Poulakos – “Interpreting Sophistical Rhetoric: A Response to Schiappa”

Poulakos comes out guns a’blazin in this response to Schiappa’s critique.  He notes that in the response he will argue that 1) Schiappa has no case; 2) even if he did have a case, it could not be supported, and 3) even if it could be supported, it would be useless.  WOW.

P begins his invective by taking S. to task for relying exclusively on philological evidence to undermine P.s own claims.  Relying on Nietzsche, P. claims that S. is engaged in an unbridled positivism due to his inability to acknowledge the interpretive quality of facts.  Further, he also takes S. to task for claiming to be able to read the Sophists in their own context/mindset as this is so unlikely.  As a recourse, P. recommends the reading and writing of history as an act anchored in the present toward an intrinsically non-objective criticism/creation of history (221).

Poulakos explodes Schiappa’s advocation for relying on character studies instead of movement/group studies by pointing out another ANT-based tenant: we are all actor-networks in individual moements in space-time, making connections, closing other connections, becoming difference at all moments.  As such, a character study of Gorgias is as problematic as a movement study of the Sophists. . . they are both riddled with static representations of dynamic being (225).


1.       Poulakos appears to reshift this debate in his response so that the central discussion doesn’t necessarily revolve around the Sophists themselves, but rather the methodological questions and philosophical assumptions surrounding critique from two separate conceptual paradigms: modernist and postmodernist.  Because of the time of publication (1990) the response of Schiappa is particularly ripe for critical postmodern exegesis and a disciplinary vilification of the modernist philological enterprise.

Leave a Reply