Comparing Rhetorical Thinkers

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April 18, 2013

Comparing Rhetorical Thinkers

Rhetorical scholars throughout the ages have had different hypotheses as to how Absolute Truth/Knowledge actually function within the human schemata. Today, the debate is still reasonably lively, but I believe humanity is no closer to “knowing” the unknown than the Ancients were. That is not to say, however, that we do not know more in our current times than the Ancients were vastly ignorant of, but rather that we are ignorant still in a myriad of subjects. Absolute Truth/Knowledge is a harrowing topic to consider as it flushes out the deepest notions of humanity from the darkest corners of the mind. Nearly every rhetor has considered the topic, but in my own opinion, none have so clearly delimited the boundaries more accurately than Plato and Kenneth Burke. Though they have different views on Absolute Truth/Knowledge, they maintain similarities in key areas and generate a placated landscape where we can clearly see the possibilities of the mind.

Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” delivers an unforgettable message about knowledge and the education of the mind and soul. He speaks directly to Glaucon, who is constructed to be his audience, and asks many questions about how one might act if they are/were in the “Cave.” The Cave is a representation of a fledgling mind and/or soul that is bare from the Absolute Truth, or even Knowledge in general. To Plato, those who are dull and stupid are the prisoners within the Cave, shackled to stare at a wall of shadows (perceived truths) their entire lives, and only by “being released from their bonds and cured of their ignorance” [Grube, 1992, p. 187] are they allowed to gaze at the actual truths around and beyond them. Plato goes on to explain that once leaving the darkness of the dwelling and learning what lies beyond its boundaries (real knowledge), the once prisoner is obliged to return to the dwelling and share what he has learned with...
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