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ATWILL, Janet M.

Spring 2008, 38:2, pages 171-197

Gadamer's Rhetorical Imaginary

Abstract: Hans-Georg Gadamer's idiosyncratic reading of what he calls "the distant ancient meaning of rhetoric" pulls out an unfamiliar thread in the history of the Greek logos from the weave of the ancient texts, and his separation of the sophistic challenge from rhetoric proper stems from his commitment to rhetoric. What has typically been read as rhetoric's counter-tradition, a kairotic-performative rhetoric championed by Isocrates and Cicero against Platonic essentialist philosophy, is for Gadamer the counter-tradition to Western essentialism as a whole, anchored squarely in Plato's dialogic example. In this reading, Plato becomes strange to all ersatz platonists, and the great body of the dialogues become the gravitational center of a humanist rhetoric. Gadamer's recommendation that we treat Plato's dialegesthai as the highest fruit of ancient rhetoric provides a fresh opportunity to reimagine our interdisciplinary debates.