Did Socrates imagine philosopher-kings to be rhetoricians or very eloquent?

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The first thing to consider is that we do not know what Socrates as an historical figure thought about the issue, only what the Socrates character in various Platonic dialogues said as he took part in various discussions.

In general, Plato's dialogues are highly critical of rhetoric. Plato describes the sophist (ancient teacher of rhetoric) as one:

who, belonging to the conscious or dissembling section of the art of causing self-contradiction, is an imitator of appearance, and is [engaged in] the juggling of words

and who preys financially upon the young and innocent in Sophist. Gorgias, Protagoras, and Apology also include extremely negative treatments of rhetoric, and Phaedrus makes a strong distinction between philosophical discourse and rhetoric. Plato's Republic presents rhetoric, like poetry, as corrupting its audience.

Thus Plato and his Socratic character are both strongly opposed to rhetoric and eloquence and would not wish philosophers to be skilled at them. Instead, what Plato's Socrates recommends is precise use of language, which strives to educate rather than please and to discover truth rather than opinion. This distinction is present most clearly in Statesman and Sophist, although covered to a lesser degree in Republic

 

 

 

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