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Section 1-447a-449c
Socrates, the constant hero of Plato's early dialogues, and his friend Chaerephon arrive
outside an unnamed person's house in Athens, just too late to hear the sophist and orator
Gorgias, who is visiting the city from his home town of Leontini in Sicily. They chat to their
acquaintance Callicles at the front door and then move inside, where they meet Gorgias
and his pupil Polus. Socrates wants to find out what particular skill Gorgias professes, and
Chaerephon agrees to put this question to Gorgias, but Polus takes over as interlocutor,
since Gorgias is tired. After Polus' meaningless and bombastic reply - that Gorgias
practices the finest area of expertise there is - Socrates questions Gorgias himself and
elicits the answer that he practices rhetoric.
1. Socrates wants to know what particular branch of expertise Gorgias professes
and teaches.
2. Callicles suggests asking the man himself and says that the display that Socrates
and Chaerephon have just missed from Gorgias included his inviting members of the
audience to ask him questions on any subject whatsoever, which he would guarantee to
1. Examples are given of the kind of answer Socrates and Chaerephon are seeking
to their question: (447c-d, 448b-c)
a. if making shoes was his job (tekhn), he would answer, 'I'm a shoe-maker.'
b. if he was in the same line of business as his brother Herodicus, we'd have
to call him a doctor.
c. if his professional experience was in the same field as Aristophon the son
of Aglaophon, we'd call him a painter.
2.In a bombastic display probably typical of the historical Polus, Polus replies merely
that Gorgias is one of the best practitioners of the finest area of expertise (tekhn) there
is. (448c)
3. (448d-449a) Socrates takes over from Chaerephon to point out the inadequacy
of such a reply, and repeats his original question to Gorgias himself.
4. (449a-b) Gorgias replies that his area of expertise is rhetoric and that he is a
rhetorician and a teacher of rhetoric.
1. Socrates asks Gorgias to assent to a dialectical form of procedure, by question and
brief answers, as much as possible, rather than by lengthy set speeches.
2. Gorgias replies that speeches are the best means of answering certain questions, but
that he is an expert in giving short, concise answers to
Section 2. 449c-451a
Socrates asks what domain of life Gorgias' expertise, rhetoric, is concerned with. Gorgias says
'speech' or 'speaking', but Socrates argues that this is too wide or vague a domain, since all
areas of expertise are concerned to some extent with speaking, and a number of them are as
essentially concerned with speaking as rhetoric is.
AND SO DEFINE IT: (449c-451a)

1. Rhetoric is not the only area of expertise which is concerned with the domain of
1. Every tekhn has a domain; for instance: (449d)
a. the domain of weaving is the manufacture of clothes
b. music is concerned with the composition of tunes
[2. Each domain is unique, and so we can use it to identify and define a tekhn.]
3. Gorgias' claim (449e1) that speech (logoi) is the domain of rhetoric could mean:
(i) that rhetoric is the only area of expertise concerned with speaking;
(ii) that rhetoric is the only area of expertise which teaches competence at speaking and
transmits understanding of what one is speaking.
(iii) That rhetoric is the only area of expertise which is essentially concerned with the
domain of speech.
4. But none of these claims is adequate to differentiate rhetoric from other areas of expertise.
1. (i) Rhetoric is not concerned with all speech. (449e)
1. Rhetoric is not concerned with speaking to ill people about the regimen they
should follow to get better.
[2. Medicine is the branch of knowledge concerned with speaking to ill people about
the regimen they should follow to get better.]
2. (ii) Rhetoric is not the only area of expertise which teaches competence at speaking and
transmits understanding of what one is speaking. (449e-450a)
1. Every single area of expertise is concerned with speech, when the matter being
talked about happens to be the one which is the province of its particular expertise.
2. e.g. it is expertise in medicine which makes one competent at understanding and
speaking about people who are ill.
3. (iii) Rhetoric is not the only area of expertise which is essentially concerned with the
domain of speech. The claim that all areas of expertise other than rhetoric are more or less
entirely concerned with practical and manual activity is incorrect. (450b-e)(from Gorgias, 450b)
1. Arithmetic and geometry are tekhnai and they are hardly concerned with
practical and manual activity.
2. If Gorgias were right, rhetoric would be the same as arithmetic and geometry.
3. Gorgias agrees that his hypothesis was incorrect.
Section 3. 451a-454b
Socrates suggests that Gorgias can retain his description of rhetoric as concerned with speech,
but should narrow it down by pinpointing its particular domain or subject-matter, and gives a
couple of examples. Gorgias replies grandiosely that rhetoric is concerned with the most
important aspects of human life. Socrates patiently points out that people differ over what they
regard as the most important aspects of human life, and asks Gorgias to be more precise.
Gorgias says in effect that the domain of rhetoric is politics - it is responsible for personal
freedom and enables an individual to gain political power in his community. Rhetoric is the ability
to use the spoken word to win over any and every form of public meeting of the citizen body of
one's community. Socrates still wants further precision: granted that persuasion is the product of
rhetoric, what is it persuasive about? Every expert persuades his audience of the matters in
which he is expert. Gorgias finally claims that the sphere or domain of rhetoric is right and wrong
- that it persuades people in mass meetings, as in the Athenian law courts or the Assembly,
about what is right and what is wrong, or morality.

