Socrates' Versatile Rhetoric and the Soul of the Crowd

Rhetorica 38 (2):135–155 (2020)
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In Plato’s early dialogues, the impossibility of talking to the crowd appears as a constitutive element of the opposition between rhetoric and dialectic and raises the understudied question of the role of the audience in Socratic thought. However, Xenophon’s Socrates constantly identifies public and private speech. But this likening is also found in the Alcibiades Major, which gives a key to understand the true meaning of this assimilation: one can convince an audience, by talking to each individual in the crowd. The need to address each one implies an adaptation of language that can be found in the texts of different disciples of Socrates. The rhetorical aspects of the Phaedrus’ psychagogia should then be understood, not as a new Platonic concept which allows the good orator to address the many, but rather as a new for- mulation of a well-known and shared Socratic ideal.

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David Lévystone
Universidad Panamericana Sede México


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