Socrates Gorgias Argument
Gorgias is a conversation that involved, Socrates, Gorgias, Polus,and Callicles (Athen politician). The subject of the discussioncentered on rhetoric. According to Socrates, rhetoric is not a showof knowledge. Rather, rhetoricians use opinions to influence the soulof men (Sommerville 235). Therefore, rhetoricians have the power tochange what is wrong to look good. The paper will discuss Socratesargument about doing what one wants and what one sees as fit.
Gorgias feelsrhetoric is the most relevant art due to its ability to convincepeople and influence their emotions. Therefore, the rhetorician gainsthe greatest value from the engagements. On the other hand, Socratesargues that the arguments given by orators do not yield knowledge butthe power to influence the subjects. Therefore, Socrates does notconsider rhetoric a primary source of knowledge or morality(Sommerville 236). Furthermore, he is worried that the outcomes ofthe art only benefit the rhetoricians and not the majority.Therefore, the rhetoricians are doing what they want but not what isfit. If they were doing what is fit, their art should give thegreatest benefit to the majority.
Polus claimsrhetoric is a crucial art. He argues that orators (rhetoricians),especially politicians can use the skill to gain the public support.Socrates then asks Polus, why the speaker would require the support.In the end, the politician is looking for back up to get what he/shewants. The premise of Polus argument is about the power ofpersuasion. Using one’s communication skills and talents to pushfor what one want. In the opinion of Polus, people want power andpleasure (Sommerville 238). Both Polus and Cullicles argue thateither secretly or openly, people see having control and comfort asbest things in life. Therefore, rhetoric is very crucial in helpinggain the unchecked power and unrestrained pleasure.
If having freepower is what gives people pleasure, and that individuals aspire tothis kind of life. A tyrant should be the most admired person in thesociety. Notably, the powers of a dictator are unrestricted.Furthermore, they have ways and means of satisfying their desires. Adictator tells lies, murders people who are opposed to them amongother evils. In other words, they can do virtually anything they wishor desires.
Socrates furtherclaims that if a tyrant committed an injustice, then they cannot livea happy and best life. Conscience would forever haunt them and maketheir life undesirable. Therefore, though a tyrant may appear to behappy, their conscious may be troubled making life miserable.Therefore, according to Socrates, rhetoricians are insincere and onlyadvance self-interests. The point is politicians are not fighting forthe interests of the public but rather their self-interests.Politicians are not to be trusted because as orators they arepursuing what they want which is power and pleasure. Therefore,Socrates is unimpressed by the art of rhetoric to which end Polusreplies that people having the power can do what they see as fit(Sommerville 243). It would mean then, that since dictators havepower, they may do what is right, including to their mistakes andseeking forgiveness for their sins. Obviously, this is rarely thecase, and they cannot do what is fit.
Socrates shiftsthe discussion to ethics, where he asks Polus whether it is better tocommit a crime than suffer from it. Polus agrees that, crimes arewrong, that it is unjust to do wrong to others. For example, peoplewho suffer under the rule of the tyrant are better than thesupporters of the authoritarian regime are. Nonetheless, peoplesupporting the dictator are just searching for the best life whichaccording to Polus constitute having unchecked power and unendingpleasures. Socrates emphasis is on the well-being of the soul. Thebest life is lived when the soul is free. Therefore, a man whosuffers the wrong is better, because the mind is free. On the otherhand, the person who commits the wrong on others suffers because thesoul is not at peace (Sommerville 248). Socrates concludes it isbetter for a man to receive punishment for their wrongful actcompared to escaping justice. Therefore, a tyrant does not lead thebest life but the worst because their souls are not at peace.
An interestingconversation takes place between Socrates and Cullicles. Culliclerefutes the notion that suffering from an injustice is better thancommitting it. According to Cullicle, people suffer injustices due totheir natural weakness. On the other hand, people with power will notfear to do wrong on others since nature favors them to rule anddominate the weak. The point of divergent between Cullicles andSocrates emerge from their understanding and distinction of good frompleasure. Cullicles consider what is pleasurable as being good.However, Socrates draws a line between the pleasure and the right(Sommerville 254). For example, a tyrant may gain pleasure in rapingand murdering women. However, his actions cannot be considered good.Therefore, what is pleasurable might not necessarily be good.
In conclusion,according to Socrates, rhetoric benefits the tyrants who can do whatthey want. For example, lie or execute their opponents and get awaywith it. The just man does not benefit from the authoritarian rule.Therefore, only the unjust consider rhetoric as good, it helps in themanipulation of truths and propagation of lies for self-gains. Doingwhat one want is the whole point of rhetoricians, the pursuit ofone’s interest (power and pleasure). On the other hand, doing whatis fit, is applying justice in action taken (having a clean soul).
Sommerville, Brooks. "The Image of the Jars in Plato’sGorgias." Ancient Philosophy 34.2 (2014): 235-254.
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