Rhetoric and philosophy in the age of the Second Sophistic : real conflict or fight for controversy?

Source document: Graeco-Latina Brunensia. 2015, vol. 20, iss. 1, pp. [19]-32
  • ISSN
    1803-7402 (print)
    2336-4424 (online)
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The tension between the two dominant educational disciplines, rhetoric and philosophy, has been a phenomenon of much relevancy in ancient literature ever since the time of Plato. The question of the problematic relationship between the two professions in the era of the so-called Second Sophistic has received much scholarly attention recently, nevertheless, some questions still remain unanswered. This article discusses to what extent, if at all, any strict boundaries exist between rhetoric and philosophy of this era. The evidence material includes mainly the works of Roman representatives of the Second Sophistic movement ‒ Apuleius, Aulus Gellius and Marcus Cornelius Fronto; the Platonic corpus and works of Greek authors are used, as well, to complete the image. These suggest that if there actually is any sign of antagonism between the two disciplines, it has to be perceived as highly artificial and under the influence of the contemporary requirements. The need to provoke a reaction could be another strong motivation of these texts, since any kind of controversy was crucial to the self-presentation of anyone who pursued a career in rhetoric or philosophy. Eventually, there are aspects indicating that rhetoric and philosophy cooperated to anchor the position of the privileged elite as opposed to the new threat of democratization of educational institutions.
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