An Ancient Warning on the Power and Peril of Rhetoric

John C Brady: In his dialogue Gorgias, Plato drafts a fictional conversation between Socrates and a group of pre-Socratic philosophers and teachers known as sophists, who were famed for their mastery of rhetoric. This experimental video essay from Epoché Magazine combines somewhat cryptic archival visuals, a haunting, dissonant score, and text from an exchange between Socrates and the titular Gorgias on the nature of oratory. In particular, Socrates’ interrogations address the powers and perils of rhetoric as a persuasive device, especially if used to convince mass audiences to adopt a ‘belief without knowledge’. Embedded in the exchange is both a clear expression of Plato’s anti-democratic sentiment and a critique of the ‘art of oratory’ that still resonates some two millennia later.

Video edited for clarity and duration