Gorgias - important terms

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Important Terms

Art  -  From the Greek word techne, which signifies a patterned technical skill. Arts are distinguished from their opposites—the attempted art-impostors routine and flattery—by aiming at the truly good rather than the merely pleasant. Socrates uses this definition (for example) in order to classify rhetoric as flattery's counterpart to the art justice. Another aspect of an art is its relationship with rationality. Whereas false arts are based on mistaken irrationality, true ones are true and of worth because they are founded upon reason. To illustrate, one might be tempted to term a purveyor of alcohol a practitioner of the art of health, since one feels better when provided with the merchant's product. However, Plato would argue this to be an irrational attribution of positive effect, since the health is not truly but only deceptively improved. Since a practitioner of medicine more truly improves the health of he/she on whom such a physician practices, the latter is a disciple of skilled rational art while the former is one of a more hollow irrational one. Dialogue  -  The primary method of Socratic verbal and Platonic written philosophy, based upon a conversational posing of and response to questions about any given matter or concept. Though at times almost painfully methodical, the presentation of ideas in dialogue form creates at least an impression of increased philosophical legitimacy, since the treatment of a topic (even if fictional) moves forward only with agreement among the multiple participants regarding the argument's prior steps. In contrast to the false art rhetoric, Socrates (and through him Plato) argues dialogue to be the only reliable method of philosophical inquiry. This is so since it takes into account a democracy of multiple perspectives, unlike the dominant tyranny of rhetoric. Plato often quite cleverly uses the dialogue structure to the great advantage of his various arguments. For example, he frequently has one of the more minor characters in a discussion profusely agree with Socrates's every inquiry, which serves to reinforce the points to which he assents in the mind of the reader. Or again, rather than undercutting the force of his points, Plato uses the disagreement with Socrates of any of the other characters to introduce ever newer perspectives and objections, the subsequent answering of which pushes the dialogue into ever newer territory for consideration. This device presents a perfect opportunity for the advancement of whichever claims Plato desires. Flattery 


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