Examining Callicles’ Attack on Socrates and Philosophy in Plato’s Gorgias

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The assignment for this class is supposed to be an interpretation of the relevant text(s) based on your careful reading of those texts. You defend your interpretation by providing the relevant textual evidence and analyzing it in order to build up a logical case for your interpretation. You should not use secondary sources (i.e. sources other than the philosophical text we are reading), and the assignment must not have any extraneous material in them, for example, praise of the author and his importance to western philosophy, or historical examples that buttress the argument. Your assignment is not supposed to be opinion pieces or personal philosophical statements. The goal of assignments is for you to think critically about the arguments of the author in question based on your own reading of the text.
Assignment: Write a 1000 word  (= 3-4 pages, double-spaced) on the following topic:
Examine Callicles’ attack against Socrates and the philosophical life in Plato’s Gorgias. What is Socrates’ defense against this argument, and why does he continue to engage in philosophy even at great risk to himself?
Things to consider when forming your argument:
You should use quotes from the Gorgias as evidence to support your argumentative claims
Briefly discuss Callicles’ claims about philosophy? Why is practicing philosophy a problem for Callicles?
When does Socrates think a person should engage in philosophy? In politics?
What, in Socrates’ opinion, are the consequences of not examining one’s life?
Think about Socrates’ argument in the Gorgias in defense of philosophy overall. How does he address Callicles’ attack on philosophy?
Is Socrates’ defense adequate (e.g. does he win the argument using philosophy or must he resort to other tactics)?
Give a clear statement of your argument at the beginning.
Unify with a single argument with a logical development from one step of the argument to the next.  Do not make a collection of separate points or examples.
Every time you state that the author states or argues something you should have evidence to support your statement, either in the form of a quotation or a specific textual reference. Only quote what you need for your purposes.  Try to look at your quotations as something more than mere evidence, and instead as material that you can analyze (break down into its parts in order to interpret it) in order to make your argument.
Book to use;
Title: The Trial and Death of Socrates (Third Edition)Authors: Plato, George Maximilian Anthony Grube, John Madison CooperPublisher :
Hackett Publishing
Publish Date :
Dec 1999
Title :
Authors : PlatoPublisher : Cornell University Press, Dec-1997Publish Date : Dec-1997ISBN 10 : 0801485274ISBN 13 : 9780801485275
Title :
The Prince
Authors :
Niccolo Machiavelli
Publisher :
University of Chicago Press


In Plato’s Gorgias, Callicles attacks Socrates and the philosophical life, while Socrates defends his practice of philosophy. Callicles argues that philosophy is a waste of time, as it does not bring about any tangible results, and that it is better to focus on gaining power and wealth in the political arena. He claims that the strong should rule over the weak and that morality is subjective, rather than objective. On the other hand, Socrates maintains that the examination of one’s life through philosophy is essential for leading a fulfilling life and that it is necessary to understand one’s own morality in order to make just decisions in politics.

Socrates argues that the purpose of philosophy is to understand the nature of reality and the good life. In his view, the good life is achieved through the cultivation of virtue, which is obtained through the examination of one’s life. Socrates believes that a person should engage in philosophy throughout their life and only enter politics when they have a clear understanding of their own morality. He argues that a person who does not examine their life is living in ignorance and will lead a life without meaning or purpose.

In defense of philosophy, Socrates addresses Callicles’ attack on philosophy by arguing that it is the only way to gain true knowledge and understanding of the world. He claims that philosophy allows one to distinguish between what is just and unjust, and that it is necessary for a just society. He argues that a person who lacks this understanding is unable to make just decisions in politics, which will ultimately lead to corruption and the downfall of society.

Socrates’ defense of philosophy is adequate, as he wins the argument using philosophy. He does not resort to other tactics, such as appealing to emotions or using coercion but instead relies on logical argumentation to defend his position. He argues that philosophy is the only way to achieve true knowledge and understanding and that it is necessary for leading a virtuous life and creating a just society.

In conclusion, the debate between Callicles and Socrates in Plato’s Gorgias highlights the fundamental differences between the two perspectives on philosophy and its role in society. Callicles argues that philosophy is a waste of time and that it is better to focus on political power, while Socrates maintains that the examination of one’s life through philosophy is essential for leading a fulfilling life and making just decisions in politics. In the end, Socrates wins the argument through his logical defense of philosophy and demonstrates its importance for a just society and the cultivation of virtue.

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