1. Gorgias claims that rhetoric has the ability to persuade people in mass meetings about
what is right and what is wrong.
1. If we want to differentiate rhetoric from other areas of expertise that are heavily
concerned with the spoken word, it is fair to ask what its domain is. (451a-c)
[1. Every area of expertise that is concerned with the spoken word will turn
out to have a unique domain.]
1. The domain of arithmetic is odd and even numbers of any quantity,
and the domain of calculation is the quantitative relationships that odd and even numbers form
between themselves and one another.
2. It is not enough to say that the domain of rhetoric is the most important and valuable aspect
of human life. (451d-452d)
1. This is a controversial area: a doctor and a businessman, for instance, might well each
argue that his domain (health or wealth) is the most important aspect of human life, and that he
is the expert best equipped to provide what is most important and valuable.
3. It is not enough to say just that rhetoric is the agent of persuasion, such that it gains one
personal freedom and political power, without further specifying its domain, what it is persuasive
about. (452d-454b)
1. Gorgias' answer would have been fine if rhetoric were the only tekhn concerned with
persuasion, just as saying'He paints figures' would be fine as a reply to the question'What sort of
painter is Zeuxis?', if Zeuxis were the only painter of figures in the world.
2. Any teacher of any subject persuades his pupils or audience. Mathematics for instance,
is also an agent of persuasion, in the domain of odd and even numbers and their quantities.
Section 4 454b-455a
Socrates next asks whether rhetoric produces knowledge in its audience, or whether it produces
mere conviction. Gorgias admits that it produces only conviction, and the final definition of
rhetoric to which Gorgias and Socrates agree is: 'Rhetoric is an agent of the kind of persuasion
which is designed to produce conviction, but not to educate people, about matters of right and
WRONG: (454b-455a)
1. Gorgias' final definition of rhetoric is: 'Rhetoric is an agent of the kind of persuasion
which is designed to produce conviction, but not to educate people, about matters of right and
wrong.' (454e-455a)
1. The hypothesis that rhetoric produces conviction (in mass meetings about
matters of right and wrong) could be refined in two different ways. Either ( i) 'Rhetoric produces
conviction without understanding in its audience about matters of right and wrong'; or (ii)
'Rhetoric produces knowledge in its audience about matters of right and wrong.'
1. There are two kinds of persuasion, one of which produces conviction
without understanding, while the other produces knowledge.
1. The term 'persuasion' (in Greek) is ambiguous: there is a difference
between saying 'I'm convinced' and 'I've been taught.'
2. The difference is that conviction or belief may be either true or false,
whereas knowledge can only be true.
2. Gorgias settles for (i)
Section 5. 455b-456c
Now that a definition of rhetoric has been agreed on, Socrates begins to question how much

power its practitioners would actually have, since Gorgias had claimed that it enables one to
wield power over one's fellow citizens. Socrates argues that for many types of debate in the
Athenian Assembly experts from other domains would be called in, since Gorgias has claimed
that rhetoric is not concerned with knowledge. Gorgias grasps this nettle firmly and argues that
in actual fact the Athenian Assembly often relies on non-experts in such cases. The people of
Athens are swayed by the speeches of popular speakers such as Themistocles and Pericles rather
than by experts. A persuasive speaker, Gorgias goes on, is more effective even than a doctor at
getting sick people to take medicines or undergo treatment. A rhetorician could even get himself
elected as a community's medical officer in competition against a professional doctor, because
he could win over the community's assembly by the persuasive power of his speech. It is
inconceivable, in Gorgias' view, that a professional of any stamp could speak more persuasively
in front of a crowd than a rhetorician on any topic at all.
1. It is inconceivable, Gorgias says, that a professional could speak more persuasively in
front of a crowd than a rhetorician on any topic whatsoever. (456c)
1. Socrates plausibly suggests that, given Gorgias' admission that rhetoric does not
produce knowledge, it is not really much good at all, and that Gorgias' potential pupils might well
wonder how attending his lectures might help them to be successful politicians in Athens. (455bd)
1. The Athenians will not use a rhetorician to advise them when they need to
choose an expert, [someone with knowledge.]
2. The Athenians will not use a rhetorician to advise them when they are deliberating how-to
matters, [which require knowledge.]
1. So, for instance, master builders will be called in to tell the Athenian people how to go
about building harbours and dockyards and fortifications.
2. Gorgias claims that in actual fact the Athenians do listen to rhetoricians rather than
experts. (455d-456a)
1. It was actually Themistocles and Pericles, rhetoricians or professional politicians,
whose advice the Athenian people followed with regard to the fortifications and dockyards
Socrates had in mind.
2. It is actually a rhetorician that the Athenians listen to when they need to choose
experts too.
3. Drawing on his own experience, Gorgias claims in response to Socrates'ironic
praise of rhetoric as supernaturally powerful, that in the past he has often proved more effective
than his brother (Herodicus, a doctor) at persuading one of his patients to submit to treatment.
4. Given the effectiveness of rhetoric, Gorgias claims that a rhetorician could even
persuade a mass meeting to elect him to inappropriate posts, such as the community's chief
medical officer, if he wanted to. (456b-c)
Section 6. 456c-457c
Gorgias claims that the fact that rhetoric gives its practitioners such power in communities does
not give them a license to abuse it, any more than it does the practitioners of any other
combative skill. Moreover, the fact that some pupils of rhetoricians (i.e. some practising
politicians) might abuse their power does not mean that their teachers (i.e. people like Gorgias
himself) were bad men or that their expertise is at fault. The teachers should not be liable to the
kinds of political punishments that disgraced politicians suffer.

