Truth and falsehood for non-representationalists: Gorgias on the normativity of language

Authors

  • Juan Pablo Bermúdez Universidad Externado de Colombia

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.11606/issn.1981-9471.v11i2p1-21

Keywords:

normativity, Gorgias, Encomium of Helen, Defense of Palamedes, rhetoric, sophists

Abstract

Sophists and rhetoricians like Gorgias are often accused of disregarding truth and rationality: their speeches seem to aim only at effective persuasion, and be constrained by nothing but persuasiveness itself. In his extant texts Gorgias claims that language does not represent external objects or communicate internal states, but merely generates behavioural responses in people. It has been argued that this perspective erodes the possibility of rationally assessing speeches by making persuasiveness the only norm, and persuasive power the only virtue, of speech. Against this view, I show how Gorgias’ texts support a robust normativity of language that goes well beyond persuasion while remaining non-representational. Gorgias’ claims that a speech can be persuasive and false, or true and unpersuasive, reveal pragmatic, epistemic, and agonistic constraints on the validity of speech that are neither representational nor reducible to sheer persuasiveness. 

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

References

Barney, R. 2006. “The Sophistic Movement”. In A Companion to Ancient Philosophy (ed. Gill, M. L. & Pellegrin, P.). Blackwell. 77–97. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781444305845.ch5

Consigny, S. P. 2001. Gorgias, Sophist and Artist. University of South Carolina Press.

Coulter, J. A. 1964. “The Relation of the Apology of Socrates to Gorgias’ Defense of Palamedes and Plato’s Critique of Gorgianic Rhetoric.” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 68: 269–303. https://doi.org/10.2307/310807

Diels, H. & Kranz, W. 1906. Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker. Berlin.

Dillon, J. M. & Gergel, T., eds. 2003. The Greek Sophists. UK.

Dodds, E. R., ed. 1959. Plato: Gorgias. A Revised Text with Introduction and Commentary. Oxford.

Forero Mora, J. A. 2015. “Sobre el valor de la verdad: una crítica a Richard Rorty.” Ideas y Valores 64: 157-170. https://doi.org/10.15446/ideasyvalores.v64n157.39928

Graham, D. W., ed. 2010. The Texts of Early Greek Philosophy: The Complete Fragments and Selected Testimonies of the Major Presocratics. Vol. 2. Cambridge.

Guthrie, W. K. C. 1971. The sophists. Cambridge.

Kerferd, G. B. 1981. The sophistic movement. Cambridge.

McComiskey, B. (1997). “Gorgias and the art of rhetoric: Toward a holistic reading of the extant Gorgianic fragments.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 27:4, 5--24. https://doi.org/10.1080/02773949709391103

Melero Bellido, A. 1996. Sofistas: testimonios y fragmentos. Madrid.

Misak, C. 2013. “Rorty, Pragmatism, and Analytic Philosophy.” Humanities 2:3, 369–383. https://doi.org/10.3390/h2030369

Mourelatos, A. P. D. 1987. “Gorgias on the Function of Language.” Philosophical Topics 15: 135-170. https://doi.org/10.5840/philtopics19871527

Robinson, J. M. 1973. “On Gorgias”, in Exegesis and Argument, Studies in Greek Philosophy presented to Gregory Vlastos, eds. E.N.Lee, A.P.D. Mourelatos and R.M.Rorty, Phronesis suppl. 1, Assen, 49–60.

Rorty, R. 1980. Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Princeton.

Rorty, R. 2000a. “Universality and Truth.” Rorty and His Critics. (ed. Robert Brandom). Blackwell. 1-30.

Rorty, R. 2000b. “Response to Jürgen Habermas.” Rorty and His Critics. (ed. Robert Brandom). Blackwell. 56-64.

Segal, C. P. 1962. “Gorgias and the Psychology of the Logos.” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 66: 99-155. https://doi.org/10.2307/310738

Spatharas, D. G. 2001. “Patterns of argumentation in Gorgias.” Mnemosyne 54: 393-408. https://doi.org/10.1163/15685250152902937

Stoljar, D. & Damnjanovic, N. 2010. “The deflationary theory of truth.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Valiavitcharska, V. 2006. “Correct logos and truth in Gorgias’ Encomium of Helen.” Rhetorica 24, 147–161.

Wardy, R. (1996). The birth of rhetoric: Gorgias, Plato and their successors. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203981962

Williams, M. 2003. “Rorty on Knowledge and Truth”. In Richard Rorty (ed. Guignon, C. B. & Hiley, D. R.). Cambridge University Press, 61–80. https://doi.org/10.1017/cbo9780511613951.004

Downloads

Published

2017-11-08

How to Cite

Bermúdez, J. P. (2017). Truth and falsehood for non-representationalists: Gorgias on the normativity of language. Journal of Ancient Philosophy, 11(2), 1-21. https://doi.org/10.11606/issn.1981-9471.v11i2p1-21

Issue

Section

Articles