Chat with us, powered by LiveChat According to the text what is a communication symbol? How does it contribute to the miracle of language?? Have you ever thought about communication in this same way? 2.?Both Gorgias and Pr - Writeedu

According to the text what is a communication symbol? How does it contribute to the miracle of language?? Have you ever thought about communication in this same way? 2.?Both Gorgias and Pr

 ***I already converted the scanned textbook into word to make it easier for you***

The Classical Origins of Public Speaking                                     

Upon reading Michael and Suzanne Osborn’s Classical Origins of Public Speaking (located in the Supplemental Readings section of D2L and attached below), please answer the following questions on a separate WORD document that includes your name, date, and title of the assignment. Please number each answer and make sure that your name is on this assignment as well as all others.

Your answers should be thorough and well reasoned approx. 5-10 sentences in length for each question, and evidence an in-depth understanding of the reading material.  Upload your WORD document in the drop box.

1. According to the text what is a communication symbol? How does it contribute to the “miracle of language”? Have you ever thought about communication in this same way?

2. Both Gorgias and Protagoras emphasize the precarious nature of truth in their approach to rhetoric.  According to the text, why is the idea that “humans make their own truth” central to the nature of communication? 

3. Thrasymachus thought speakers gained power by emphasizing presentation skills and impressive language over actual content. Do you agree with this strategy or might this vary from situation to situation? Can you think of any current media, political, or entertainment industry examples of Thrasymachus’ point of view?

4. Give an example for each of Aristotle’s theory of proofs (Logos, Ethos, Pathos).  How can you, as a public speaker, employ these tools to your advantage? 

5. What would be the effect of requiring citizens today to present their own cases in court? Would you favor such a system? Do you favor more direct participation, and public communication by citizens in government? Would Plato?

6. In your own opinion, why is the study of ancient rhetoric important to today’s student of public speaking? How can you apply these theories to your own communication or speaking?

When, how, and why did people become speakers and listeners? Spoken words do not leave traces in the earth or in stone, or lasting impressions in the air. There are no fossils, no natural history, for the spoken uses of language. Consequently, we must reconstruct the early story of speaking and listening by using our imaginations and drawing upon what scientists can tell us about prehistoric humanity. Through the time machine of informed imagination, we can rush back through the blur of thousands of years until we come onto a scene that must have been typical.

It is night on the savannas of Africa, and huddled around a campfire that provides warmth and protection against the darkness beyond are some forty creatures who have human form. The campfire may have been the original site of civilization. It provided a time for conversation, an exercise period for the new and dawning power of speech. Through speech these early persons could exchange and build ideas, interpret the experiences of the day and learn from them, and plan for the experiences of the morrow. They also could settle disputes, and tell stories that would remind them of heroic accomplishments. In other words, around these ancient campfires humans would first practice forms of public conversation that the Greeks later identified as basic types of public speaking: forensic speech, which deals with judgments of past behavior in search of justice; deliberative speech, which debates plans for future action; and ceremonial speech, which celebrates the actions, traditions, and values of group life.

Before we leave this ancient scene, let us toss another log on the blaze and consider a few more features of our communication nature, as revealed in the faces that huddle close together around the protective fire. We have evolved as social beings, dependent for our survival and well-being on the quality of words that pass among us in public speech. The key to our social nature is our eyes. Did you ever consider the way our eyes are placed in our heads? If we were intended to be entirely self-sufficient, the placement of our eyes would hardly make sense. In that case, we would have a band of vision that extends around our heads, providing us information from every direction. What we have developed instead is telescopic vision, that offers us only partial access to our environment, just that part in front of us. Within that narrow range telescopic vision does make it possible for us to focus with great precision and intensity on whatever objects interest or concern us. But the price of this precise but partial focus is that behind us and to the sides of us, we are blind, ignorant, and vulnerable.

How could humankind ever have survived with such an uneven capability of vision in such a threatening and uncertain world? The answer is obvious: humans could survive only by coexisting in groups, in which different individuals could focus simultaneously in different directions and relay cries of warning or opportunity to other group members. Archaeologists confirm that early hominids lived in bands of 30 to 50 creatures. They were social creatures who had to communicate to survive.

