Archive for the sophists Category

Posted in Foucault, KL, Parrhesia, sophists, Stengers, truth, Zizek on April 15, 2008 by untimelymediations

“Because of its absolute immanence to the symbolic, the Real cannot be positively signified; it can only be shown, in a negative gesture, as the inherent failure of symbolization: ‘if what we are talking about are the limits of a signifying system, it is clear that those limits cannot themselves be signified, but have to show themselves as the interruption or breakdown of the process of signification. […] the real as impossible can be shown (rendered) only as the failure of the process which, precisely, aims at signifying it…” (217).

So, this is where we end up this semester—that the Real is actually not really real.  I guess we were bound to get here, and it seems like the perfect circle back to the Sophists. At a basic level, Sophists are tricksters—they can fool their paying audiences into believing that something that is neither Real nor real. Even though Zizek never makes the connection to Sophistry, (probably because he doesn’t have the balls to…) we do see him make the turn to ethics, rather than the truth.  (Question: is Real the same as truth?)  If Zizek says that the Real can only be shown negatively (within, for example, physical, representational after-effects of loss), then is the ethical the positive gesture (the immediate experience)?

Zizek is concerned with representational effects: what happens to me can be caused by something not actually there, but I can actually feel its a/effects here.  I would go to Zizek’s example of online pornography and orgasm, but since I talk about that in my paper, I’d like to talk about belief instead.  When he defines belief as “the shadowy domain between outright falsity and positive truth,” I immediately think of Stengers’ distinction between “cause and reason” (108, 45).  As a researcher, I find myself wanting to know cause and reason, as well as the truth and the false.  But according to Zizek, if truth and reason occur in a delayed realization, then is the opposite of the Foucaudian notion of parrhesiates in which the truth/Real lies in the immediacy of the telling.

Okay, so I realize that I am making interchanging the words truth and Real, and I’m not sure if that’s the right move to make.  Zizek distinguishes between “objective reality” and “subjective reality” in the following:

The true point of idealism is not the solipsistic one (‘there is not objective reality, merely our subjective representations of it’); idealism claims, on the contrary that the In-itself of ‘objective reality’ is definitely to be distinguished from mere subjective representations – its point is only that it is the synthetic act of the transcendental subject which transforms the multitude of representations into ‘objective reality.’ In short, idealism’s point is not there is no In-itself, but that the ‘objective’ In-itself, in its very opposition to subjective representations, is posited by the subject” (215).

I’m not sure that the above passage explains this distinction, but maybe it helps to think about the divide between the two types of reality if we’re looking to define the Real and truth.  What I think Zizek is saying is that ‘objective reality’ is more (R?)real—its experience is in itself, and that’s where the truth lies.  (This could be where we could employ Foucault’s parrhesiates since the truth lies in the telling, In-itself.)  Comparatively, ‘subjectively reality’ might be the telling that happens after an event—one’s vain survival so that s/he can “tell” her/his story.  The subjective reality of this last situation R/real, but is instead a subjective truth (?).

Hmph.  The more I try to differentiate between truth and real, the more confused I become.  Maybe there isn’t much difference between them.  Or, maybe I’m missing it completely.  Anyway, I would like to talk about how, or if, the truth and R/real are different.


technic: all writing

Posted in MM, pedagogy, sophists, stiegler, Tech, theory on March 24, 2008 by untimelymediations

I’m troubled by a distinction that Steigler makes between technology and technoscience, and I can’t figure out why.  Steigler offers us the following definition of technology:

Technology is therefore the discourse describing and explaining the evolution of specialized procedures and techniques, arts and trades—either the discourse of certain types of procedures and techniques, or that of the totality of techniques inasmuch as they form a system: technology is in this case the discourse of the evolution of that system. (94)

On one hand, I find this definition compelling, as it broadens the definition of technology quite considerably—at the very least, beyond the lazy definition we often settle for, the one that’s come to mean something like “a thing with wires and cables and buttons and crap—maybe with a screen or display of some kind.”  What Steigler’s expanded understanding technology calls attention to is the way all techniques/technics are part of a historical evolution—I’m careful here not to say “progress,” with its implied teleologies—an evolution of which the current digital phase is but the most visible manifestation in our time.


