Plato, Xenophon, and the Uneven Temporalities of Ethos in the Trial of Socrates

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Johns Hopkins University Press
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Many rhetorical theories of ethos mark their relationship with time by focusing on two temporal poles: the timely ethos and the timeless ethos. But between these two temporal poles, ethos is also durative; it lingers, shifts, accumulates, and dissipates over time. Although scholarship often foregrounds the kairotic and static senses of ethos popularized in Aristotle’s Rhetoric, this article highlights how the chronic elements of ethos are no less important to rhetoric. By examining Xenophon’s and Plato’s representations of the trial of Socrates, this article contends that these com-peting views about the temporalities of ethos have a storied history that predates Aristotle’s writings. This analysis also expands received understandings of Plato’s contributions to rhetoric by illuminating how his view of ethos is deeply inter-twined with ongoing philosophical practice. The article concludes by arguing that rhetorical studies has much to gain by more closely attending to the cumulative aspects of ethos.
Accepted version not accessible. DOI links to abstract only.
Philosophy and Rhetoric, 2021, 54 (3), pp. 240 - 262 (23)