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Phaedrus

Mey ELBI

" I, personally believe in the power of writing as a tool of communication. Without writing,
we would not have been able to rebuild our history and to shape our world as we do today."


We are living in an environment that is changing and growing with great speed. Through a wide variety of advanced technologies, patterns of mass communication are also changing radically.

We are all aware of the power and impact of mass media and the impact it has on our daily life. We no longer leave the house without listening the news or the weather forecast. We use our computers to receive information through the internet and keep in touch with friends who live far away by sending and receiving e-mail. All such instruments of communication --television, radio, motion pictures, computers newspapers, magazines, books - carry messages quickly to audiences. The audience being reached by mass communications is multicultural, diverse and heterogeneous. The Cable News Network (CNN), for example, literally reaches audiences all over the world.

We all depend to some degree on mass media to get and convey information. Today's world is dominated somehow by these instruments of mass communication the impact and power of which is accepted unquestionably. Now, the crucial question is what constitutes an effective and good communication? Further, what should be the ethic of communication that shapes our political, social and economical structure and which leads our daily life?

These questions are not new. The firsts to have contributed to the preparation of a fundamental base to the question of communication ethics were the ancient Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. In his work Phaedrus, Plato has developed some of the essential elements of the ethic of today's communication.

In Phaedrus, Plato's first concern is to establish the true principles of rhetoric which is the art of effective or persuasive speaking and writing. The principle upon which the rhetoric must be based is the knowledge of truth that can be obtained through the inspiration of love. Plato said that, in every discussion, the speaker must know what it is he is discussing. The subject of discussion is composed of four basic elements: its name, definition, representation and knowledge. If a speaker wants to have an effective discourse, he has to fulfill these four components: first, by giving a name to the object discussed; by defining the topic itself; and third, by making a clear and organized representation of the topic. All of this is possible only if the speaker has acquired deep knowledge of the subject himself. Only then will be able to convince an audience made up of one person or many.

Socrates claims that any speech must have its own organic shape. By this he means that we must first begin our speech by giving a clear definition of the subject under discussion; then we must have what is called the "body" of the speech in which we develop our ideas by giving examples in an structured form; finally, we must conclude our speech by summarizing briefly the various points of our topic. He argues also that the speech must be neither too long nor too short. The power of any argument is hidden in the way in which it is structured and presented. Socrates' love speech is a good example of a well-organized speech _one in which the reader is left with the same point of view as the writer. These rules of rhetoric are all applied to today's communication patterns. Both written arguments or speeches, if they are to be effective, must follow point-by-point the outline Socrates have used in all his argumentative speeches.

Without a doubt, the most powerful today's communicator is the politician who leads the government. All politicians somehow use the art of rhetoric to reach their audiences, to influence them and to effect their opinions. Whether their beliefs are wrong or right, they use their strong and charismatic personalities and focus their ability to convince and persuade in order to make people believe in what they are talking about. To pull an example from the recent past, few could argue that Hitler was one of the most influential and successful communicators the world has ever known, despite the lunacy of his beliefs.

Next, Socrates argues the superiority of the spoken world to the written as a vehicle of communication. He asserts that the medium of writing serves only to remind the reader what he already knows , thus preventing people from having to think deeply about the subject under discussion. A discourse is more effective because the speaker has personal contact with his audience and can therefore manipulate them easily by emphasizing his speech with gestures, eye contact and change of voice. But , I, personally believe in the power of writing as a tool of communication. Without writing, we would not have been able to rebuild our history and to shape our world as we do today.

Plato's Phaedrus is one of the earliest essay on the art of rhetoric. Throughout the course of the book , we find ourselves questioning our ideas about love of truth, knowledge , written speech and discourse, and the ethic of media. Today, because of their impact they have on our lives, mass media become too essential to be ignored.

Therefore, we must constantly think about the ethic of communication and use the media effectively.

About Mey ELBI

This issue is dedicated to such distinguished artists and author as (alphabetical order):
We will be celebrating the second anniversary with the Winter-2002 issue.
Deadline: January 7, 2002
This e-magazine is under the umbrella of The Light Millennium, Inc.,
which was granted a NOT-FOR-PROFIT organization
status based in New York since July 17, 2001.

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