Thinking technics in this way open up opportunities, then, to make “technology” (in Steigler’s sense) more rhetorically productive: what are the technics available to us, and how do different technics and technologies yield different rhetorical potentials?  As Rice is fond of pointing out, assumptions that books, print, pencils and chalkboards—among all other non-digital or non-electronic writing tools—are not technological are short-sighted  and ahistorical; Steigler offers a way around this by reincorporating past technics into the discourse of technological evolution.


However, on the other hand, Steigler also offers a technoscience “in which technics and science become inseparable, in which rationality is confined to usefulness”.  For Steigler, this represents a conflict of purposes, “an inversion, even a perversion, of the initial epistemological model of philosophy by which theory, the essence of science, is defined by its independence from useful finalities, that is, anthropocentric ones” (my emphasis); thus, in technoscience technics and science collide precisely where they might collude: in furthering human aims.  Rather, Steigler identifies this as an epistemic conflict between two differing ideologies of the purpose of knowledge: technics are about using knowledge, making it materially productive, while science (as Steigler explains) is posited on the notion of knowledge qua knowledge—not applied, concretized, or materialized.


Steigler continues from here to ask whether “technology, which for a long time has been synonymous with progress, is no longer necessarily perceived as such, or rather, if it is no longer obvious that progress is tantamount to benefit for the human race” (95).  If the answer is negative—that technology is no longer associated with human progress, a position Steigler gives some weight to—then “technics would be an end unto itself”.


I think Steigler leaves this as something of a troubled proposition, and it is one to which I don’t have a reply.  What I would like to do, however, is to point to a couple of questions that Steigler here raises for our work in this study:

  • While it hasn’t been a main focal point of our discussion thus far, I think Steigler points to an epistemic crisis in composition work.  On one hand, while we do conduct research—i.e., we generate knowledge—compositionists do so with an eye on “useful finality:” how to use our research to help improve student writing and our own pedagogy.  If we accept this characterization, however, we implicitly set up a contrast between theory (“the essence of science”) and composition work as technics/technoscience (“an inversion, even a perversion . . . of philosophy”).  So, my question here might be this: Is Steigler’s distinction here useful for describing what composition studies does and what its role is in the university?  What are the stakes—disciplinarily or otherwise—of accepting or rejecting either of these descriptions?  Can composition come to terms with itself as being fundamentally a study of technology in Steigler’s strong sense, and how can our pedagogical aims be developed to fit such a sense of the field?
  • On a less fraught note, and really just to highlight a minor detail, the opposition between means and ends here is one that we seem to have been skirting all semester, but that is now coming into sharper focus.  This distinction might even be key to explaining the anti-Sophistic positions from way back in January.  Socrates’s and Plato’s big complaint about sophistry might be precisely that it is all about ends—and not philosophy’s end of ethical and moral perfection; rather, sophistry taught how to make language and knowledge useful, to serve (again) Steigler’s “useful finalities” in whatever way possible.  On one hand, this does seem to maintain the distinction Steigler describes: sophistry serves materially useful, if anthropocentric, ends, while Platonic philosophy asserts that the value of knowledge is precisely immaterial—that matter, in fact, stands in the way of true knowledge—and that its only end is its own fulfillment.  But doesn’t knowledge always serve someone’s ends?  That is, even if philosophy is knowledge divested from the civic and material realms, it still serves the end of moral perfection—that is, it is still implicated in the technologic sphere.  To what extent can theories of social constructivism point to ways that philosophy is technological—and thus perhaps destabilize the opposition Steigler establishes between techne and science?

king’s lead hat

Posted in Deleuze, MM, Socrates, sophists on February 25, 2008 by untimelymediations

One reason why I’m having trouble making sense of The Logic of Sense has to do with the fact that Deleuze doesn’t seem to be following one argument through this text; rather, each successive chapter seems to build on the logic of the prior chapter in a way that recalls the denotative series that Deleuze writes about in the Fifth Series: “In short, given a proposition which denotes a state of affairs, one may always take its sense as that which another proposition denotes” (29). I’m not sure that recognizing this has helped me make better sense of the text, but I did want to note that I see the structure at work all the same.

