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~EPUB ♍ Gorgias ♷ Taking the form of a dialogue between Socrates, Gorgias, Polus and Callicles, GORGIAS debates perennial questions about the nature of government and those who aspire to public office Are high moral standards essential or should we give our preference to the pragmatist who gets things done or negotiates successfully Should individuals be motivated by a desire for personal power and prestige, or genuine concern for the moral betterment of the citizens These questions go to the heart of Athenian democratic principles and are relevant than ever in today s political climate Men do bad when they do what they merely think best, rather than what they most deeply desire That seems to be the central point of this long dialogue.The age old question is how to get men to follow their true Will i.e Self, rather than ego Does the dialogue answer it The answer it gives appears to be Engage in the combat of life, live as well as you can, and then, after death, you will attain the Islands of the Blessed, and not the realm of the wretched, Tartarus But that doesn t an Men do bad when they do what they merely think best, rather than what they most deeply desire That seems to be the central point of this long dialogue.The age old question is how to get men to follow their true Will i.e Self, rather than ego Does the dialogue answer it The answer it gives appears to be Engage in the combat of life, live as well as you can, and then, after death, you will attain the Islands of the Blessed, and not the realm of the wretched, Tartarus But that doesn t answer the question of how to distinguish between the desires of ego, and the true Will Well, if one was to sum up, it would be hard to go past Plato s own summary And of all that has been said, nothing remains unshaken but the saying, that to do injustice isto be avoided than to suffer injustice, and that the reality and not the appearance of virtue is to be followed above all things, as well in public as in private life and that when any one has been wrong in anything, he is to be chastised, and that the next best thing to a man being just is that he should become just, Well, if one was to sum up, it would be hard to go past Plato s own summary And of all that has been said, nothing remains unshaken but the saying, that to do injustice isto be avoided than to suffer injustice, and that the reality and not the appearance of virtue is to be followed above all things, as well in public as in private life and that when any one has been wrong in anything, he is to be chastised, and that the next best thing to a man being just is that he should become just, and be chastised and punished also that he should avoid all flattery of himself as well as of others, of the few or of the many and rhetoric and any other art should be used by him, and all his actions should be done always, with a view to justice I ve read this book as someone who is an atheist and therefore someone who can place little concern on the rewards or punishments of the afterlife Much of Plato s argument is supported by the idea that we should be moral in this life to avoid punishment in the next life I would like to think that his conclusions still stand for an atheist, even if his arguments do not I m not sure how well Socrates answers Callicles arguments or rather attack Nietzsche later says much the same things about Socrates and his arguments his denial of life and how ugly Socrates is and how lacking in taste and common sense It seems clear for much of the text that Callicles is bored by Socrates arguments and only agrees to continue listening to Socrates because Gorgias asks to hear the rest of what Socrates has to say he abandons participation in the argument, which is not the same as him being silenced by Socrates argument I would very much doubt that Callicles came away from this encounter feeling that Socrates was right and that one should prefer to suffer harm than to do harm The myth at the end was all very Christian and it is easy to see why Plato was so easy to be used by the Church I found it very interesting that at least two of what are taken to be standard Christian messages are clearly put forward by Socrates turn the other cheek literally in those terms, too and the problem the rich and powerful will have in getting into paradise The import of this dialogue seem to me to be an even clearer statement of the golden rule than that contained in the Christian message surely the idea that we must avoid doing ill, even prefering bad things to be done to us, isvirtuous than merely treating others as we would like to be treated ourselves So, the question for me is whether it is possible to establish this as a conclusion an atheist could follow And, to be honest, I don t know I can t see what an atheist could base the good that is necessary to sustain this argument on Socrates isthan willing to be prepared to die for his truth because he knows there is an afterlife in which the pleasures and sufferings of this life are as nothing His argument is that doing wrong harms the