What is the role of rhetoric in a civil society? In this book, James L. Kastely examines works by writers from Plato to Jane Austen and locates a line of thinking that values rhetoric but also raises questions about the viability of rhetorical practice. While dealing principally with literary theory, rhetoric and philosophy, the author's arguments extend to practical concerns and open up the way to deeper thinking about individual responsibility for existing injustices, for inadvertently injuring others and for silencing those without power. Challenging the traditional claim that Plato is the chief opponent of rethoric, Kastely contends that he was its most sophisticated theorist. Plato, Sophocles, and Euripides, the author asserts, recognized an essential paradox: while believing in the need for rhetoric in a world where injustice cannot be eliminated, they nevertheless regarded the possibilities of rhetoric with scepticism.