1. Rhetoric is a combative skill, and is morally neutral in the way that other combative skills
are. (457a-c)
1. In all combative skills, the champion practitioners should not abuse their power. (456c-d)
1. We do not expect champion boxers, for instance, to beat up their parents.
2. In all combative skills, even if one of his pupils does misuse the skill, the teacher should not
be blamed or punished. (456d-457a)
1. A teacher in any combative skill passes his expertise on to his pupils for use when morally
Section 7. 457c-461a
Before beginning to criticize what Gorgias has said about rhetoric, Socrates delivers a pointed
warning against taking such arguments personally. The purpose of an argument between two
people is for both of them to learn and correct any mistaken views they might hold, not for them
to end up hurling abuse at each other. So if Socrates goes on to point out that Gorgias has
contradicted himself, he does so only because he wants the issues clarified; he is not getting at
Gorgias personally. Does Gorgias want to continue on these terms? Gorgias tries to wriggle out of
the argument by suggesting that the others present may be too tired to continue listening, but
Chaerephon and Callicles promptly tell the two of them to carry on. Gorgias admits that it would
be embarrassing for him to refuse to answer Socrates' questions, since he undertook to answer
any questions that were put to him. Gorgias is in effect claiming, Socrates points out, that a
rhetorician is a mere amateur who happens to know how to be more persuasive than a
professional in front of an audience consisting of other amateurs. Since Gorgias is committed to
the idea of rhetoric as a combative skill, he happily agrees that this is so: rhetoric enables one to
beat all-comers. However, this contradicts his claim that rhetoricians are not amateurs in the
domain of morality: they teach their pupils right and wrong. This in turn contradicts his claim that
rhetoricians could abuse their skill and put it to immoral use, for if they are moral experts, they
cannot behave immorally.
1. One should not conduct an argument with a view to winning, but with a view to attaining
clarity on the subject under discussion. (457c-458a)
1. The worst condition for a human being is the holding of a false opinion on the topic under
2. Refutation can rid a person of that worst condition.
1. The proper purpose of an argument is to clarify the issue under discussion.
[2. Clarity removes false opinion.]
3. But arguments can degenerate into personal dog-fights, if one's interlocutor in an argument
is seen as an opponent one should try to defeat, [as in the combative model Gorgias has just
proposed, which was common among the later sophists.]
1. Inconsistently, Gorgias is claiming both that a rhetorician is an expert and that he is an
1. Gorgias is claiming that a rhetorician is an amateur.
1. A rhetorician merely has some ploy or trick, no expertise, which enables him to make nonexperts believe that he knows more than experts. (459c)
1. A rhetorician is persuasive only in front of crowds of amateurs. (459a-b)
1. A rhetorician is persuasive in front of crowds.
2. A rhetorician would not be persuasive to an expert.
2. A rhetorician is not himself an expert in any of the matters about which he is persuasive.

