RHETORIKE is ‘art of speaking’. This word probably comes into use among the followers of Sokrates (Socrates) in the fifth century BC . Then, it first appears in the dialogue Gorghias (Gorgias) by Platon (Plato), possibly written about 385 BC.
<Rhetorike> indicates the art of public speaking which starts to expand in Ancient Greece in the centuries BC. In fact, this art becomes widespread in deliberative assemblies, law courts, and other formal occasions. As such, it belongs to a more general attitude regarding the power of words and their potential to affect situations.
In the Platon’s dialogue 449e, Sokrates asks Gorghias to describe the true nature of rhetoric, framing his argument in the question format. Hence, he asks “…why don’t you tell us yourself what the craft you’re an expert in is, and therefore what we’re supposed to call you?“.
Throughout the dialogue, Sokrates elaborates on the nature of rhetoric. Although rhetoric has the potential to be just and informative, Sokrates thinks that, in reality, rhetoric is just flattery. The rhetoricians make the audience feel worthy because they can identify with the rhetoricians’ arguments.
<Rhetorike> is ‘art of speaking’. So, it is an ‘art’. And a not-at-all-easy art. It requires a lot of qualities and an intensive training. Nonetheless, this art generally is not in the name of truth. Indeed, it very often hides or confuses the truth. Therefore, philosophers tend to strongly mark their distance from sophists and rhetoricians. They believe, with Sokrates, that people need philosophy to teach them what is right, and that oratory cannot be righteous without philosophy.