wrong doer s soul I think this is true, even if I don t believe in a soul as such If we know we have done wrong there is nothing worse than feeling we have been rewarded for it When I was a child my mother caught me cheating at patience or solitaire for my American cousins I must have been old enough for her merely saying, Are you cheating to not really count for much But what did count was when she said, You are only cheating yourself I ve often wondered if that is a good lesson or not I still don t cheat and try to avoid situations where I can cheat myself or others but it does often seem that those who do cheat perhaps both themselves and others do end up better off And people do seem to have a near infinite capacity to rationalise away their actions so that they always do tend to see themselves in the end as entirely justified Plato s myth at the end of this dialogue where the wrong souls are being sent to the wrong places because they were being judged in their worldly finery just before they die seems relevant here Perhaps a means of attack on this is that the benefits of doing wrong are generally short lived you cheat and the benefit is rather fleeting but the knowledge that you cheated, that you are the sort of person who would cheat, that can be something that lasts with you all of your life Perhaps then this is the ground to support Plato s conclusions without resorting to his arguments that in the end one needs to be able to live with one s self and that is easier to do if we have been wronged, than if we have wronged others That the punishments we inflict upon ourselves for wronging others are often worse than the punishments others would give us if they were to punish us I enjoyed thisthan the last time I read it the last time I read it I was muchconcerned that Socrates did not really answer Callicles s argument I still don t think he answers it, but I m not as concerned now for philosophy, Socrates, if pursued in moderation and at the proper age, is an elegant accomplishment, but too much philosophy is the ruin of human life Gorgias is easily one of Plato s best stand alone dialogues Indeed, as others have mentioned, it often reads like a germinal version of the Republic, so closely does it track the same themes A transitional dialogue, the early know nothing Socrates of unanswered questions is already gone instead we get Socrates espousing some of Plato sfor philosophy, Socrates, if pursued in moderation and at the proper age, is an elegant accomplishment, but too much philosophy is the ruin of human life Gorgias is easily one of Plato s best stand alone dialogues Indeed, as others have mentioned, it often reads like a germinal version of the Republic, so closely does it track the same themes A transitional dialogue, the early know nothing Socrates of unanswered questions is already gone instead we get Socrates espousing some of Plato s key positions on truth and morality Socrates descends on a party of rhetoricians, seemingly determined to expose them He questions Gorgias, a well known teacher of rhetoric, in the attempt to pinpoint what, exactly, rhetoric consists of We get the usual Socratic paradoxes if we ought to be convinced by knowledgeable people a doctor when it comes to medicine, an architect when it comes to buildings how can somebody who lacks this knowledge teach the art of convincing Gorgias insists that rhetoric is used to accomplish justice But is Gorgias an expert on justice No Are his pupils already just Neither And cannot rhetoric be used for unjust ends Of course This effectively trips up the old rhetorician Gorgias energetic young pupil, Polus, steps up to defend the old master He denies what Gorgias said about rhetoric being used to accomplish justice, and instead claims that it is used to gain power This brings Socrates to another one of his paradoxes that powerful orators are actually to be pitied, since inflicting injustice is worse than suffering injustice Though Polus laughs, Socrates trips him up just as they did his mentor, by getting him to assent to a seemingly unobjectionable proposition and then deducing from them surprising conclusions Socrates was not, you see, without his own rhetorical tricks Polus finds himself agreeing that tyrants are to be pitied At this, Callicles enters the fray, not a rhetorician but an Athenian gentleman and a man of affairs, who plays the same role that Thrasymachus plays in the Republic He scorns philosophy and insults Socrates All this highfalutin talk of justice and truth and such rubbish Doesn t Socrates know that what is right is a mere convention and justice is simply whatever the strong wish Socrates then embarks on his usual procedure, trying to get Callicles to assent to a proposition that is incompatible with Callicles position Callicles eventually gets confused and tired and gives up, allowing Socrates to finish with a grand speech and a Platonic myth about the judgment of souls To the modern reader very little in this dialogue will be convincing Plato is no doubt right that rhetoric is, at best, neither bad nor good, but is akin to cosmetics or