Gorgias

Gorgias

Gorgias

Gorgias

Excerpt

Gorgias' profession, the teaching of rhetoric, and the right and wrong uses of rhetoric itself are, at least technically, the themes of this work; and it is in reference to these that the dialogue is developed until it finally transcends them. Gorgias himself is handled as gently as circumstances permit; Polus, his acknowledged pupil, and Callicles, his host and perhaps his spiritual disciple, bear the brunt of the drubbing administered to the 'science' of rhetoric as it was practiced in Plato's youth. (It is probable that Gorgias came to Athens in the very year of Plato's birth.)

The Gorgias , like the rest of Plato, may be viewed on several levels. For the general reader, or in the initial reading, one of the more fruitful approaches is to regard the work as a study in what may happen when an attentive mind asks a simple question and pursues the answers to their natural conclusions. In this case the apparently guileless query, "What is Gorgias' profession?" leads, in the end, to an examination of how life itself should be lived and how rhetoric is to be linked to the Good Life. The aim of true rhetoric, we may be sure, is nothing other than improvement and education; the only proper use of persuasion is to make us better. But are we, then, incapable of making a true use of rhetoric ourselves until we have been improved by its offices? What happens in the meantime, until the desired conversion has been effected? Here, Plato might say, is the place for Socrates. This is the value of great and wise men: we must listen to them, the mouthpieces of true rhetoric, until we are in a position to think and speak for ourselves. Once we have become capable of wise and prudent action, we may enter politics or whatever profession of wisdom we choose. That is the final point of Socrates' concluding speech.

To Plato the Good Life is something more intense than we creatures of a paler emotional climate are able to achieve, or even comprehend. Some critics prefer the Gorgias to other more complex dialogues because there is here no irrationality, no . . .

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