Early humans were also toolmakers, and our evolution can be traced in the quality of the tools we invented to shape our environment. But the greatest technology we ever devised was the communication symbol, which allows us to talk about things when they are not actually present. Communication symbols stand for objects, actions, qualities, relationships, and connections, and are combined into an integrated system called language. The miracle of language is that it enables us to introduce order, meaning, and purpose into our lives. Language makes it possible for us to control our environment, not just react to it. It makes intelligence effective. Like other animals, we can signal each other with cries of warning or pleasure, but we humans go beyond signal communication in our ability to discuss objects when they are far away in space or time. This symbolic communication even allows us to talk about dreams and goals that exist only in a world beyond sensations, a world we have made out of values and ideas. The communication symbol, exchanged in conversations around the many campfires of our lives, multiplies our capacity to learn about our past, to remember the lessons we have learned, and to set up plans and directions to plot our future.

Because it can make wisdom effective in public speeches, the communication symbol is vital to leadership. Clearly, the communication symbol has empowered our species. And it follows that the more proficient we become in using symbols, the more empowered we may be in our public and private lives.

Developing the Theory of Public Communication

As our campfire vignette suggests, humans were practicing public speaking long before they began thinking about it as a practical art form. Public speaking was a natural response to their needs, and as they developed the gift of speech, early humans began to add the sapiens (meaning "wisdom") that would justify their eventual designation as homo sapiens. When did they first begin to reflect upon this power of words, and why did they develop conceptions of their own ability to speak?

To answer this question, we must return on our trip through time until we arrive at a rugged, mountainous land (now called Greece) about three thousand years ago.! Just as the campfire is tied inextricably to earliest civilization, so are these Greek mountains connected to early speculation about speech and to the ongoing human condition that communication tries to relieve. The mountains of Greece always divided that ancient land, making it both difficult and valuable to communicate successfully among peoples. But then, don't we humans often build our own mountains between ourselves and others that make communication hazardous and hard to achieve?

The great Homeric poems reflect the fascination of these early Greeks for the spoken word. Both the lliad and the Odyssey are filled with speeches, often given on the eve of battle. The heroic Odysseus is described admiringly as a man who can "talk his way out of troubles," a man "clever with words." This admiration for speech would carry over into a quest to understand the power and mystery of communication, producing that body of thought we now call rhetorical theory. The motive behind such theory was the desire to harness the power of the communication symbol so that it might be more productive, and useful rather than harmful to society.

Besides their natural curiosity, the Greeks were driven by one other great motivator, the gradual growth of the power of ordinary citizens to control their own destinies. This process was especially important in Athens, which became the center of a brilliant civilization. During a series of wars the common people received political concessions and wealth in return for risking their lives as soldiers. As Athens grew in power, trade developed, and new money flowed in to counterbalance the power of the old aristocracy. More power distributed among more people brought new opportunities and responsibilities for self-government. In that heady time all thing seemed possible, even the distant dream of justice and freedom. But to reach those dreams would require direct, constant participation in civic life and the creation of institutions that would make public communication effective.

It was natural, for example, that people who were coming into new economic and political power would want to own their own land. As old systems of land ownership began to break down and disappear, arguments over who owned the rights to land were constant. In earlier days such disputes might have been settled by force; to their credit, however, the Greeks developed the idea of trial by jury to settle such disputes. We may take the legal system for granted, but to the early Greeks it was a wondrous invention, bringing justice to their lives. The price of such justice was that ordinary citizens had to learn to speak and represent themselves before these courts. There were no attorneys in those days. During the so-called Golden Age of Greece citizens might have to address juries as large as five hundred persons. If the picture provided by the playwright Aristophanes (in The Wasps) rings true, these were turbulent, noisy crowds that often shouted questions and challenged speakers. To speak before them might make bungee-jumping seem tame! The fortunes of the Athenians, even their lives, might well depend on their ability to speak under such conditions. Therefore, they placed great value on instruction in speech.

