GSI: Jerilyn Sambrooke
Drugs & Discourse
Pain and pleasure are physical sensations felt through the body. In Gorgias’s Encomium of Helen the image of the body is used to portray the power of discourse. Gorgias uses the body to represent words and rhetoric as beautiful and seducing forces. Throughout the Encomium the reoccurring theme of the body is seen but it is through the analogy between drugs and discourse that produces clarity and represents their ability to be benign and detrimental.
Drugs have the power to alter the mind and effect the body, they have the ability to heal or destroy, and “some put an end to disease and others to life, so too of discourses”. Drugs are ingested by the body like discourse are ingested by the mind, they are take in from an outside source but their effect is transformed into a physical experience felt through the body and the soul. Drugs and discourse serve as stimulants that affect the body’s senses, but these sensations are felt differently in each individual body. These sensations that are produce leave a marking experience that result in various ways depending on the substance.
The usage of drugs as a trope for rhetoric creates understanding of the powerful effect that rhetoric has on people and how the effect differs throughout various discourses. Gorgias states that “different drugs draw off different humors from the body” (14), this displays the diversity of discourse and its abilities. Drugs can cause euphoria, they can heal, and poison.
The sensations caused by drugs can be euphoric causing feelings of pleasure. Discourse can have that same power; through poetic rhetoric beauty and “delight” is felt through the soul. Words posses the ability to create feelings of happiness, display affection, and describe love. These emotions that are created cause pleasurable sensations. Although not all discourse is outwardly alluring the true beauty that is found is through its healing properties. Medicinal drugs have the power to cure and restore. Rhetoric has the capacity to evoke the same sensation of a healing body but through the soul. Discourse nurtures the spirit and its healing powers derive from its ability to inspire and create energy. Although capable of healing both discourse and drugs have the ability to poison through persuasion.
Drugs have the capability to kill and act more like a poison that provoke self- destruction. Similarly, rhetoric can be toxic, and can act like a “certain vile persuasion drug and trick the soul”. Discourse is a powerful tool that is driven by persuasion, and this persuasion can easily be turned to manipulation. Toxic rhetoric disguise itself, giving discourse the ability to trick and invade the inner-self.
Gorgais’s depiction of the various capabilities of drugs mirrors the effects and abilities of discourse. Drugs give pain and pleasure and each one is different which in turn causes a different result on the body, and a novel sensation. Through the analogy the beauty of rhetoric is understood but also serves as a precaution to warn of the influence discourse can have over the body and soul.