaps still useful in a shorthand kind of
way).  Such resonances, in my view, are fruitful and promising especially
for folk interested in not only interdisciplinary but also genuinely global
approaches - i.e., the sorts of approaches I believe AoIR-ists are most
interested in. 

In any case, I hope this has been helpful, and I look forward to further

Thanks again, Ed - all best wishes, and cheers,

Charles Ess
Distinguished Research Professor, Interdisciplinary Studies
Drury University
900 N. Benton Ave.                          Voice: 417-873-7230
Springfield, MO  65802  USA            FAX: 417-873-7435
Home page:  http://www.drury.edu/ess/ess.html
Co-chair, CATaC: http://www.it.murdoch.edu.au/catac/

Exemplary persons seek harmony, not sameness. -- Analects 13.23

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