That said, I want to devote some energy to trying to make sense of Deleuze by situating him into some of our other readings, in particular, I want to try and see where Deleuze might work as a way to think through Plato’s and Socrates’s relationship to the sophists.

Plainly, Deleuze has some reservations about Platonism, esp. its emphasis on ideal forms and the forms’ relationship to truth; at one point, he offers a critique of “depressive Platonism: the Good is reached only as the object of a reminiscence, uncovered as essentially veiled; the One gives only what it does not have, since it is superior to what it gives, withdrawn into its height” (191). What I find interesting, though, is his response to these misgivings; rather than an outright dismissal of Platonism, Deleuze can be seen to work toward a conflation of Platonic, pre-Soractic, and Stoic philosophy. For Deleuze, this work takes the effect of drawing attention away from the Platonic fixation on height and depth and instead insisting on the transcendental surface; depth becomes of interest primarily “by means of its power to organize surfaces and to envelop itself within surfaces” (124). While it might be easy to dismiss this as a philosophical response to the reality of biological development (in which membranes are formed outside and then folded inside the increasingly complex organism), Deleuze insists on the contiguous relationship between physical and metaphysical surfaces: “And, to the physics of surfaces a metaphysical surface necessarily corresponds. Metaphysical surface (transcendental field) is the name that will be given to the frontier established, on the one hand, between bodies taken together as a whole and inside the limits which envelop them, and on the other, propositions in general” (125). Deleuze flattens to a single surface the Platonic cosmogony of bodies and forms; in Deleuze, bodies are not imperfect realizations of an abstract Idea(l) but are rather the actualizations of their own potential forms as events and singularities.

For me, then, this leaves Deleuze in the space of recuperating Isocrates’s philosophy-rhetoric. Deleuze notes that “the pre-Socratic philosopher does not leave the cave; on the contrary, he thinks that we are not involved enough or sufficiently engulfed therein” (128). In other words, we need to be more involved with the shadows and surfaces that flit before us in the cave; if we are to make them productive and useful for the definition of our own characters, Deleuze seems to suggest, we must ignore the Platonic voice at the mouth of the cave, calling us outward. We must instead recognize our own shadow-surface and make what we can of that.

Invention and Invention Rhetoric

Posted in Deleuze, DR, Invention Rhetoric, sophists, Stengers on February 19, 2008 by untimelymediations

I guess I’ll go with chapter seven.  I choose this particular section of the book for several reasons.  First, I am interested in Stengers’ discussion of the contrast between invention and the rhetoric of invention.  Second, I find Latour’s example to be of particular interest in relationship to the arguments that Stengers proposes, though I feel that this example might actually be counterintuitive.  Finally, it seems that, “The Politics of Networks” explicitly references Deleuze and Guattari, and might provide some fruitful parallels to previous discussions of Sophistry.

Stengers begins this chapter with a rather disinteresting discussion of the difference between theory and experimental statement.  Essentially, she uses this distinction as a means of addressing power in relationship to theory.  Quite simply, as Stengers argues, theory affirms a social power:  “No theory is imposed without social, economic, or political power being in play, somewhere.  But the fact that it is at play is not enough to disqualify the theory” (112).  Furthermore, Stengers provides that differentiating between experimental statement and theory is not really an issue of administering justice, but, instead, contrasting the two provides us the opportunity to consider scientific strategy.  Although I believe that this argument is placed here kind of awkwardly, I feel as though it relates pretty well to that which is suggested in the third section, “The Politics of Networks.”  Most specifically, as previously suggested, the third section invokes questions of motive and strategy, questions that provoke thought of the Sophists.