3. A rhetorician has no knowledge [by which he might persuade experts.] (459d)

4. In a mass meeting, a rhetorician is more persuasive than an expert because he is an amateur
in front of other amateurs. (459a-b)
2. Gorgias is claiming that a rhetorician is an expert.
1. The domain of rhetoric is good and bad, right and wrong, morality and immorality (Sec. 4.
1.1, , expanded at 459d).
2. A rhetorician is a moral expert (assumption from section 3 , reinforced at 460b). 460b
[1. We define expertise in terms of its domain.]
3. A rhetorician has knowledge of good and bad, etc. (460b)
[1. An expert in anything has knowledge of that thing.]
2. Inconsistently, Gorgias is claiming both that a rhetorician cannot do wrong and that he can
do wrong.
1. Gorgias has admitted (Sec . 6. 1.2 ) that rhetoricians (though not their teachers) do
sometimes do wrong.
2. But a rhetorician cannot do wrong.
1. (460a-b) A rhetorician is a moral expert.
1. A rhetorician is one who has come to understand morality.
1. Gorgias teaches people morality.
2. Any expert teaches others to come to understand his area of expertise.
2. A moral expert cannot do wrong (460b-c)
1. A moral expert will want to behave morally.
2. To come to understand an area of expertise is to become a practitioner of that area of
1. Anyone who has come to understand a given subject is described in accordance with the
particular character his branch of knowledge confers.
1. To come to understand building is to become a builder, and to come to understand music is
to become a musician.
3. Someone who has come to understand morality is moral.
4. To be a moral person is to behave morally, or do right.
Section 8.461b-466a
Gorgias' pupil Polus now takes over the discussion with Socrates. He complains that Socrates has
exploited Gorgias' sense of propriety in order to win the argument and asks Socrates what he
himself thinks rhetoric is. Socrates says that it is a kind of empirical knack, like cookery, and
doesn't require technical expertise as such. Moreover, both rhetoric and cookery are aspects
of'flattery' - which is to say that they aim solely to give pleasure, rather than any genuine
benefit. All branches of flattery are counterfeit imitations of true branches of knowledge. Four
branches of flattery are schematically compared with their non-spurious counterparts.
1. Some activities aim to benefit, others aim only to please. (462c, 464a-e)
1. A beneficial state for the body, for instance, is health, but there is also a state of spurious
physical health. (463e-464a)
2. The same goes for the mind or soul, psykh, too. (464a)
2. We can call those activities which aim for benefit tekhnai or branches of knowledge, and
those which aim for pleasure knacks or aspects of flattery. On 1.2-4 (462b-463c, 464b-465a)
3. (and by implication throughout) Those activities which aim for benefit are fine, while those
which aim for pleasure are shameful. 463a, d, 464e-465a,
4. A tekhn has rational understanding of the subject of its attentions (e.g. the body in the case
of medicine) and of the things it dispenses (e.g. drugs), and can give an account of its practices;

a knack, on the other hand is irrational in these respects and has merely acquired by trial and
error the ability to give pleasure. (465a) (462c, 464d)
5.The tekhn'statesmanship' aims to benefit the mind, and there is also a tekhn of looking
after the body. On 1.5-7 (464b)
6. Each of these tekhnai has two sub-species: the legislative process and the administration of
justice for statesmanship, and exercise and medicine for the art of keeping the body healthy.
7.Parallel to these genuine tekhnai, there are spurious ones in the genus of flattery', which
should be called knacks rather than branches of knowledge. (464c-e)
8. So the knack, cookery, corresponds to the tekhn, medicine; the knack, ornamentation,
corresponds to the tekhn, exercise; the knack, sophistry, corresponds to the tekhn of
legislative process; and the knack, rhetoric, corresponds to the tekhn, administration of justice.
1. As ornamentation is to exercise, so sophistry is to the legislative process; and as cookery is
to medicine, so rhetoric is to the administration of justice.
Section 9. 466a-468e
Polus cannot believe that Socrates is being sincere in his belittlement of rhetoric, since it surely
gives its practitioners power in the city, and is therefore a fine thing. Astonishingly, boldly and
ingeniously, Socrates argues that rhetoricians do not have power in the city. The fact that the
same word in Greek could function for both 'rhetoricians' and 'politicians' demonstrates the
paradoxical nature of the argument. Socrates implies that politicians are more likely than others
to decide to follow their own and others' whims - to pander to the populace, for instance - rather
than pursue their own good.
COMMUNITY: (466a-468e)
1. According to Polus, rhetoricians have very great power; according to Socrates, they have
very little power. (466b)
A.1. If power is a good thing, action based on unintelligent decisions cannot be power. (466e467a)
1. Those who, without intelligence, do what seems best to them have no great power.
1. Power is good for its possessor (at least according to Polus).
2. To do, without intelligence, what seems best to one is bad.
A.2. Rhetoricians are likely to mistake what is good for them, and in aiming for it will instead do
themselves harm.
1. An unintelligent person is likely to [mistake what is good for him, and in aiming for it will
instead] do himself no good by doing what seems best to him.
2. The difference between a tekhn and a knack is that practitioners of a knack do not operate
with reason and intelligence.
3. Ex hypothesi, rhetoric is a knack, not a tekhn.
A.3. Action based on unwise decisions is a bad thing.
B.1. If one isn't doing what one wants, one has no power. (466d-e, 467a)
1. Being in power entails doing what one wants. (467a)
B.2. Rhetoricians may do what they think best for themselves, but they do not do what they
want. (467b-468e)
1. If the actions carried out by rhetoricians and dictators, such as killing and confiscating, are
not good, they do not do what they want. (468c-e)
1. If killing and confiscating turn out bad for a rhetorician or dictator, he may believe them
best for him, but actually they are not. (468d)