Self-government also meant that the Athenians had to participate personally in the assemblies that determined public policies and established laws. Just as they had no lawyers, they also did not elect representatives. They themselves assumed the responsibilities of speaking and listening, debating, deliberating, and deciding on the policies and plans that would govern their lives. Nowhere in place or time have the duties of public communication been felt more keenly by ordinary citizens.

Despite all the problems they encountered, the people grew as human beings as they assumed these responsibilities. It was as though the magnitude of the challenge made them grow from within, and this expansion of the spirit was one of the key factors in that outpouring of creativity and genius in all fields of art and knowledge during the Golden Age.

To answer our question, it was the Greeks who first reflected systematically upon the power of speech, and they did it both to satisfy their curiosity and to meet deep communal and political needs. For them, instruction in speech was both a pleasure and an overwhelming necessity. How they accomplished it is the story of the rest of this chapter.

The Work of the Sophists

To meet these educational desires and needs, a group of teachers called "sophists" offered the first instruction in public speaking. "Sophistry" now denotes clever, deceitful speech, suggesting that some of these teachers did show, as Plato charges, "how to make the worse appear the better cause." It was their bad fortune that Plato's unflattering portraits determined how they would be remembered for eternity. In his own time, however, Plato himself was regarded as a sophist, in direct competition with many of those whom he ridiculed. "Sophist" originally meant "man of wisdom," and it is in this spirit that we wish to consider the sophists' work. Many of them made significant contributions to the theory of human communication, in addition to helping make democracy work. In the following pages we will consider how five of these sophists enriched the heritage of rhetoric.

Corax (and Tisias)

As noted earlier, land disputes were a major subject of legal disputes in ancient Greece. These disputes developed early, and with special ferocity, on the island of Sicily. The sophists who were there at the beginning of these disputes were Corax and his student, Tisias, who wrote a lost treatise on forensic speaking. We know of their work through stories and quotations by others. Land disputes in ancient Greece were often murky, the records disputed, the facts hard to determine. Corax observed that since certainty is hard to attain in disputes, speakers must seek to establish probabilities and to reconstruct plausible accounts of reality, creating an impression of the likelihood of truth.

Much of what we know of Corax and of Tisias is hearsay, and some of that is mildly humorous. The name, "Corax,' was unfortunately close to the Greek word for crow (korax), suggesting that the sophist must have suffered all his life from bad puns. One story, which also illustrates the methods of probability at work in the courts, concerns a suit that Corax allegedly brought against Tisias, charging that the student had refused to pay for his instruction in public speaking. When the grave Corax stood before the jury, he argued: "I will build today a formidable case, which should merit your verdict. On the other hand, if Tisias seems more convincing, this only proves that I have taught him well and deserve my fee, expensive though it may seem." When the crafty Tisias stood to respond, he said: "I will lay before you such a convincing array of proofs that you cannot help but award me the verdict. On the other hand, if I seem incompetent, and Corax is more persuasive, this only proves the probable worthlessness of his instruction. That too should earn your vote in my favor, because I should not have to pay for bad teaching."

It is said that the jurors, drinking wine in the Greek sunshine and jeering as the orators spoke, simply hooted both of them out of court. Legend has it that one heckler shouted: kakou korakos kakaoa ("'Bad eggs are all you are likely to get from a bad crow!").

As unkind as legend may be to the memory of Corax, Aristotle takes him seriously enough to criticize his approach to probability in some detail. The topic of probability, grounded as it was in a quite pragmatic situation, nevertheless suggested to later sophists that objective truth may always be difficult if not impossible to find. What we take to be the truth, the meaning we find in things, is often the product of our own symbolizing. Reality is often the projection of our own interpretations, expectations, and fantasies. This idea continues to resonate in contemporary philosophical disputes about the relationship between discourse and reality and the limitations of scientific investigation.