cooking rather than exercise or medicine the art of pleasing rather than improving people Yet since we have learned that we cannot trust people to be selfless, disinterested seekers after the truth as Socrates repeatedly claims to be we have decided that it s best to let self interested parties compete with all the tools at their disposal for their audience s attention Heaven knows this procedure is far from perfect and leaves us vulnerable to demagogues But the world has proven depressingly bereft of pure souls like Socrates Also unconvincing is Plato s moral stance namely, that those who commit injustice are to be pitied rather than envied He proves, of course, that the unjust aredeserving of punishment than the just this was never in doubt But he does not, and cannot, prove that the unjust are less happy since a single jolly tyrant would refute his whole chain of reasoning Indeed, by establishing a moral precept that is so independent of happiness, Socrates falls into the same plight as did Kant in his categorical imperative This is a serious difficulty, since, if acting justly can easily lead to unhappiness, what is the motivation to do so The only way out of this dilemma, as both thinkers seemed to realize, was to hypothesize an afterlife where everyone got their just desserts the good their reward and the bad their castigation Needless to say I do not find this solution compelling Yet you can disagree with all of Plato s positions and still relish this dialogue This is because, as usual, the most charming thing about Plato is that he is so much bigger than his conclusions Though Socrates is Plato s hero and mouthpiece, Plato also seems to be aware of Socrates and his own limitations Callicles is not a mere strawman, but puts forward a truly consistent worldview and Plato leaves it in doubt whether his own arguments prevailed He even puts some good comebacks in Callicles mouthYes, by the Gods, you are literally always talking of cobblers and fullers and cooks and doctors, as if this had to do with our argumentBy the Gods, he is This book is a masterpiece It includes a critical text, and a line by line philological commentary But even the reader without Greek will learn an enormous amount about Plato and related topics by reading it alongside a translation just skip all the entries dealing with purely philological matters.It is often said that the best commentary on Aristotle is Aristotle Hence, important commentaries on Aristotle spend most of their time quoting in Greek other passages from Aristotle The same This book is a masterpiece It includes a critical text, and a line by line philological commentary But even the reader without Greek will learn an enormous amount about Plato and related topics by reading it alongside a translation just skip all the entries dealing with purely philological matters.It is often said that the best commentary on Aristotle is Aristotle Hence, important commentaries on Aristotle spend most of their time quoting in Greek other passages from Aristotle The same is true for Plato and probably for all philosophers So keep a copy of the translated works handy and whenever Dodds or anyone cites a passage or refers to a passage, follow up the reference.The best translation of the collected works remains E Hamilton, Cairns Lord not Cooper By a mile We should devote all our own and our community s energies towards ensuring the presence of justice and self discipline, and so guaranteeing happiness.So Socrates wanted to make Athens great again and along the way gave the pundits and consultants the what for His argument is measured and allows the three stooges to defeat their own assertions in fits of bumbling exasperation The virtues of work and health are explored with nary a word about the lamp above the Golden Door This notion of modera We should devote all our own and our community s energies towards ensuring the presence of justice and self discipline, and so guaranteeing happiness.So Socrates wanted to make Athens great again and along the way gave the pundits and consultants the what for His argument is measured and allows the three stooges to defeat their own assertions in fits of bumbling exasperation The virtues of work and health are explored with nary a word about the lamp above the Golden Door This notion of moderation was embraced during the Enlightenment but has recently fell from grace Quoting The Tick, Evil wears every possible mitten That said the argument of the good, the moral hinges here on a tiny necessity, the afterworld , a world of never ending happiness, you can always see the sun, day or night.Well the current corruption of these words Good and Great have launched their own raid on the Dialogues Plato asserts most of politics is flattery and power Socrates knew that and wound up on a state sponsored trip across the Styx.All we can do is resist Resist An excellent example of philosophy justifying itself Everybody has heard the whole cranky, rather arrogant and patronizing remark made when someone who doesn t read very much or doesn t read for pleasure or instruction feels like scoffing