The Tensions Presented in Rhetoric
The Encomium of Helen by the Greek sophist, Gorgias focuses on defending the actions of Helen of Troy. In the Encomium, Gorgias utilizes rhetoric in order to express the implications of Helen’s actions and the method in which the decisions regarding the actions were created. In summary, Gorgias argues on whether Helen was taken against her wishes or if it was her deliberate choice. Gorgias’ Encomium is considered epideictic whereby he implies both praise and blame aspects in the writing. In the Encomium, Gorgias defends Helen by asserting that her reason for elopement with Paris was due to Paris’ persuasion. Additionally, Gorgias argues that Helen’s will to leave was affirmed by the gods and if it was their will, then Helen was not wrong. This created questions pertaining to the actual truth since both situations could be factual reasons that led to Helen’s actions. In defense of Helen, Gorgias asserts that persuasion can be used benevolently or malevolently, just like any art. Additionally, Gorgias also implies the nature of a subject being factual by dealing with knowledge and belief. He deduces that what the majority believe to be true may actually be wrong. In the Encomium, most people believed that Helen was responsible for the Trojan War; however, Gorgias utilizes rhetoric in order to persuade the people from the general belief and seek the truth and specifics. In Plato’s Gorgias, Socrates, while fictionally conversing with Gorgias, asserts that rhetoric is simply a technique that abuses persuasion. However, Gorgias defends rhetoric by showing its validity in speech and writing which inevitably leads to persuasion. Gorgias further defends his use of rhetoric by claiming it to be an art.
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