A second major contribution of Corax was that he developed a four-part pattern for the arrangement of forensic speeches:

1. Introduction, in which speakers conciliate listeners and establish identification with them;

2. Narration, in which speakers tell their stories of disputed events clearly and vividly in order to convey an impression of reality:

3. Argument, in which speakers interpret the meaning of these events, imputing good and bad motives as appropriate, and presenting proofs to support their interpretations;

4. Conclusion or peroration, in which speakers summarize the main points of the cases, paint the consequences of favor- able or unfavorable decisions by the juries, and plead for favorable verdicts.

Corax seems to have been an astute, practical observer. He left ideas of lasting value behind him, especially this notion that speeches should have a strategic pattern of development. You will find much in your text about the importance of effective form and how to achieve it in various speech situations. 


Gorgias, an orator who could hold crowds spellbound with his eloquence, brought the new art of public discourse from Sicily to Athens, where both he and it quickly became the rage. Gorgias remains interesting to us for two reasons: first, his skepticism about truth and knowledge, and second, his emphasis on verbal artistry.

As a skeptic, Gorgias followed in the tradition of Corax, who found truth to be elusive and who taught orators to create instead the appearance of truth. For Gorgias, the uncertain nature of truth in land disputes was a metaphor for the status of truth in general; truth was at best, he thought, a shadow, an appearance, an illusion. Gorgias argued (1 ) that truth, if it exists, is divine and infinite, outside place and time. But (2), if truth does exist in this way, then it is impossible for humans to know it, for we exist within space and time. So (3), if we cannot know truth, then we cannot possibly communicate about it.

It is interesting to observe the parallels between Gorgias and modern philosophers such as the Existentialists, who emphasize the meaninglessness of our lives unless and until we create the meaning. But unlike the despair in which such thinking appears to end, Gorgias saw positive, even heroic implications. He felt that through words, people can create a community of values, ideals, and purposes. Against a background of nothingness, Gorgias insists on the human power to build reality through the resources of language. Words become the torches we hold up against the darkness that surrounds our lives. Gorgias went on to examine the power of words, and founded that branch of rhetorical study known as style, presented in more detail in Chapter 10 of your text.

Gorgias's approach to word power raises serious questions. If there is no objective reality against which we can test the accuracy and honesty of many words, then language may be used to deceive us. Contemporary scholars have identified certain forms of linguistic power to which we may be especially vulnerable. Such words may command us by their connection with our values, as in "Progress demands that we go forward with this plan”. Other powerful words seem licensed by our political faith to give fateful orders; for example, "We must be willing to die to defend freedom and the American way." Still others associate with natural experiences that move all humans, such as, "This plan will carry us out of the darkness of today into the light of tomorrow." Words undeniably have the heroic potential Gorgias portrayed, but they also can betray us. As students of public communication, we must learn how to identify the one form of usage and guard against the other. And for this recognition we owe a considerable debt to Gorgias.


Protagoras follows in the skeptical tradition of Corax and Gorgias. If truth is unknowable and meaning is but a construction of our own symbols, then, concluded Protagoras, "Man is the Measure of all Things." This memorable statement summarizes the sophistic point of view while it celebrates our capacity to create a world of values and judgments. Therefore, it also heralds the philosophical and ethical tradition of humanism, which places humanity at the moral center of the universe. Humanists concentrate on how to improve peoples' lives and how to enhance and enlarge their moral and spiritual natures.

Protagoras had to confront a serious problem: If truth is humanmade through communication, then truth must also be an uncertain, precarious product. It must change with time and circumstance and be subject to errors of prejudice and logic. If this is so, how can we have any confidence that the truth we are accepting at the moment is justified? To answer this troubling question, Protagoras suggested the discipline of debate, which tests all claims to truth against competing claims in open encounters before audiences qualified to decide which is superior and inferior. Since debate reveals errors of information, logic, and argument, then debate can help improve our thinking. Truth claims that can survive such rigorous challenge are most worthy of our trust. Thus skepticism had found its method, its means of dealing with the problem of redefining truth as a human invention. For Protagoras, no truth claim was sacred, above the possible indignity of refutation. 

