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Isocrates and Civic Education

Edited by Takis Poulakos and David Depew

Publication Year: 2004

Civic virtue and the type of education that produces publicly minded citizens became a topic of debate in American political discourse of the 1980s, as it once was among the intelligentsia of Classical Athens. Conservatives such as former National Endowment for the Humanities chairman William Bennett and his successor Lynn Cheney held up the Greek philosopher Aristotle as the model of a public-spirited, virtue-centered civic educator. But according to the contributors in this volume, a truer model, both in his own time and for ours, is Isocrates, one of the preeminent intellectual figures in Greece during the fourth century B.C. In this volume, ten leading scholars of Classics, rhetoric, and philosophy offer a pathfinding interdisciplinary study of Isocrates as a civic educator. Their essays are grouped into sections that investigate Isocrates’ program in civic education in general (J. Ober, T. Poulakos) and in comparison to the Sophists (J. Poulakos, E. Haskins), Plato (D. Konstan, K. Morgan), Aristotle (D. Depew, E. Garver), and contemporary views about civic education (R. Hariman, M. Leff). The contributors show that Isocrates’ rhetorical innovations carved out a deliberative process that attached moral choices to political questions and addressed ethical concerns as they could be realized concretely. His notions of civic education thus created perspectives that, unlike the elitism of Aristotle, could be used to strengthen democracy.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

The origins of the essays in this volume lie in the 1998 Obermann Humanities Symposium, “Civic Education in Classical Athens and Humanities Education Today.” The symposium was held at the University of Iowa under the sponsorship of the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies in October 1998. The editors are grateful to the Obermann Center, and especially...

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pp. 1-18

CIVIC virtue, and the sort of public education that was supposed to inculcate it, became something of a theme in American political discourse during the nineteen eighties. In this context, appeals were often made to the ancient Greeks as having had a deep commitment to educate their citizens with a view to virtues of character and devotion to public life. Among...

PART ONE: Isocrates and Classical Civic Education

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1. I, Socrates . . . The Performative Audacity of Isocrates’ Antidosis

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pp. 21-43

ATHENS, in the fourth century b.c., was an interesting place for any number of reasons, and not least because of the fierce political debates among some of its most highly educated and highly articulate residents. Some of these debates were carried out in public and drew large audiences: the policy battles in the Ecclesia and the forensic contests in the people’s...

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2. Isocrates’ Civic Education and the Question of Doxa

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pp. 44-65

PERICLES’ funeral oration registers the keen sense of awareness the Athenians had of themselves as citizens, and affirms the immense significance that they attached to citizenship.1 As the words of their leader make clear in this oration, Athenians saw citizenship not only as guaranteeing them equality before the law, but also as providing them with unique opportunities...

PART TWO: Isocrates and the Sophists

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3. Rhetoric and Civic Education: From the Sophists to Isocrates

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pp. 69-83

STARTING WITH the age of the Sophists, civic education in the Greek world assumed a distinctly rhetorical character.1 What made it rhetorical was its focus as well as its scope and goal. Its focus was on logos, that instrumentality which influences human thought and directs human action. Its scope included primarily the affairs of the city-state and the ways in...

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4. Logos and Power in Sophistical and Isocratean Rhetoric

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pp. 84-103

JOHN POULAKOS has stressed the historical and situational discontinuity between sophistical and Isocratean visions of rhetoric. As he has pointed out, the difference between Gorgias’ and Isocrates’ terms for logosdunastes versus hegemon—indicates radically divergent perspectives on the relationship between rhetoric and power. Gorgias exposes logos in its...

PART THREE: Isocrates and Plato

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5. Isocrates’ “Republic”

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pp. 107-124

WERNER JAEGER began the first of the chapters dedicated to Isocrates in his magisterial book, Paideia (1957: 830), with the observation that “Isocrates, as the most prominent representative of rhetoric, personifies the classic antithesis of what Plato and his school stood for.” Jaeger’s view, and the contrast between philosophy and rhetoric which it presupposes, have...

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6. The Education of Athens: Politics and Rhetoric in Isocrates and Plato

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pp. 125-154

AS THE new millennium opens, Isocrates seems primed to become an intellectual hero and promoter of a specifically democratic rhetoric and education.1 A recent commentator notes that “It is quite possible to see Isocrates’ mild skepticism as an important humanist voice, a persistence of that liberal, nondogmatic strain of sophistry that conceived of study as being directed...

PART FOUR: Isocrates and Aristotle

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7. The Inscription of Isocrates into Aristotle’s Practical Philosophy

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pp. 157-185

THERE is a doxographical tradition that when the seventeen-year-old Aristotle first came to Athens he studied for three years with Socrates (Vita Marciana 3). Now that is plainly impossible. Socrates died in 399, while Aristotle was born in 384 and arrived in Athens in 367. It is not impossible, if...

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8. Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Civic Education in Aristotle and Isocrates

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pp. 186-213

PLATO puts into Protagoras’ mouth a myth about the origins of the arts and virtues. This myth, along with the logos or account that follows it, serves as a common framework for understanding very different conceptions of the nature of rhetoric and several of the issues about politics and language that anyone interested in civic education has to confront. Prometheus...

PART FIVE: Isocrates Then and Now

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9. Civic Education, Classical Imitation, and Democratic Polity

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pp. 217-234

THE remarkable accomplishments in classical scholarship during the twentieth century have been accompanied by near-complete abandonment of classical texts as a source for civic education. Most college students never study them, and where used they often are part of a multicultural olio in which they have no special place. The history, literature, philosophy, oratory...

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10. Isocrates, Tradition, and the Rhetorical Version of Civic Education

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pp. 235-254

UNTIL quite recently, judgment about Isocrates has remained comfortably fixed and solidly negative. The consensus view has regarded him as an island of mediocrity within a sea of Attic genius, since, when measured against the achievement of his fourth-century contemporaries, Isocrates’ work has seemed deficient—deficient in literary merit if compared to Plato...


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pp. 255-265


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pp. 267-269


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pp. 271-277

E-ISBN-13: 9780292797482
E-ISBN-10: 0292797486
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292702196
Print-ISBN-10: 0292702191

Page Count: 287
Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 60567327
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Isocrates and Civic Education

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Subject Headings

  • Education, Ancient.
  • Speeches, addresses, etc., Greek -- History and criticism.
  • Athens (Greece) -- Intellectual life.
  • Isocrates -- Political and social views.
  • Education, Greek -- Greece -- Athens.
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