This Gorgias research paper attempts to discuss Plato’s dialogue Gorgias from the standpoint of the following; 1] Socrates’ conception of the true nature of the art of politics; 2] the relationship between rhetoric and politics; 3] the explicit and implicit presuppositions inherent in Socrates’ arguments about the nature of knowledge, human good, and the proper end of politics; 4] the mind set of Callicles; 5] Socrates’ justifications for his own arguments. We shall end with a brief evaluation of the effectiveness of Socrates’ arguments.
The nature of politics comes to the fore after the discussion of the nature of rhetoric. Qua art politics deals with the care of the human soul; it bifurcates into legislation and justice. The care of the soul is likened to the care of the body, with legislation corresponding to gymnastics and justice corresponding to medicine. Just as gymnastics and medicine are what is best for the body, the aim of legislation and justice, the aim of politics, if politics is to have legitimacy, is what is best for the souls of men.
Socrates encounters the rhetorician, Gorgias, at the beginning of the dialogue and this encounter is a typical example of the type of elenctic disputation that is such a common feature in the early dialogues. Under Socrates’ questioning Gorgias’ makes a series of attempted definitions and claims for the nature and excellence of the art of rhetoric; these Socrates destroys one by one. What emerges from the rubble of Gorgias’ refuted statements is a vague notion that rhetoric has to do with words, persuasion, and public policy.