2. Killing and confiscating are not good.

1. Killing and confiscating are means, not ends, and we can be said to want them only if they
are in our interest. (468b-c)
1.In assessing the purpose of actions, one must distinguish between means and ends. (467c468b)
1. For instance, when people drink a bitter medicine, for the sake of health, they do not want
the foul taste; they want health.
2. When people undertake dangerous sea voyages for the sake of wealth, they do not want the
danger; they want wealth.
2.It is a universal principle that whenever a person does one thing for the sake of another thing,
what he wants is not what he's actually doing, but whatever it is that what he's doing is a means
towards. (467d)
3. Everything is either good, bad, or indifferent. ( On 1.1.B. ) (467e-468a)
1. For instance, knowledge, health and wealth are good; ignorance, illness and poverty are
bad; sitting, walking, running and sailing are neither good nor bad.
4. We perform indifferent actions for the sake of good things. (468a)
1. For instance, we walk for the sake of the good, health, or sail for the sake of the good,
5. We perform indifferent actions because we want good things. (468a-b)
6. Those who execute others, or confiscate their property, do so because it seems good to
them. (468b)
7. Those who kill or confiscate do so for the sake of the good. (468b)
Section 10 468e-472c
In response to Polus'ad hominem retort that Socrates must find holding others'lives in one's
hands enviable, Socrates not only denies this, but pulls the rug out from under Polus'feet by
adding that it is better to suffer wrong than to do it. Wrongdoing is always pitiable; true profit
and happiness lie in being morally good. Polus regards this as nonsense, and gives a potted
history of Archelaus, the king of Macedonia, an autocrat who was commonly held to be happy, to
prove his point, but Socrates is unimpressed. He requires sound argument, not rhetoric, to
convince him, especially about issues as important as the nature of human happiness.
1. There is nothing worse than doing wrong; it is better to suffer wrong than to do it.
1. We should reserve the term 'power'for actions which genuinely benefit us. (470a)
1. This is contrary to Polus'belief that only if a criminal were caught and punished would the
benefit he would otherwise gain from his wrongdoing be negated (470a)
2. This is contrary also to Polus'belief that a dictator is the most powerful member of his
community, because he does what he feels like doing; in fact, he has no more power than
anyone else.
1. Any member of a community can murder any other member if he chooses. (469d-e)
2. The actions of a dictator, if justified, are unenviable. (469a)
3. The actions of a dictator, if unjustified, are pitiful, because they are the actions of someone
who is unhappy. (469b)
[2. Happiness is the measure of benefit.]
3. Only moral actions genuinely benefit us and bring us happiness. (470b-c, 470e, 471a)
1. The so-called happiness of immoral autocrats like Archelaus, who gained power by
treachery and murder, is an illusion.
2. THE METHODOLOGY OF DIALECTIC (III): (471e-472c; 473d-474b; 475e-476a)
1. The fact that many or even a majority of people vouch for a proposition is no guarantee of

its truth ( On 2.1-2 ) (471e-472a)

2. It is rhetoric ploy to bring forward many such witnesses; in the present case, Polus could
produce a horde of the most eminent men in Athens to testify to his position, but that would not
make it any the more true. (471e-472b)
3. Dialectic is interested only in producing one witness to the truth - the interlocutor in the
discussion. (472b-c, 474a)
4. The issue under discussion - effectively, how we are to be happy and to avoid unhappiness is so vital that it is crucial to get at the truth. (472c)
5. Rhetoric uses tactics such as laughter, scorn, and putting issues to the vote to decide issues;
dialectic questions a single interlocutor. (473d, 473e-474a)
6. Dialectic elicits people's genuine beliefs.
1.Socrates states his belief that Polus (and everyone else) already believes that doing wrong is
worse than suffering wrong, and that for a wrongdoer not paying the penalty is worse than doing
so. (474b, 475e)
Section 11. 472d-481b
Polus believes that if a criminal is caught and punished, that would negate the benefit he gains
from his wrongdoing. In contrast to this view, Socrates states two propositions: that a criminal is
bound to be unhappy in any case, and that he will be more unhappy if he is not caught and
punished. Polus is initially scornful, and develops a gruesome picture of the pain and torture a
criminal might undergo, but Socrates gains his crucial admission that wrongdoing is more
shameful than suffering wrong, and uses this to gain his further admission that wrongdoing is
actually disadvantageous to the wrongdoer. He then argues that it is better for an immoral
person to be punished than to remain unpunished, just as it is better for a sick person to undergo
medical treatment. He leaves implicit the additional conclusion that a criminal is therefore bound
to be unhappy. Socrates then concludes his bout with Polus by reintroducing rhetoric and arguing
- not without irony - that it should not be used to evade punishment for one's crimes, but on the
contrary for getting one's family and friends punished when they have done wrong, and for
getting one's enemies acquitted for any crimes they have committed, since that is worse for
them than being punished.
1. According to Polus, suffering wrong is worse than doing wrong; according to Socrates, doing
wrong is worse than suffering wrong. But in fact, according to Socrates (474b), even Polus holds
the same view as Socrates. (473a, 474c)
1. Faced with a choice between two things, one of which is worse and more shameful than the
other, everyone, including Polus, would choose the better and less shameful option. (475d-e)
2. Doing wrong is worse and more shameful than suffering wrong.
1. Doing wrong is more harmful than suffering wrong.
1. Polus agrees that doing wrong is more shameful than suffering wrong, but maintains that
suffering wrong is worse than doing wrong - i.e. that what is shameful is not necessarily what is
bad, and that what is fine (the opposite of shameful) is not necessarily what is good. . (474b-c)
2. We call a thing shameful by reference to its unpleasantness and harmfulness. Of two things,
if one is more fine than the other, it is either more pleasant, or more beneficial, or both; and if
one is more shameful than the other, it is either less pleasant, or more harmful, [or both.] (474d475b)
1. We call a thing fine either by considering the particular purpose it is useful for (which is to
say, by seeing if it is beneficial), or if it gives pleasure.
1. So, for instance, we admire a person's physique if it is useful for sport, or if it is nice to look