After differentiating between theory and experimental statement, Stengers introduces the issue of invention rhetoric.  For Stengers, there exists a dramatic contrast between the effects of experimental practice and the “mobilizing” rhetoric that takes hold of these effects.  She suggests that whereas inventions introduce a variety of choices, rhetoric, on the other hand, celebrates reduction (115).  The rhetoric of invention provides that the invention introduced has the power to lead “diversity” back to the same. 

It translates a staging that makes the invented-explained diversity the guarantor of the general reducibility of a phenomenal field to be investigated—a mobilizing staging that identifies both the conquering army and the landscape defined as available to its conquest (115)

Here, Stengers seems to be implying, however implicitly, that this form of rhetoric is a disadvantageous seduction.  In fact, she discusses laughter as a means of resisting this rhetoric.  The question, of course, becomes: Why must one resist this rhetoric?  It seems that other portions of this chapter, namely, the section entitled “The Patron’s Job” address this more completely, though in a similarly frustrating manner.  At this point, though, it seems safe to say that Stengers believes invention rhetoric to be dangerous.  She speaks of the competition between local and global domination, and the quelling of rebel scientist factions, though in friendlier terms (118).

Next, Stengers introduces an example seemingly in an attempt to illustrate some of the points that she addresses previously.  The example she draws upon is Bruno Latour’s work concerning the life of the “patron.”  The patron is a director of a laboratory that has just discovered a hormone secreted by the brain.  The director/patron is essentially responsible for promoting the discovery in order to obtain funding.  Here, Stengers addresses the means by which the industry limits scientific research.  She suggests that the industry could impose limitations if this ominous entity found out about the research (119).  In addition, Stengers uses this section as a means of addressing the ways in which research and the rhetoric of invention impacts society through the addition of university courses, the proliferation of magazine and journal articles, etc.  Third, in a similar vein, Stengers suggests that the patron has to make the world interested in the research: “The patron is constrained to be interested in the world, to transform it so that this world will make his molecule exist” (120). The continual overtone is that while doing this, that which has been evaluated is degraded or transformed, embellished, etc.   Quite simply, as Stengers surmises, science becomes propaganda. 

Finally, in the third section, “the Politics of Networks” Stengers makes some interesting notes concerning power.  For Stengers, the question of rhetoric and invention, and the relationship of invention and rhetoric to the rest of society comes down to Power (note the capital “P”) 

Power, when it grows a capital letter, transforms the rhizome into a tree: each branch is “explained” by its relation to another branch, one closer to the trunk, and indeed to the roots, that is, to the site—occupied by a “logic” if not by actors—from which all the rest can be denounced as puppets, acted on beyond their intentions and their plans (123)

Evidently, as mentioned previously, this passage references Deleuze and Guattari quite specifically.  Here, the rhizome, and discussion of the tree as power system, is provided as a reference to A Thousand Plateaus.  Though this is not noted explicitly (at least I am not seeing any citation), Stengers references both authors earlier in this chapter.  In any event, Stengers seems to be suggesting the means by which the current system of invention, rhetoric included, allows for the marginalization of certain sects.  Referencing an earlier portion of this chapter, this would be where the global dominates the local, or where the scientist’s ability to resist injunctions or pressures is disabled.  By invoking the work of Deleuze and Guattari is Stengers calling for a multiplicity of invention? 

