The Carnage of Just Speech
Section Eschenburg Thursday 9:00am
Topic B Aristophanes & Pericles
In Aristophanes’ play, “clouds”, there is a battle between the “old” and “new” way of going out about life. This can be seen through the “just” and “unjust” speech, whose argumentative outcomes dictate the way in which society should go about educating its citizens. The “unjust speech”, which is a heavy logical and manipulative approach to thinking about life (“new”), seems to subvert the “just speech”, which appears to rely on moral and mythical justification (“old”). Pericles, a prominent and influential Politian in Athens, has argued that democracy is the best form of government because it fairly produces the most educated and excellent citizens, through freedom to act as they please, which will eventually shape there soul into a great person (Warner 145). Thus, if citizens are allowed to wonder freely and be tolerated with respect by fellow citizens as Pericles describes, and if Socrates (a Greek philosopher) and the “thinkry” spread their “unjust speech” rhetoric, Pericles’s platform for greatness will not make the Athenians the most excellent and educated citizens. In fact it is going to make them into worse people, people who are going to fundamentally question the value of their institution. Ultimately, Aristophanes suggests that democracy cannot work in unison with “unjust speech”, which undermines Pericles argument that “unjust speech” should be tolerated under democracy, because “unjust speech” uses its persuasive power to disassembles the collective wisdom democracy has built and allows the few who understand its power to create an unequal society (West). Aristophanes argues if a democracy is faced with a society of unequal powers then it could transform the democratic system Pericles drew up, where all powers were to be divided equally among citizens, into an oligarchy or tyranny, with the citizens using unjust speech to gain majority power and dictate policy (West). Whenever policies are designed by a few in power they tend not to reflect or benefit those in the larger majority without power. If policies don’t benefit and represent as many people as possible then they are ineffective policies. This educates the citizens of Athens to become one of the elites because policy and power will favor them more then others. Aristophanes doesn’t believe that is the best or fairest form of education. Therefore, unjust speech can’t operate in union with democracy because it turns an egalitarian society into unequal powers and causes ineffective policies to be implemented. In Pericles’s, “Funeral Oration”, he briefly discusses the war and chooses to not talk about who died, but the reason for which they died (Warner 144). He states, “It is more the case of our being a model to others, than of our imitating anyone else”(Warner 145), which basically says that the Athenian government is the best in the world, and in order to keep it alive and running citizens must die to defend it. Aristophanes is concerned with what kind of government it is and how it’s designed. Pericles address that concern when stating, “Our constitution is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people” and “everyone is equal before the law; when it is a question of putting one person before another in positions of public responsibility, what counts is not membership of a particular class, but the actual ability which the man possesses”(Warner 145). Aristophanes undermines this by arguing if what counts is the ability which the man possesses, then unjust speech allows that membership to form through mans ability to manipulate and win arguments, which gives unjust speakers more power then other citizens and they are now unequally advantage against the law and have the power in their hands instead of the majority (West). Pericles also states, “In public affairs we...
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