at, and the same goes for figures, colours and music.
2. The same also goes for people's customs, practices and fields of study: we call them fine if
they are beneficial or pleasant or both
3. Doing wrong is not more unpleasant than suffering wrong. (475c)
4. Doing wrong is not more unpleasant and more harmful than suffering wrong. (475c)
[2. 'Good' is the same as 'beneficial' and 'bad' is the same as 'harmful']
1. Polus maintains that a criminal is happy as long as he remains unpunished and so avoids
ghastly tortures; Socrates maintains that although a criminal is badly off already, just in virtue of
his crimes, he is worse off than one who is punished, even given the agonizing and terminal
nature of some punishments. (472d-e, 473b-c, 476a)
1. A criminal who is punished is being benefited. (476e-477a)
1. A criminal who is being punished is having a good deed done to him.
1. A punishing agent is carrying out a fine deed, and the person being punished is having a
fine deed done to him.
1. To say that a criminal pays the penalty for his crime is to say that he is justly punished.
2. Any instance of justice is fine, in so far as it is just. (476b, e)
3. If a person does something, there is also something which undergoes what that person is
doing. (476b)
a. If a person hits, there is something that is hit.
b. If a person cauterizes, there is something that is cauterized
4. The object which is undergoing the action is also bound to be affected by the way the agent
acts. (476b-d)
a. If a person hits hard or fast, the object which is hit is hit hard or fast.
b. If a person cuts deeply, the object which is cut is cut deeply.
5. To be punished is to have something done to you by an agent. (476d)
6. To pay a fair penalty is to have justice done to you by an agent. (476d-e)
2. The criminal being punished is having either a pleasant or a beneficial deed done to him.
1. A fine deed is either pleasant or beneficial (= )
[3. Being punished is plainly not pleasant.]
2.There are three possible states: true happiness, which consists in not behaving in an immoral
or criminal fashion in the first place; true misery, which consists in behaving in an immoral or
criminal fashion and yet not being punished (as was the case with Archelaus); and, in between,
the state of being a criminal and undergoing punishment for it. (472d-473a, 478c-e, 479c-e)
1. The worst state is to be an immoral criminal and not to be punished for one's crimes.
1. The behaviour of a criminal avoiding punishment can only be likened to that of someone
who is ill, but is too afraid of the pain of medical treatment to present himself to the doctor. Such
behaviour is born out of the ignorance of not appreciating the benefits that will arise as a result
of treatment/punishment. (479b-c)
2. Punishment benefits the mind or soul (psykh). (477e-478b)
3. Punishment allows a person to escape a bad psychological state. (478d)
4. A bad psychological state is the most harmful, and therefore the worst state there is. (477e478d)
1. There can be good or bad states for one's property, body and mind.
1. Poverty is a bad state for one's property.
2. Infirmity is a bad state for one's body.

