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
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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