Question Selection: Write an essay on Callicles’ views, as espoused in Plato’s "Gorgias". Explain what these views are; explain how Socrates tries to counter them; and give your own assessment of the dialogue between the two.
With reference to Plato’s work entitled Gorgias, this essay will provide a short background to the dialogue, provide a synopsis of the points put forward by Callicles and how Socrates refutes those claims, ending with a final assessment of the dialogue in completion. ‘War and Battle’ are the opening words of the Gorgias. Voegelin believes this to be a battle for the soul of the younger generation. ‘Who will form the future leaders of the polity: the rhetor who teaches the tricks of political success, or the
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He does this by presenting Callicles with two images of the immoderate soul as a leaky jar or set of jars tormented by the need for continual refilling.6 The next series of exchanges bring us to the subject of hedonism. Socrates does this by leading Callicles to defend not only the immoderate pursuit of pleasure but also its indiscriminate pursuit. Callicles puts forward the following propositions. Any restraint of desire is undesirable for the strong man. He should allow all of his desires to grow as strong as possible. The satisfaction of these desires is pleasant and pleasure is identical with good.7 Socrates critique of Callicles hedonism consists of two arguments (495e2-497d7 & 497d8 – 499b8). The first is also referred to as the Compresence Argument whereby Socrates argues that pleasure and pain can be compresent in us whereas good and bad are contraries. Good and bad due to being opposites cannot coexist whereas, via the example of drinking, the pain of thirst is experienced together with the pleasure of drinking.8 One might say that the Compresence argument is merely verbal; Callicles isn’t convinced as he believes he has been caught in a Socratic sophism. Looking deeper one could also argue that good and bad can at times be mixed. Stauffer believes that Socrates whilst speaking of happiness as a condition unmixed with evil is describing an impossible dream. However Callicles doesn’t object