Puppet strings, as rhizome or multiplicity, are tied not to the supposed will of an artist or puppeteer but to a multiplicity of nerve fibers, which form another puppet in other dimensions connected to the first…There are no points or positions in a rhizome, such as those found in a structure, tree, or root.  There are only lines (A Thousand Plateaus 8 )

Perhaps, though, as it seems that she may be suggesting in other parts, Stengers is calling for more of a community in relationship to the revelation and processing of invention.  Here, it seems important to return to Deleuze and Guattari as they discuss the rhizome and the relationship of the speaker to the listener:

A rhizome ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences (my emphasis), and social struggles…There is no ideal speaker-listener, any more than there is a homogenous linguistic community (A Thousand Plateaus 7)

Perhaps, a community would resolve the power conflicts inherent to science, invention, and invention rhetoric. 

Though this is of interest, I find that this section also provides fruitful grounds for consideration of the Sophists.  It seems to me, at least, that the rhetoric of invention, though Stengers seems to criticize it, could present parallels to our discussion of selfish-selflessness (I hope I got that right.  I always get the two confused.  In any event, you know what I mean to say).  If we can understand the Sophists, in some respects, to be achieving beneficial aims by what might appear to be selfish tactics, then perhaps invention rhetoric is similar.  Though this form of rhetoric may appear to be selfishly motivated, it garners the scientists the ability to fund the research, to maintain salaries, and to further study that might otherwise be disregarded.  Who cares if the scientist embellishes the discovery, if it is only in an effort to further benefit research and community welfare?  Though Stengers seems to be opposed to this form of rhetoric, she has to admit that many scientists act in the greater good; that they are hoping to find a cure, solution, etc.  Following in line with Pruchnic’s discussion of AIDs phones or Extreme Home Make over, how then, should this be shunned?  Is not this the most advantageous means of turning “industry” or “capitalism” on its head?  Is not this the preferred rhetorical strategy, despite the inherent “deceipt”?

Invention of Invention

Posted in Ambiguity, KL, Science, sophists, Stengers, Why/how on February 18, 2008 by untimelymediations

(Side note: I agree with Mike’s concern last week about feeling like I need a bit more background for this text.  I had a difficult time grounding it in any sense.  Maybe it’s just me – and I’m not trying to make excuses for my superficial post – but I just feel like I’m scratching the surface with Stengers, and I’m missing something really important.  Are there some specific texts that overview Science and Rhetoric?  I would be interested to read something that would help me ‘get’ this.)

This week’s reading was a bit complicated and confusing for me, so I had to read it through the lens of my favorite, confusing-as-hell addiction: Lost.  Like fans of any given television show, I obsess—completely. I should add that this obsession is not limited merely to ‘water-cooler discussions,’ but I have downloaded the Lost podcasts, read the message boards, and have even read the articles (not surprisingly, there are many scholarly ones out there).  We rabid fans are in search of two things – the why and the how (w/h) of the plot. Before Stengers, these are two qualities for which I did not realize I was searching.  In most other shows, we get the w/h.  We know why Jack Bauer is getting his ass kicked for his country.  We know how and why Dexter Morgan is killing his victims.  But on the island, no one knows either, and we are left to fend for ourselves in weekly battle of he-said/she-said.  And this is why I believe Stengers is so applicable to Lost: as shown in every episode, each character is inventing her/his own, new truth by fictionalizing the self and denying who s/he was before the plane crash.

For Stengers, truth and fiction are inseparable, and ultimately these modes invent

“an antidote to the belief that makes us so formidable, the belief that defines truth and fiction in terms of an opposition, in terms of the power that makes the first destroy the second, a belief older than the invention of the modern sciences, but whose invention constituted a ‘recommencement’” (164-5).

Inventions and interest are two crucial terms for Stengers, and she maintains throughout her text that truths are initially invented fictions.  On the island, and arguably for the Sophists as well, one cannot distinguish between what is real (truth) and simply what is flattery (fiction).  They are not in opposition, but instead become so blurred that they are essentially both creations of each other.  The characters on Lost exemplify this creation, as no one truly knows who the other survivors were before the crash.  All we see are the new identities as created through necessity.  Truth and fiction are therefore inventions in which individual interest is taken. Science, as “performed” in labs, is thus the result of an individual’s interest in “making” an idea come true.  People, then, are more ‘interested’ in interest as opposed to truth since the former is what actually unifies:

“It is precisely because interest, as opposed to ‘truth,’ does not claim the power to create unanimity, but lends itself to proliferation and association with other disparate interests, that it can bring together authors for whom the event poses the problem of history” (Stengers 96).