Protagoras had his critics, both in public and in intellectual life. Many suggested that he was a heretic, since he encouraged, or at least tolerated, debates about the divinity of the gods. Socrates charged that Protagoras emphasized winning debates over any truth-values they might have. But the sophists answered that the prevailing point of view in disputes was the truth, and that debate disciplined the process by which truth was discovered.

Despite such criticisms, the students of Protagoras enjoyed many benefits from his instruction. He made education exciting, filled with conflict and color. On a deeper level, he taught students the virtues of caution and tolerance. If truth was human- made and fallible, then one must be very careful before committing to a side in conflict. If people often differ in their perceptions of issues, and "right" and "wrong" are products of a point of view, then one should be more broad-minded in understanding the commitments of others. Those educated in the tradition of Protagoras recognize that truth is elusive–you cannot capture it like fireflies in a bottle. Right and wrong, good and evil, truth and falsehood, rarely line up on opposing sides, and choices are often not simple and easy. Rather, contending sides usually have their own versions of truth and morality. The difficulty of choosing between them is that we must reject and lose the values and virtues of the one even as we endorse the values and virtues of the other.

One problem with the skeptical attitude toward truth is that it can discourage us from making any deep commitment to a point of view. We can develop the disease of indecision. Another problem is that debate can lead us to see only two sides of an issue, those that are most clearly in conflict. This two-valued orientation can cause us to ignore or overlook other actions that might bridge the opposing sides and gain the advantages of both. For example, in the debates between industrialists and environmentalists, what may be needed is an option that would emphasize protecting the environment as an industry, devising technology to counteract the ravages of humankind. If we are too emersed in the debate perspective, we might miss that kind of creative option.

Despite such problems, the ideas of Protagoras have enriched our culture. The discipline of debate is built into our democratic political systems and into all intellectual systems that value inquiry and discourage blind conformity to ideas. Protagoras taught us to discipline verbal conflict so that it might become productive and helped us manage the responsibilities of freedom.


Different sophists reacted in different ways to the central insight that truth outside any human agency is essentially unknowable. In contrast to Protagoras, who sought to perfect the human way of constructing truth, Thrasymachus framed an ethical response.

If humans cannot enjoy divine truth, they should emphasize personal power. Powerful people, thought Thrasymachus, enjoy lives of influence and fulfillment.

In pursuit of power, Thrasymachus offered his students practical instruction. Rather than focus on the content of speeches, he emphasized the impression speakers make in their presentation. He especially stressed the importance of a pleasing rhythm in vocal patterns, suggesting also that those who sound confident and knowledgeable, whose voices are commanding, and whose gestures are dramatic, usually succeed before audiences. He also emphasized stirring and engaging the emotions of listeners, an important key to rhetorical power. While such techniques are often criticized, ethically sound, well-conceived messages often seek to move listeners, in addition to courting their rational consent. Speakers must often overcome a certain inertia in listeners: even when audience members are convinced, they may not wish to act. At that moment, lessons drawn from the tradition of Thrasymachus may be quite useful.

Thrasymachus also contributed to the growing interest in style. He may have explored the concept of what we now call the trope, that is, a powerful figure of speech that can give distinction and originality to the spoken word. Tropes like the metaphor ("Her words flamed with feeling") or the synecdoche ("'The tongue is more powerful than the arm") can make ideas more memorable and influential. Modern literary and rhetorical scholars have extended and deepened the concept of the trope. For example, Kenneth Burke has identified certain "master tropes" as major ways of presenting subjects." The metaphor "flamed" in the above example gives us a unique perspective on how the speaker spoke by using new and surprising language instead of an expected word. By using parts to represent the whole, the synecdoche "tongue" and "arm" illustrate a complex idea, the comparative strength of eloquence and of physical force in most situations. More than devices of decoration and impressiveness, Burke noted, such tropes are the mold of our creativity. Thrasymachus had discovered a very rich concept for exploration as he sought to enhance the power of speakers.


