Compare And Contrast Plato's Gorgias

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Although Plato’s Gorgias begins with an examination of rhetoric, the dialogue quickly become focused on more profound topics that lie hidden beneath the knack of persuasion. At first inquiring about rhetoric, Socrates challenges Gorgias and his followers, Polus and Callicles, to justify their lifestyle of accumulating power and pleasure. At the center of this debate over what constitutes a happy life is a struggle to define the nature of strength, which both sides agree it is the key to finding happiness. Conventional morality, Callicles argues, is based on a faulty conception of strength as equivalent to subservience and leads to misery; he claims, “it’s the weaklings who constitute the majority of the human race who make the rules. In making …show more content…
While Callicles’s diatribe on the strong and the weak displays a range of rhetorical power, Socrates exposes its many faulty assumptions and self-contradictions. First, Socrates points out that under Callicles’s definition of strength and superiority, the masses must be stronger and superior to individuals and thus laws passed democratically must meet Callicles’s criteria for strength. This conflicts with Callicle’s contempt for the weak masses and the rules they create. However, Callicles retreats by claiming he misspoke and that he rather means that “the elite” are the superior and “a single individual” can be “superior to ten thousand others” (75). Through the dialectical method, Socrates leads Callicles assert that the tyrant is the strongest of all, the most elite and thus the happiest. The example of the tyrant is crucial to Socrates’s thoughts on strength and he spends considerable time combatting the idea that the tyrant is the pinnacle of …show more content…
All of Socrates’s arguments draw from the initial question of what constitutes rhetoric and what the definition and use of rhetoric implies for the most important questions in life. Callicles holds that the successful orator is supremely strong, in effect a tyrant, because he can uses his power of persuasion to mold public opinion to whatever cause he wishes and thus pursue whatever cause he desires. Socrates argue that rhetoric has no moral foundation and thus no true strength because it is based entirely on manipulating external factors. If rhetoric involved mastering one’s own impulses and desires, then Socrates might endorse it, but rather he condemns it as an exercise in narcissism because it allows weak people who are dominated by their own impulses and needs to rule over the masses through

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