Finally, Stengers claims that there cannot be “a single historical process that is applicable to the history of philosophy, art, and science, for each of these enterprises is defined by a specific relationship with its own past” (41). Therefore, in terms of truth and fiction, we cannot separate them as they develop, nor with Lost can we watch the show without knowing each of the characters’ pre-island pasts.

right here waiting for you

Posted in Marx, MM, sophists on February 4, 2008 by untimelymediations

I wish we had, after all, had the opportunity to read Marx’s dissertation because I’d like to have a sense of his objections to sophistry; solely on the basis of the “German Ideology,” however, I would have assumed Marx to approach sophistry with grudging approval at best and nothing worse than a critical skepticism—as opposed to the outright dismissal and vitriol JP assures us Marx directed toward the sophists

Consider the way Marx describes language’s social functions: “Language is as old as consciousness.  It is practical consciousness which exists also for other men and hence exists for me personally as well.  Language, like consciousness, only arises from the need and necessity of relationships with other men” (421).  In some ways, this sounds very like the sophistic insistence on rhetoric as a tool for social management; Marx and the sophists so far at least agree on one simple fact: that language binds society together and that language use (which I here equate with rhetoric in its broadest sense) is fundamentally about the relationships between individuals—that is, rhetoric is essential for maintaining social order (see Protagoras’s telling of the myth of Prometheus in the Protagoras).  In fact, Marx goes the sophists one better and insists that without these relationships, individuals qua individuals wouldn’t exist: “… the consecutive series of interrelated individuals can be conceived as a single individual which accomplishes the mystery of generating itself.  It is clear here that individuals certainly generate one another, physically and mentally” (430).  For Marx, then, only by realizing the binds between individuals—both material and immaterial—can social classes be constituted as a collective agent; that is, for the communist program to be put in to place, the individuals within a given class order must be drawn together both through material circumstance and through rhetorical suasion.</

What distinguishes Marx from the sophist most notably, though, is Marx’s rejection of some of the bolder sophistic claims that reality and materiality are but linguistic trompes l’oeil.  Indeed,  Marx’s (perhaps inadvertent) insistence on the value of material and linguistic bonds notwithstanding, his conviction remains that language and language use are derived from the reality of material conditions: “The production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness is directly interwoven with the material activity and the material relationships of men; it is the language of actual life.  Conceiving, thinking, and the intellectual relationships of men appear here as the direct result of their material behavior” (414).  Here, Marx insists that not only are linguistic bonds inseparable from material relationships, but that linguistic behavior is a direct product of material conditions; in other words, language and its uses directly reflect the lived material experiences of those who employ it.  Sophistic theories of language (as poorly articulated as they are), view language as essential for social order but otherwise suggest that language originates, as in Protagoras’s myth, outside the realm of human materiality.  For Marx, this would have been anathema, and as later Marxists theorists might have, just the sort of mythic false consciousness that naturalizes the use of power in language in order to conceal its ideological function.

Super Response for Super Tuesday

Posted in Ambiguity, Hegel, Isocrates, Jaeger, KL, Marx, rhetoric, sophists on February 4, 2008 by untimelymediations

(Before this post begins, I’ve noticed that my blog apparently has spontaneously combusted—I’ll update the link on the right as soon as I start a new one/the old one un-combusts.)

