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A Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science

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The Good-Directedness of Τέχνη and the Status of Rhetoric in the Platonic Dialogues

Emily Hulme Kozey
Published Online: 2018-10-16 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/apeiron-2017-0072


Does a τέχνη, qua τέχνη, need to be good-directed? On the basis of the Gorgias, many scholars have thought the answer is yes; I argue here to the contrary. There are, of course, many beneficial τέχναι, such as medicine and weaving; and there are even unconditionally good τέχναι, like the πολιτικὴ τέχνη; but Plato also happily construes piracy as a τέχνη in the Sophist, and, more normally, all sorts of neutral practices as τέχναι (e.g., drama). In order to make this argument, I provide a taxonomy of the different kinds of τέχναι and demonstrate that, across the corpus, there does not seem to be a good-directedness requirement. I then address the evidence of the Gorgias, where most commentators find a connection between τέχνη and good-directedness. I argue that this interpretation is incorrect, and that rhetoric in fact fails to be a τέχνη in the Gorgias solely because it is unable to give a rational account. A close reading of the Gorgias shows that this is a plausible interpretation, and comparison with the Phaedrus reinforces the point: in both dialogues, whether rhetoric will be a τέχνη or not hinges only on the question of rationality, not a good-directedness condition.

Keywords: techne; rhetoric; Gorgias; Plato

All translations are my own unless otherwise noted. Abbreviations of authors and works are those of the Oxford Classical Dictionary, 4th ed.


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About the article

Published Online: 2018-10-16

Citation Information: Apeiron, ISSN (Online) 2156-7093, ISSN (Print) 0003-6390, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/apeiron-2017-0072.

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