E491 GORGIAS OF LEONTINI QUESTIONS

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Assigned: "Encomium of Helen" (29-33).

"Encomium of Helen"

1. Characterize Gorgias' manner of proceeding in argumentation -- what assumptions about "truth" seem to underlie his argument? Why would Plato's Socrates (if you have read some Platonic dialogues) find Gorgias' attitude distressing?

2. On 32 and elsewhere, Gorgias offers as his key defense of Helen the assertion that she went to Troy with Prince Paris because of the persuasive, even compelling, "power of speech." If you are familiar with what is said about and by Helen in The Iliad and The Odyssey, to what extent does Homer's representation back up Gorgias' argument?

3. On 33, Gorgias concludes, "I wished to write this speech for Helen's encomium and my amusement." That may seem an unflattering admission, but how might it be understood as part of the Sophist Gorgias' rhetorical strategy? In what sense does it align his argument with the nature of the subject matter?

4. General question -- aside from wanting to amuse himself, what's the point of going so far as to praise Helen for allegedly being compelled to elope with Paris to Troy? Why not simply acquit her rather than sing her praises? What is it that Gorgias is aligning himself with (and what is he by implication opposing) when he praises Helen?

Edition: Leitch, Vincent B., ed. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 1st ed. New York: Norton, 2001. ISBN 0-393-97429-4.