Insight of Plato's Gorgias

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Textual Analysis Term Paper: Gorgias

As history suggests, Plato was Socrates’ prime student. Plato’s key belief was that

the ultimate reality was the notion and concepts of things. His deduction was that what

we see in the physical world are simply abstract representations of universal ideas.

Consequently, Plato supposed, that to correctly understand reality one must transcend the

physical reality into the world of ideas, which is seen in Plato’s “Gorgias.” A lot of the

dialects in this piece of work are full of Socratic irony. Plato's main idea of the true

nature of reality centers on the abstract perception of universals and what creates the physical

reality. As Platonic Realism proposes, to be able to sensually perceive these universals, as they

have no temporal traits is impossible. In “Gorgias” we are able to see through Socrates’ and

Callicles’ dispute about justice, the ideas that form the foundation about what consists to be a

successful political leader.

Plato recognizes the conventional meaning of pleasure as satisfaction, but to understand

his view of the moral dimension behind it there is a particular framework behind the concept of

beauty. In “Gorgias”, he has Socrates say that things, both concrete things such as bodies, and

abstract things such as laws, and even knowledge, are beautiful “on account of either some

pleasure or benefit, or both.” (Plato, p.72)

In the beginning of the discussion between Socrates and Callicles itself, Socrates

mentions that the basis of their arguments will be with what they both love: philosophy &

Athenian democracy. To understand Socrates’ arguments it is foremost important to notice that

he directs his arguments towards the pursuit of pleasure, as he implies it is the highest good of

human life.

The difference between Callicles and Socrates on pleasure and the good is that

Callicles thinks the structures of the pleasures one pursues or the pains one avoids is

futile whereas Socrates puts extra attention to these structures. Callicles and Socrates

both contradict each other in this debate, nevertheless they agree on one aspect where he they

Socrates says casually that “it is uglier to act unjustly than to be treated unjustly.” (Plato, p.98)

which means it is better off to be unjust than to suffer it since suffering from injustice is more

agonizing than doing it.”

Despite the fact that Socrates admits that suffering injustice is more painful than

doing it, the consequences of having pleasure from inflicting injustice are nevertheless

worse. Socrates’ brings up his argument of self-control, through mentioning that suffering

injustice is conflicting with happiness and doing injustice is in fact even worse than suffering it,

accordingly doing injustice must also be conflicting with one’s happiness.

It is because Callicles rejects self-control as being fitting with happiness, that he is

forced to ignore the consequences of his actions. Therefore, to prove Callicles wrong,

Socrates uses rhetoric in a way that is philosophical to guide his logic. He suggests that

life without knowing the full form of pleasures, without having a knowledge of their natures,

basically, what their structures are, is a life which is destined to be frustrated. It becomes a

unhealthy experience to achieve happiness.

Contrasting this, Callicles thinks that one can understand that suffering injustice is

automatically more painful than inflicting injustice with respect to happiness. Socrates

tries to convince Callicles that this thought is incorrect. Socrates’ no doubt tries to prove

Callicles wrong and in this case, he mentions that one has to know the nature which implies the

structure, of the pleasure of one’s pain, which is how Socrates’ emphasizes on self-indulgence.

Throughout the dispute, the difference...
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