THE PHILOSOPHICAL AND POLITICAL FOUNDATIONS OF THE RHETORICAL IDEAL IN CLASSICAL GREECE
NEIDINGER, WILLIAM JOSEPH
Doctor of Philosophy
For four centuries (c. 900-500 B. C.) an aristocratic warrior culture and its concomitant ideals and educational processes reigned supreme in Greece. As the aristocracy declined, so, too, did the ideals. Gradually a new intellectual culture replaced the old warrior culture, and ideals then became ideals of the mind, not of the body. The particular form which this new intellectual culture assumed was to be found in rhetorical education. Our approach to, and understanding of, ancient Greek rhetoric have been fashioned by the philological pursuits of the classicists of the nineteenth century. In the main, the interest has been with the mechanics of oratory--stylistics. If any opinions are even ventured concerning the substance of rhetoric, almost without exception they are opinions derived from information provided by Plato, who was, of course, hostile to the rhetorical profession. A gradual reassessment is taking place in which sophism re-assumes its proper position in Greek politics. But its position in the Greek intellectual tradition is still regarded with evident embarrassment. This attitude is fostered by the failure to realize that the roots of rhetoric are just as fundamentally scientific as they are political. Our task, then, is to re-integrate rhetoric back into its proper position in the Greek intellectual tradition. Once we comprehend this facet of oratory, we are then in a better position to understand Plato's criticisms and Isocrates' final articulation of the Greek rhetorical ideal.