chapter  1
Synopsis of the dialogue
Pages 5

Socratic improvisation might be directed entirely against Pericles. If Pericles was a speaker who did not improvise, a more capable speechwriter begins with philosophical insight to put speeches together in a new way. The speech that Socrates delivers resists the tendency that Pericles speech has to elevate ergon 'deed, work, action' above logos 'word, speech, reason'. The speech by Socrates advocates praise of a sort that Pericles had shied away from advocates such praise, and also delivers it. This is praise taken to a hyperbolic degree. The hyperbole of Socratic praise raises a question about improvisation, a topic that Socrates touches on in his opening conversation with Menexenus. Historians of rhetoric associate Gorgias with the oppositional construction that became a hallmark of Attic prose. To identify these dismissals of logos in the speech is not to accuse Pericles or Athenian democracy of anti-intellectualism. Modern 'anti-intellectualism' sometimes blurs the difference between native intelligence and education, and it looks suspiciously at both.