Seneca in his Moral Epistles to Lucilium ridicules Protagoras’ claim that both sides of any position can be equally well argued. Cicero, on the contrary, in the surviving fragments of his dialogue, the Republic, maintains in the person of Laelius that the thorough exploration of the strengths and weaknesses of any position pro and con is the best and often the only dialectical avenue to the discovery of difficult truths. There are therefore at least two sides to the issue of whether philosophers ought to address their arguments to the two sides of any issue. This paper examines the epistemic advantages and disadvantages of the same reasoning agent playing both roles of advocate and critic, as opposed to encouraging only distinct independently minded reasoning agents each to consider any of the opposing sides of an issue in dispute. The question in argumentation theory posed by this inquiry in simplest terms is whether a single thinker considering both sides of an issue is more able to arrive at truth, or whether, as the popular adage has it, two minds are inherently dialectically better than one. The answer proposed here is that it does not matter provided that the conflict of opposing views are in some manner resolved with the sincere intention of arriving at the truth.
KeywordsCicero dialectic Plato Pliny the Younger rhetoric Seneca sincerity Socrates sophism truth
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