GORGIAS SPARKNOTES PDF

In a debate with Gorgias a famous rhetorician, who teaches his students how to speak well , his student Polus , and the rhetorician Callicles , Socrates attempts to establish what he believes is the right way to live, and to establish philosophy as a knowledge that heals the soul, rather than rhetoric, which merely flatters it. Gorgias begins with Socrates and Chairephon arriving late to a speech given by Gorgias. Gorgias brags that he can make anyone into a rhetorician. In dialogue with Gorgias, Socrates attacks rhetoric, saying it is not a legitimate branch of knowledge—all professions use speech, so what specific skill does rhetoric have?

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Page 1 Page 2 Summary In order to satisfy his own philosophical goals and to appease Callicles, Socrates next focuses on the nature of justice. For Callicles, justice is natural justice: the more powerful control the less so by means of force, and the better rule over the worse.

He himself considers the powerful and the better to be equivalent, but he also agrees with Socrates that the majority of humans believe justice means equal shares for all. This includes equality of opportunity, safety, and punishment for example. Everything the noble and powerful are entitled to, so too are the base and weak entitled under a just system.

As a result, Callicles offers a revised definition of natural justice, namely that the better and wiser rule over and possess more than the inferior.

He sees temperance as a sign of weakness. Socrates immediately responds with the metaphor of a leaky jar, which illustrates that a soul with unrestrained desires will always require more and more and thus never be complete , just as a jar with large holes could never remain full.

For Socrates, justice equals temperance of the soul and its desires. Callicles, however, remains unconvinced. He declares that a full jar allows no room for more pleasure, and therefore that temperance and restraint are undesirable. Socrates harbors serious doubt about this equation of the good with pleasure. He continues on by establishing that an appetite or deficiency such as thirst is painful, while eating is a satisfaction of this deficiency and therefore a pleasure.

When a person eats to satisfy her hunger, then, she simultaneously experiences both pleasure and pain. It is not possible, though, to be both faring well a good and faring poorly an evil at the same time. Thus, because, when one eats, bodily pleasure and pain exist concurrently, against the fact that one cannot at once fare both well and poorly, it follows logically that the pleasure is not equivalent to the good, nor is pain synonymous with evil. Callicles concurs.

This is so since the corrupt government in power at the time itself serves as a model of the strong and aggressive dominating the weak. Amidst decades of significant internal strife, the resulting Athenian power vacuum enabled those with the proper force and requisite assertion of this force to take control and implement their own laws of engagement within society. This exactly is what happened following the Peloponnesian War, when a group of corrupt wealthy opportunists seized authority for their own gain.

Thus, by utilizing Callicles to state the case as such, Plato establishes the dominant belief he intends his current strain of inquiry to destroy. Such an approach, however, remains mired in the equation of the good with the pleasant. Put differently, it is one thing for a man such as Plato, who is already convinced of the desirability of virtue and restraint, to argue in favor of temperance rather than support of desire in its general sense and specific instantiations.

By framing the discussion within such vivid imagery, however, the thrust and logic of his point becomes undeniable, even for his biggest opponent.

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Page 1 Page 2 Summary In order to satisfy his own philosophical goals and to appease Callicles, Socrates next focuses on the nature of justice. For Callicles, justice is natural justice: the more powerful control the less so by means of force, and the better rule over the worse. He himself considers the powerful and the better to be equivalent, but he also agrees with Socrates that the majority of humans believe justice means equal shares for all. This includes equality of opportunity, safety, and punishment for example. Everything the noble and powerful are entitled to, so too are the base and weak entitled under a just system. As a result, Callicles offers a revised definition of natural justice, namely that the better and wiser rule over and possess more than the inferior. He sees temperance as a sign of weakness.

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Gorgias Summary

View the Lesson Plans. Read more from the Study Guide. This study guide contains the following sections: In the debate various moral, philosophical, and spiritual issues are raised. View the Study Pack. Those who are strong should govern those who are weak, and the law is part of conventions designed by the weak to defend the weak. Browse all BookRags Study Guides.

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GORGIAS SPARKNOTES PDF

Page 1 Page 2 Note: Plato did not divide Gorgias into sections. Instead, the text exists as a continuous dialogue which breaks only at its end. For the purposes of this study guide, therefore, artificial divisions have been made that correspond to each discussion of a different topic. Thus, a section concludes when the subject in focus shifts.

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