[2. A good psychological state is characterized by the presence of the cardinal virtues, such as
justice, courage, self-restraint and knowledge.]
3. Immorality (that is, injustice, ignorance, cowardice and so on) is a bad state for one's mind.
4. Of the three bad states - for property, body, and mind - immorality is the most shameful,
which is to say that immorality is either the most unpleasant or the most harmful of the three
bad states, or at once both the most unpleasant and the most harmful (from ).
5. Immorality is not the most unpleasant of the three states.
2. Just as commerce is the remedy for poverty and medicine is the remedy for physical debility,
so the administration of justice relieves us of immorality. (477e-478b)
3. The administration of justice is more beneficial than the other two kinds of remedy.
1. Of the three - commerce, medicine and the administration of justice - the administration of
justice is the most fine. (478b)
2. The administration of justice confers more pleasure, or more benefit, or more of both, than
the other two. (478b)
[3. Being punished by the administration of justice is plainly not pleasant.]
4. It is worth putting up with unpleasant cures for the benefit involved. (479b)
1. So we put up with even pain in medical treatments for the benefit of having a healthy body.
5. Of two people in a bad state, the one receiving treatment is better off than the one who is
not receiving treatment. (478d)
6. Paying the penalty for one's crimes saves one from the worst kind of badness - the
psychological kind. (478d)
7. True happiness consists in not having the bad state in the first place, but the next best thing
is to be saved from it. (478d-e)
1. So, for instance, one is happier not to get ill in the first place, but it is better to be cured of
the illness than to suffer it.
1. Rhetoric should only be used to acquit one's enemies; where those dear to oneself are
concerned, it should be used to denounce them and make sure that they are punished if they
have committed any crimes.
1. One should help those dear to oneself, and harm one's enemies. (480a, c, e)
2. One's own self, and one's family, friends and country are dear to oneself. (480c)
3.[Rhetoric is commonly used in the law courts to evade punishment, but] (from the previous
argument) evading punishment is condemning a person to the worst state there is - a pernicious
psychological state of immorality. (480a, c-d)
Section 12. 481b-486d
Just as Polus took over in exasperation from Gorgias as Socrates' interlocutor, so now Callicles
takes over from Polus. He cannot believe that Socrates seriously holds these revolutionary views.
Socrates replies, in metaphorical language, that he is certainly voicing his inner convictions, and
contrasts this with the worldly Callicles' obligation to voice only what accords with the changing
whims of the populace. Callicles locates Polus' mistake as conceding that doing wrong is more
shameful than suffering it. In a powerful and impassioned speech, he claims that this view is
merely a convention designed by the weak to suppress the strong and argues that might is right,
by natural law. Socrates' aberrant views, he claims, are due to overindulgence in intellectual
pursuits rather than worldly experience. He ends his long and famous speech with a prophetic
warning that if Socrates ever finds himself in court, his impracticality will leave him incapable of
defending himself.

1. If Socrates were right, Callicles claims, human life would be turned upside down, in the
sense that everything people do is the opposite of what they should be doing.
2. But Socrates cannot help saying what philosophy wants him to say, and Callicles cannot help
chopping and changing along with the whims of the Athenian people. ( On 1.2-3 )
1. Anyone in love finds himself voicing the views of his beloved.
2. Socrates is in love with philosophy (and Alcibiades), Callicles is in love with the Athenian
people (and Demus, whose name is cognate with the Athenian people).
3. The views of philosophy are constant and have been expressed by Socrates in his argument
with Polus.
4. [As well as forming debates carried on with a single interlocutor, dialectic initiates debates
within a single person's mind], so that failure to examine the views of philosophy and to prove
them right or wrong causes lifelong internal disharmony within the mind of a person.
1. Convention and nature are often opposed, within a single person's own network of beliefs.
2. Socrates' argumentative technique depends on getting people to contradict themselves by
substituting a natural viewpoint if his interlocutor is arguing from a conventional position, or a
conventional viewpoint if his interlocutor is arguing from a natural position.
1. So, for instance, Polus was shamed by convention into agreeing that doing wrong is more
shameful than suffering wrong, and once he had taken up this conventional belief, Socrates
trapped him by introducing a natural viewpoint, since in nature everything is more shameful if it
is worse.
1. By convention doing wrong is more shameful than suffering wrong; by nature things are the
other way round.
2. Suffering wrong is something that happens only to slaves: real men are capable of defending
themselves against injustice and abuse.
3. Convention, either in the form of rules and laws, or as social pressures such as praise and
blame, is the way the weaker majority have found to look after themselves and their interests.
4. Convention is an attempt to cow the stronger few and stop their natural rapacity, by defining
rapacity as injustice, and as wrong and shameful.
5. By nature it is right for the better to have more than the worse, the more powerful than the
less powerful. It is a natural law that the superior person shall dominate the inferior person and
have more than him.
6. Those who are potentially stronger are trapped while young by the majority and
indoctrinated with conventional beliefs about the rightness of an equal distribution of property
and so on.
7. Nevertheless, a superman may some day arise who will break free of these shackles and
reveal himself to be our natural master.
a. As, for instance, Heracles was in Pindar's poem about him.
1. Philosophy is all very well in its place: a small dose in one's late teens or early twenties
enables one to acquire a veneer of culture.
2. But to pursue philosophy beyond that makes a man ridiculous because he lacks the worldly
experience to participate effectively in the public business of his community, and has thereby
deprived himself of fulfilling any potential he might have had to become a real man, one of the
stronger few.
1. The situation was encapsulated by the debate between Zethus and Amphion in Euripides'
play Antiope. Zethus, the representative of worldly wisdom, had some appropriate strong words
for his unworldly brother.

