Platonic Synergy: A Circular Reading of the Sophist and Timaeus

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Abstract

The Sophist, with its ostensible goal of locating and defining the sophist, is among the Platonic dialogues often read by rhetoricians. Plato’s Timaeus, less so. This has been an oversight because the Timaeus provides a metaphysical explanation for Plato’s anxieties about sophistry and rhetoric. When read together, the Sophist and Timaeus warn of the dangers of sophistry, though they do so in contrasting ways. The Sophist directs us to the external world while the Timaeus directs us inward toward an eternal, unchanging reality. We learn from the Timaeus that sophistry causes both corporeal and metaphysical wandering, a type of motion which runs counter to that of the natural order of the universe and which Plato associates with opportunism and instability. He contrasts wandering with the circular motion associated with philosophical steadfastness. Reading these dialogues in tandem reveals a set of overlapping dichotomies which connect the Timaeus to other dialogues in which Plato addresses sophistry and rhetoric.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-273
JournalJournal for the History of Rhetoric
Volume24
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

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