a bit Why are you reading this boring old stuff Philosophy s good when you re younger, and you don t know anything, but once you become a real adult you should just let that stuff go It s interesting that Socrates calls Gorgias out for basically maki An excellent example of philosophy justifying itself Everybody has heard the whole cranky, rather arrogant and patronizing remark made when someone who doesn t read very much or doesn t read for pleasure or instruction feels like scoffing a bit Why are you reading this boring old stuff Philosophy s good when you re younger, and you don t know anything, but once you become a real adult you should just let that stuff go It s interesting that Socrates calls Gorgias out for basically making that case outright and putting Socrates in his place or seeming to by doing so Socrates asks him if he thinks a Catamite the catcher in the boudoir, if you please is living a good life Gorgias sputters and says no.Well, says Socrates, if you think that constantly seeking pleasure and satisfaction is all you need, maybe those very desires you have aren t going to be fulfilled and so you re really just constantly, consistently being the butt boy for your own endless, fruitless pursuit of gratification It s always amused me how Socrates gets away with laying the smack down like that What I recall about Gorgias again from my sopho university philosophy class was that there was a lengthy discussion of orators and how they are able to dupe audiences even folkstechnical than the orator him herself That sounds eerily relevant right now given that 1.7M people voted against the Commander and Thief who in 2012 criticised the very electoral college to which he owes his election His campaign promises were all smoke and mirrors as Gorgias delightfully admits to in hi What I recall about Gorgias again from my sopho university philosophy class was that there was a lengthy discussion of orators and how they are able to dupe audiences even folkstechnical than the orator him herself That sounds eerily relevant right now given that 1.7M people voted against the Commander and Thief who in 2012 criticised the very electoral college to which he owes his election His campaign promises were all smoke and mirrors as Gorgias delightfully admits to in his dialog Perhaps, along with The Republic, a critical read in our troubled times A Starker DialogueGorgias is very similar in structure, content, focus and argument with the Republic In fact, it comes across almost a half formed version of it, and scholars argue that it is in many ways like an early sketch for Republic But unlike the Republic, which forays into metaphysics and utopias, the argument in Gorgias is anchored very much in this world, and, again in contrast to Republic where everyone seems persuaded in the end, Gorgias leaves us in the dark as to whether Socrate A Starker DialogueGorgias is very similar in structure, content, focus and argument with the Republic In fact, it comes across almost a half formed version of it, and scholars argue that it is in many ways like an early sketch for Republic But unlike the Republic, which forays into metaphysics and utopias, the argument in Gorgias is anchored very much in this world, and, again in contrast to Republic where everyone seems persuaded in the end, Gorgias leaves us in the dark as to whether Socrates has really persuaded his audience of what he values most.Another significant difference with Republic is the absence of a narrator Commentators argue that that the stark, uncompromising frame this forces on the dialogue suggests that this absence of narrator may be an important factor in Plato s design he may wish to avoid the softening effect of narrative mediation in dramatizing Socrates lack of success in creating empathy with his interlocutors, his inability to teach them about goodness and justice, which, ironically enough, seems in danger of putting him in the same camp as all the failed statesmen he criticizes.Gorgias concludes awkwardly and abruptly, almost painfully aware of the deficiencies in the method employed and we just have Socrates last words 527e let us follow that way practicing righteousness and virtue and urge others to follow it, instead of the way which you in mistaken confidence are urging upon me for that way is worthless, Callicles What has Callicles or the others, for that matter to say in reply to the myth and the long argument that conclude the dialogue We are not informed The dialogue trails off inconclusively like one of the aporetics.Another marked parallel with Republic is how Gorgias too concludes with an eschatological myth, affirming the soul s survival after our death and its punishment or reward in the afterlife for a life lived unjustly or the reverse.Just like in Republic, the trial and the execution is hinted at but in Gorgias, they loom large and threatening, Plato callously converting hindsight into foresight and charging Socrates sentences with prophetic doom and an early condemnation of the system that precipitates his own death in the near future Socrates is made to relive a prophetic