All who have and do persuade people of things do so by molding a false argument. For if all men on all subjects had [both] memory of things past and [awareness] of things present and foreknowledge of the future, speech would not be similarly similar, since as things are now it is not easy for them to recall the past nor to consider the present nor to predict the future. So that on most subjects most men take opinion as counselor to their soul, but since opinion is slippery and insecure it casts those employing it into slippery and insecure arguments.
Uh oh, here we go, it's too early for this.
You propose that subjective opinion is the root of false argument, and with that, you also make the assumption that universal truth is unattainable. With this, I would have to disagree with you, for I declare that truth can be accessed by certain individuals, while you negate this possibility.
Yes, in fact, I do negate the possibility of truth, which in my argument would have to be universal truth, with the very fact that everyone is living on their own spectrum, with their own perceived truths that have been developed from their own life experiences. Truth cannot be attained if everyone has a different truth.
Socrates, let me bring you up to speed with the point that me and my friend Gorgias are trying to convey here. The first people who believed that the Earth was flat thought that they knew the truth about the shape of the Earth, so in that time, believing the Earth was flat was a perceived truth that could be accessed. However, as science progressed and we learned that the Earth is in fact round, the flat earth claim became a mere opinion.
Yes Nietzsche, we know that, but…
Please Plato, I know you want to stick up for your buddy Socrates, but please let me finish. Was Galileo right or wrong when he claimed the Earth was round and was persecuted for it? What you call truth, I call an opinion that has been around for thousands and thousands of years. We perceive these opinions as facts because of their ability to withstand the test of time, but just like people who believed the Earth was flat, these perceived truths are still opinions.
Thanks Frederick, but I was trying to remind you that truth and knowledge are two very important terms, and there is in fact a distinction between them. You claim that there are only opinions, and Gorgias claims that no one can access truth, but if that is the case, than what is the point of having individuals who are experts of knowledge in their respective fields?
Using that logic, Socrates, would you claim that a witch doctor is an expert in the field of witchcraft? Experts use the information they have learned throughout their quest for knowledge in order to establish their own truths, but they also take that information, which I have already declared takes the form of opinion, as counselor to their soul. So, in my defense, I maintain my point of view that truth cannot be accessed. However, let's continue this discussion at lunch.
Exactly, if truth is simply an illusion, than why do we go to health experts when we have problems with our health? Why do we trust judges when there is a law-related issue? Take us for godsakes! We are experts in our own field as philosophers, so we do have access to the truth. You need knowledge to be an expert, and to be sufficient at your field of work, that knowledge must also be the inherent truth.
After the others summarize their debate...
Excellent point! I have been waiting for my time to chime in and I think I have valid points to be made in a conversation regarding misinformation. With all respect to my friends over here, they were around long before the rise of technology. With the internet, misinformation, which can also be labeled as fake news, has the ability to be spread and read all over the world. People can read things on their screen that are completely false, and perceive it as truth!
Fellas, please settle down! Is it possible that the modern age of technology has made this debate irrelevant? Nietzsche, with everything we know now, in my opinion, it would be impossible for some facts to be overturned, which in turn means that those facts are the truth, and not opinion. However, I do maintain the fact that false arguments are still very prevalent, but I also attribute the inaccuracies in those arguments to the rise of misinformation.
I am not naive, young Plato, so I understand the negative components of rhetoric. However, I am impressed by its immense power to persuade public opinion, or doxa, and to be able to exhibit mastery over other individuals using only words. Is taking advantage of someone’s lack of knowledge in order to persuade them of your own truth really such a bad thing?
What you are describing Mr. Chen, and Mr. Carver, is the same issues we have been experiencing with rhetoric. Although Gorgias and I may disagree on the benefits and products of rhetoric, I do not believe I speak for myself when I cite its immense power. In order for me to take the stance that rhetoric is good, I would have to know that it offers more than persuading public opinion, and rather discovers episteme, or true knowledge, through persuasion.
Hey, thanks PT, and although you were deceiving people in the context of a circus and I have used rhetoric to take advantage of others, I see many similarities in our two styles. I think what PT brings up is a perfect Segway into discussing whether or not we think rhetoric is a positive construct.
Sorry to barge in here, but NO! In my experience in the circus, I have learned that people want to be tricked. If what you are trying to persuade them of is a convenient or desired truth for them, then they will believe it, and it is all in good fun. I gotta run to perform some more hoaxes, but let me leave you with saying that people want to be entertained. Just like you guys butter up people with your fancy rhetoric, I deceive people through elaborate hoaxes, and in the end, I cater to the customers that want to be entertained, and not the ones who will call me out.
I know what you’re getting at Socrates, and I know that you and Plato care about the truth, and only the truth. With this being said, I have already told you that I do not think truth can be accessed, so of course I would value beliefs and opinions over rhetoric itself. I understand the difference between belief and truth, I guess we just have conflicting views on whether the overall impact of rhetoric is negative or positive.
Fine then Gorgias, take this question for example. Thinking of rhetoric as an idea, would you value beliefs and opinions about rhetoric over rhetoric itself?
To piggyback on to his point, the rise of misinformation in the digital age as brought so much more relevancy to this debate. There is this thing called fake news, where sources make up stories that appeal with what their target consumers want to hear, similar to what PT Barnum described. If we view this fake news as a form of rhetoric, can we still say that the benefits of rhetoric outweigh the negatives?
Hey listen, don't get me wrong, I totally get both your points of view. However I think could be a more effective discussion here. We have already established that both parties here disagree with each other on the definitions and correlation between truth and opinion, but whether you consider rhetoric as beneficial to society is a whole different conversation.
I think I speak for Socrates when I say that rhetoric is definitely a negative societal construct. Let's say a doctor and a common man are having a debate, and the common man, using his rhetorical skills, convinces the doctor something totally wrong about his patient. How could you defend rhetoric when it is used in a deceptive manor like that?
Nice try Plato, but of course the benefits of rhetoric outweighs the negatives! The power of rhetoric is enough within itself to get me excited. Unfortunately, you describe a case in which one side of the argument has knowledge, and the other does not. In this case, the one without knowledge, if he was trying to persuade the other party of something, lacks in virtue. But you forget about all the other components of rhetoric!
Frederick, I think it's time for you to go outside for recess. You tell us this everyday and we are already aware of this knowledge, but thinking about it does not do any of us any good in trying to have a constructive debate.
But what is knowledge? Isn't everything we know just a perceived opinion? Sound is just a word, which is a metaphor for what sounds actually is, not just what we perceive it to be!
Lunch is almost over, so let's see if you guys can at least agree to disagree with each others' thoughts on rhetoric. Gorgias likes rhetoric, while Plato and Socrates do not. I can respect your opinions, but I think there are fundamental differences in your beliefs that cannot be altered through persuasion. You all are so convinced of your beliefs, that nothing, not even the possible truth, can change that. And that is why I conclude that you do not need truth to have expertise, for all of your beliefs could be wrong, and all of you are considered experts in your field.
Fine, I accept your truce in this conversation. However, I must declare that I love rhetoric and appreciate its power and ability to convince people of false information. I understand your points, but using rhetoric with integrity is a positive universal construct.
That makes sense, I guess I should take the subjectivity of certain matters more into account. However, I remain believing that rhetoric has negative consequences because people who are skilled in rhetoric are able to take advantage of certain individuals, who may even be arguing the truth, by using the art of persuasion.