In writing this response, I fully understand the risk of my sounding slightly morose and vulgar.  Over the weekend I was submerged in funeral planning, although as a good academic, I related the experience of death back to philosophy and rhetoric.  I have been overhearing the same conversations, individuals repeating the same apologies for the loss, the same condolences.  Derek mentioned in his post that the lexicon of the Presidential campaign is rather ambiguous, and so, too, is the lexicon of grief.  In “To Niocles,” Isocrates reinforces the notion (contra Hegel’s small “n” notion) that in speaking and ruling, one should constantly think of the masses, to “take thought for the common people, and do everything to rule them in a way that pleases them” (161).  Listening to friends and family react to death, people are very hesitant to specify anything—they are offering their apologies to comfort the masses in a way that I do not see comforting whatsoever.  (Ya know, all the “I’m so sorry for your loss”-es, “If there’s anything I can do, please let me know”-s, and the ever popular “She’s in a better place now”-s.)  But, we are all guilty of this, as we have all been in these situations where rhetoric does not suffice, so we revert to the same, ordinary phrases.  There is nothing we can say that will please the masses (in this situation, those closest to the dead), nothing that will release their pain of loss.  So, while I find Isocrates’ insistence on moderate and blanketed speech troublesome (in the same, ambiguous manner as “American family” and “tyranny” are supposed to ‘mean’ the same thing for everyone), perhaps Isocrates is right.  Since, according to Isocrates, we should not aim to please one group over another perhaps the sameness of condolences appear sufficient when one is in funeral-mode.
So maybe this funeral experience is the perfect example of Sophistry, that everyone coming and going, dropping off food, sharing their memories and condolences represents the “selfish selflessness”—they are doing these things not to make the family feel any better, but that it ultimately makes the giver feel like a better person.  Someone dying of cancer is much different than someone dying in a car accident—the family has known her that death was imminent for sometime now, and her monthly decay was somewhat preparing everyone for this weekend.  However, there are friends (some from whom the family has not heard in more than an decade) stopping by to say hello.  It’s funny because they all seem to say, “we knew she had cancer, but we didn’t know it was that bad.”  These statements lead me to believe that they are not stopping by to comfort the family, but rather that they are simply pretending to care, and hoping that all their lasagna and lunch meat will make the family feel better.  Actually, it seems that one offers such gifts so that there is a personal/selfish return—in effect the giver feels better knowing that s/he has given rather than how the family feels about receiving the gift (here seems to be the perfect space for Derrida, but that’s next week!).

Now, I would like to set aside all the “funeral talk” and focus on Marx and Hegel’s writing on the Greeks, placing particular attention on the individual verses the collective good or gain.  As Jaeger notes of Isocrates’ “Niocles”:

“The better should not be ruled by the worse, nor the wise be governed by the foolish.  In association with others that means that the prince must criticize the bad and vie with the good.  The essential thing is that he who wants to rule over others must apply that principle to himself, and be able to justify his position by his own true superiority to them all” (96).

For the Sophist, being concerned firstly and ultimately with himself is the means to pleasing the masses.  By “applying that principle to himself,” the Sophist can neither be the brunt of criticism, nor can he be the critic, since he is no different from everyone else.  By always thinking primarily of the individual, the Sophist’s best intentions are, in a roundabout way, the masses.

Hegel maintains that the differences between the Platonists/Socratics verses the Sophists lies in the emphasis placed on the individual.  We can see this divide in the following passages:

“The mission of Socrates was to express the beautiful, good, true, and right, as the end aim of the individual, while with the Sophists the content was not present as an ultimate end, so that all this was left to the individual will”

“[For the Sophists], the Notion of the thing as determined in and for itself; for it brings forward external reasons through which right and wrong, utility and harmfulness, are distinguished.  To Plato and Socrates, on the other hand, the main point is that the nature of the conditions should be considered, and that the Notion of the thing in and for itself should become evolved” (366-367).

(Okay, I have to run off again, but I plan to connect the individual aims of Sophistry to the modes of production discussed in The German Ideology.  I will finish this post later, fully understanding the risk of ridicule for having an incomplete post.)