Jerilyn Sambrooke (GSI)
November 26, 2016
Rhetoric will get you High but not Cure Your Disease!
In the “Encomium of Helen” written by the famous Rhetorician Gorgias, he lists reasons Helen of Troy may not be responsible for the Fall of Troy and how the art of persuasion can greatly tamper with one’s ability to make the proper judgements regarding what can be considered truth.
In one passage, Gorgias uses simile to describe how “The power of discourse stands in the same relation to the soul’s organization as the pharmacopeia does to the physiology of the bodies.” (par. 14) Simile is a figure of speech used to compare two different things in order to make an explanation more effective for the listener. Gorgias compares the effect of “discourse” on the “soul” to the effect a drug or what he calls “pharmacopoeia” (par. 14) can have on the “physiology of bodies.” His comparison attempts to make a clear distinction between the psychological state of being or what he calls the “soul’s organization,” and the physical state of being; what Gorgias considers the “physiology of the bodies.” Through the use of simile, Gorgias is attempting to show the same way in which drugs can induce and reduce physical comfort, discourse can do the same to reduce or induce psychological comfort. Gorgias does not intend for the listener to believe through discourse they will achieve a physical effect as will be shown in this essay.
Gorgias states, “for just as different drugs draw off humors from the body, and some put an end to disease and others to life, so too of discourses, some give pain, others delight, others terrify, others rouse the hearers to courage.” For Gorgias discourse brought a psychological effect to the listener and not a physical effect. It was not the same as drug taken to cure an ailment or hasten death. Discourse produced an effect similar to a drug in that it changed something within the soul as a drug changed something within the physical body. Just as those who had taken a drug experienced a physical change those who had “taken” discourse may experience a mental or psychological change not a physical one.
This distinction is also made evident through the use of simile as Gorgias explains of discourse, “some give pain, others delight, others terrify, others rouse the hearers to courage.” (par. 14) These are merely effects that can be felt by the soul of a human or considered today to be psychological effects, effects we feel in our minds. In the examples Gorgias uses to demonstrate the effects of drugs they are all physical ailments, he does not use examples of drugs to cure diseases of the soul, possibly considered to be sadness or anger. Nor does he use examples of discourse curing disease or causing death. Gorgias clearly differentiates and uses only physical examples “For just as different drugs draw off humors from the body, and some put an end to disease and others to life.” Again, these are merely physical effects possibly effected by the taking of “pharmacopoeia.”
Gorgias states in reference to discourse that “others by a vile persuasion drug and trick the soul.” (ar. 14) Gorgias is attempting to show how discourse can achieve negative consequences for the one on the receiving end, just as some drugs “put an end...to life;” (par. 14) having negative consequences for the taker. Drugs and discourse alike, the results could be devastating. Pharmacopoeia can destroy the physical body and discourse can destroy the mind through negative influence and persuasions.
Through the use of simile Gorgias effectively explains how discourse may produce a similar effect on the psyche as a drug or “pharmacopoeia” may have on the physical state of one’s body. Just as a drug may bring about physical change to cure or cause an ailment or bring about death, discourse can provoke change in one’s soul or psychological state. However, the art of effective discourse will not cure your disease or bring you any physical satisfaction.