version of the trial and speaks as though it was all but inevitable in such a corrupt system that a man like him has an ending like that It remind s one of Jesus s early or similarly hindsight foresight inversion exhortations to his disciples about how the cross was waiting at the end of the road.A Deeper GlanceEvent though Gorgias is an earlier work allegedly and is sketchy in comparison to republic, it also allows us a closer look at one aspect of Plato s concern on Oratory The method employed to condemn Oratory, by using the distinction between art and knack gives important clues on why Plato goes on to condemn all of Poetry in Republic The reason, I feel, is that Poetry, like Oratory was a public art in Plato s time both intended to pursued without true knowledge Hence the same method when extended to Poetry would allow Plato to conclude that Poetry and storytelling too are knacks developed from experience and hence less than the genuine arts.Here is a dose of the brilliant expositionPastry baking has put on the mask of medicine, and pretends to know the foods that are best for the body, so that if a pastry baker and a doctor had to compete in front of children, or in front of men just as foolish as children, to determine which of the two, the doctor or the pastry baker, had expert knowledge of good food and bad, the doctor would die of starvation I call this flattery, and I say that such a thing is shameful, Polus it s you I m saying this to because it guesses at what s pleasant with no consideration for what s best And I say that it isn t a craft, but a knack, because it has no account of the nature of whatever things it applies by which it applies them, so that it s unable to state the cause of each thing And I refuse to call anything that lacks such an account a craft If you have any quarrel with these claims, I m willing to submit them for discussion.So pastry baking, as I say, is the flattery that wears the mask of medicine Cosmetics is the one that wears that of gymnastics in the same way a mischievous, deceptive, disgraceful and ill bred thing, one that perpetrates deception by means of shaping and coloring, smoothing out and dressing up, so as to make people assume an alien beauty and neglect their own, which comes through gymnastics So that I won t make a long style speech, I m willing to put it to you the way the geometers do for perhaps you follow me now that what cosmetics is to gymnastics, pastry baking is to medicine or rather, like this what cosmetics is to gymnastics, sophistry is to legislation, and what pastry baking is to medicine, oratory is to justice While this the argument from analogy with Doctors is a favorite of Socrates may be true to an extent, Plato does not give consideration to the possibility that the story tellers or, substitute Chefs Docs, if you really want to might actually have a greater understanding than the philosophers about the mysterious workings of the human soul It is blasphemy to conclude on this note but it is an exciting thread to pursue further in the reading of Plato.A Note on the TranslationThis translation gets the right mix of ponderous phrasing, elegance and readability conveying the ancient mystique and the modern relevance Also, it is broken up well into small parts, each with an introductory passage always initiating the reader into what is about to transpire in the dialogue This might be irritating to the seasoned reader but is a pleasant respite for the novice and functions like the small interludes that Plato himself likes to inject into his dialogues.It is also true that this acts like a spoiler and takes away from the thrill of the argument being developed by Socrates I personally started coming back to the introductory passage after reading the actual text so as to reinforce instead of foreshadow the argument I would advice the same course for future readers as well.DisclaimerAs is evident from the review itself, this reviewer is still too much under the influence of Republic and this reading was conducted almost entirely in its shadow Hence, the review is a biased and incomplete one that does no justice to Gorgias Gorgias is a complex and lengthy dialogue that deserves independent study and cannot be treated as a mere appendix to Republic as this review may seem to suggest That was not the intent.This reviewer found the parallels and contrasts with Republic very fascinating and spent most time debating that, but the ideas expressed in Gorgias are as stunning and intellectually engaging and forays into territory left unexplored in Republic The elaboration on techne might just be one of the centerpieces of Platonic thought Gorgias is a must read among the later Early period dialogues of Plato an important step towards the middle period dialogues such as Meno, almost a point of transition In fact, Gorgias is necessary reading for any serious reader of Republic No excuses.Postscript I would love a T shirt like that Anybody First time reading something for a university discussion Meaning my first university discussion, not my first time reading something for that purpose