While Thrasymachus sought personal' power in place of truth, Isocrates found a loftier alternative. Isocrates wished to build an ideal society among the Greek peoples he loved. He wanted his students to think not so much of personal gain as of the

contribution they might make to civilization through the wisdom and selflessness of their words. His attitude toward the civic power of speech is indicated eloquently in the following quotation:

Because there has been implanted in us the power to persuade each other and to make clear to each other whatever we desire, not only have we escaped the life of the wild beasts, but we have come together and founded cities and made laws and invented arts; and, generally speaking, there is no institution devised by man which the power of speech has not helped us to establish ."

It followed that those who spoke well would be the natural leaders of society.

In pursuit of his civic vision, Isocrates built the most influential school of his day, one that became the prototype for many practices in the modern university. For example, he screened his students carefully with respect to natural ability. Because speaking before the Athenian courts and assemblies was so stressful, Isocrates also required that his students demonstrate courage and vocal strength. He expected them to stay with him for three or four years of intense training. They would get a liberal arts education, which included acknowledge of Greek culture as well as theories of writing and speaking. He required students to write themes applying the principles they had learned, and he criticized them closely, from the ideas they developed to the wording they used. He also worked with them on presentational skills, drilling them until the idea of addressing the difficult Greek audiences would hold no terror for them. Finally, he would take them into the marketplace to present "recital" speeches before live audiences. No doubt some stumbled over this last barrier, but others would sleep into leadership positions in the state. Then Isocrates could watch with pride as his prize students helped enact his vision of a greater Greece. Old Man Eloquent, he was called. He knew that the Greece of his day was a miracle, and that it was worth spending one's life to make a contribution to its quality. That was his answer to the tragic condition described by the sophists. 

The Sophists in Overview

The five sophists we have considered can all be viewed in response to the central idea that humans make their own truth.

Corax recognized that probability, not absolute truth, must be the goal of the speaker in an uncertain world and showed how forensic speeches should be artfully arranged. Gorgias emphasized our creative, even heroic, capacity to create a world of meaningful values and goals. He emphasized the importance of words as tools to build a universe of shared meaning. Protagoras confronted a problem central to the sophistic position: in a world of relativistic

truth, how can we know whom to trust, or whose version of truth to accept? His answer was the discipline of debate, deliberately confronting contending claims to see how well they stood up

under the ordeal of verbal conflict.

Thrasymachus believed that if all truth was transitory and changing, then humans could enjoy only the power of their own abilities with words and the success they might achieve. He emphasized presentational skills and impressive language that could arouse the emotions of listeners. Isocrates emphasized communal over individual values, teaching the power of speech so that his students might become leaders of the Greek world. Of the five considered, he was the greatest educator, leaving a heritage of excellence to challenge all teachers who would follow. His influence can be seen in the idea of the modern university, especially in its emphasis on liberal arts education as the foundation of all knowledge.

Through the work of these and other sophists, a body of knowledge on public communication began to accumulate. It was in need, however, of some master intellect who would organize it, fill in its empty places, and shape its overall meaning. That master

intellect was Aristotle, and his treatise is called On Rhetoric.

Aristotle's Ideas on Public Communication

Aristotle wrote the Rhetoric around the middle of the fourth century B.C. near the end of the Golden Age. Thus he had the advantage of all the theoretical work that had been done during

the century before and was in an ideal position to complete, integrate, refine, and place in perspective those ideas about human communication.

It would be a mistake, however, to think of the Rhetoric merely as an advanced expression of the work of the sophists. Aristotle began, with a premise fundamentally different from that of

sophistic rhetoric. He was not especially concerned with the existence or nonexistence of ideal truth, nor was he interested in public communication's work in constructing the meaning of life.

Rather, Aristotle had the mind of a scientist, asking questions such as "What can we learn by observing life around us?" It is this spirit of inquiry and curiosity that breathes through the

Rhetoric. And by the quality of his perceptions and interpretations, Aristotle lifted the study of communication until it became the serious subject for learning and research that it remains today.

Definition of Rhetoric

Rather than focusing on

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