Classical Quarterly 31 (3-4):151- (1937)

The most famous and successful teacher of rhetoric at Athens in the fourth century was Isocrates, and he claimed for rhetoric an educational importance which Plato considered to be unmerited and misleading. He made rhetoric the basis of his whole educational system and claimed to teach his pupils to become not only good rhetoricians but good citizens. Plato attacked both aspects of this theory of education. In the Gorgias he exposed the claim of rhetoric to be considered valuable as an instrument of education by showing that rhetorical excellence had no necessary connection with moral excellence. In the Protagoras he exposed the inconsistency of those who claimed to teach men to be good citizens—to teach πολιτιк τ?νη—without an absolute standard of moral values. Even if we believe that in the Gorgias and the Protagoras, as in other dialogues, Plato is representing faithfully the constructive views of the historic Socrates, we can hardly believe that he was unaware of the contemporary relevance of those views, and it is significant that he thought fit to publish them in the form of an attack on a teacher of rhetoric and an attack on a teacher of <ολιτικ τνη At any rate it is reasonable to suppose that the Athenian reading public would expect to find such a contemporary relevance and that they would interpret these attacks as being, in some measure at least, directed against Isocrates
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DOI 10.1017/s0009838800020541
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