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Arguing for the Truth: The Conflict of Truth and Rhetoric and its Ramifications in Plato’s and Isocrates’ Educational Ideologies

Abstract

If truth is absolute, how is it possible that people can argue for or against it? If truth is not absolute, on what is our existence predicated? Plato and Isocrates, two contemporaries in Classical Athens, took very different stands on the age-old problem of truth and the rhetorical manipulation of it. A close examination of Platonic dialogues and Isocrates’ speeches reveals that they had different understandings of the concept and purpose of truth. This fundamental divergence caused Plato and Isocrates to have disparate notions of rhetoric and even “philosophy”. Accordingly, they devised drastically different educational programs suited to their respective visions of truth and rhetoric, attempting to realize their competing ideals by means of pedagogy.

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