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Dialectic In Dialogue: The Message Of Plato’s Protagoras And Aristotle’s Topics

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Chapter Summary

If ever there was a dialogue of Plato from which one could get the impression that Sokrates is a sophist, it is the Protagoras: the setting, main characters and the debating style all seem to point in that direction. This chapter shows that a well-informed reading of the debating technique in this dialogue is the key to unlocking the message underlying the confusing role-reversals and un-Socratic behaviour of Sokrates. It explores the value of Plato's Protagoras for the knowledge of dialectical debating practices in Athens, by looking at the dialogue as a written record of oral debating techniques. The chapter argues that the way in which the playful debate between Sokrates and Protagoras is being described shows up striking similarities with the more serious and systematic account of dialectic as found in Aristotle's Topics 8.

Keywords: Aristotle's Topics; dialectical debating practices; oral debating techniques; Plato's Protagoras; Sokrates



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