2. Were Socrates ever to find himself in court, he would be incapable of mounting an adequate
defence, because he has never studied rhetoric and the worldly arts.
Section 13 486d-491d
Socrates professes to be delighted to have found someone with the characteristics that will
enable him to test the truth of his beliefs. He stresses the importance of the enquiry: its subject
is nothing less than how one should live one's life. He first begins to undermine Callicles'
Nietzschean individualism by arguing that if it is better to obey the stronger party, then nature
decrees that it is better to obey the masses, since they are naturally stronger than any
individual. Callicles protests that by 'stronger' he does not mean 'physically stronger', and under
Socrates' guidance says that the people he has in mind are the cleverer (or more astute) ones.
Some crude prodding from Socrates makes him narrow this down further to those who have
applied their intelligence to political matters and have the courage to ensure that their will is
carried out. These, Callicles agrees, are the people who should dominate others and have the
lion's share of wealth and so on.
1. Any idea of Socrates' with which Callicles too agrees will by token of that very agreement
have been adequately tested, and will be true. (487d-e)
1. To test a person's [sincere] beliefs is to test whether or not their life is as it should be.
(486e-487a, 487e-488a)
2. Such a test requires knowledge, affection and candour on the part of Socrates' interlocutor.
a. Callicles has all three qualities, whereas Gorgias and Polus were too embarrassed to voice
their genuine beliefs; they had knowledge and affection, but not candour. (487a-d)
1. If the superior people are the stronger people, then the idea that wrongdoing is more
shameful than suffering wrong is ordained by nature as well as convention. (488c-489d)
1. The notion that wrongdoing is more shameful than suffering wrong is the view of the
2. It is by natural law that the views of the masses are dominant.
1. The rules of the masses are the rules of the superior.
1. Precisely because the masses make the rules under which we all live, they are the superior
2. The rules of the masses are fine from the standpoint of nature.
1. According to Callicles, natural right is the forcible seizure of property belonging to inferior
people by anyone who is superior, the dominance of the worse by the better, and the unequal
distribution of goods, so that the lite have more than second-rate people.
2. The rules of the masses are the rules of the better.
3. According to Callicles, 'superior', 'stronger' and 'better' are synonymous.
2. If the superior people are the cleverer people, Callicles' position is absurd. (489e-491a)
1. It is absurd for clever people to have more just because of their cleverness.
1. It would be absurd for a doctor to have more food just in virtue of his cleverness, whatever
his bodily needs or capacity.
1. A doctor is more clever than the majority of people about food and drink; he is a superior
2. The strength or weakness of a person's body determines how much food he should have.
2. Mutatis mutandis, the same goes for weavers and coats, cobblers and shoes, farmers and
grain, and so on.

3. In what Socrates signals as a third opinion, Callicles says that what he meant all along was
that the clever, stronger people are those who are politically astute and have the courage to see
their policies through to the finish. (491a-d)
Section 14 491d-501c
Socrates raises the question whether Callicles' superior men are in control of themselves as well
as of their communities. Callicles has rejected conventional morality, which commends selfcontrol: he thinks that happiness involves self-indulgence. The superior man is precisely the one
who has worked his way into a position where he can satisfy any and all of his desires, and has
the courage to do so. Socrates states the opposite view at some length and with considerable
power, but Callicles continues to maintain his hedonistic position. Socrates therefore produces
three arguments against the equation of pleasure and good. Callicles next shifts from
commending mere quantity of pleasure to admitting that there are qualitative differences
between pleasures. This allows Socrates to reintroduce the distinction between means and ends,
and to argue that better pleasures are those whose longer-term effects are good (which in turn
confirms that pleasure is not the good, since the good is something that pleasure can aim for).
Since discrimination is involved in assessing which pleasures are good and which are bad,
expertise is required.
1. The satisfaction of desire is true happiness for a human being. (491e-492c)
1. It is natural to do nothing to stop one's desires expanding as far as they can go. (491e,
2. To restrict one's desires is to curtail one's pleasure, and to live like a stone or a corpse. (492e)
3. Unrestricted pleasure is good and makes a person's life happy. (492c)
[4. Happiness requires obeying the dictates of nature.]
2. Self-discipline and conventions in general curtail the freedom and happiness of a natural
leader. (492a-c)
1. One should have the courage and ability to satisfy each and every passing desire with
whatever it takes to satisfy it.
2. Most people lack the courage and ability to satisfy each and every passing whim, so out of
cowardice they rule that self-indulgence is shameful, in an attempt to enslave those who are
naturally better than them.
3. What is shameful and bad is having the power to satisfy one's desires and yet accepting the
conventional restraints of self-discipline and justice.
1. Callicles thinks that Socratic 'happiness' is the life of a corpse. Socrates agrees in a
metaphorical sense, and cites Euripides to the effect that perhaps death is life and life is death. A
wise man once suggested that the body is a tomb (sma sma), and that the part of the mind
which contains the desires is characterized by its susceptibility and instability. This is the part of
the mind which a clever [Pythagorean] storyteller called a 'jar' (pithos),because it is plausible
(pithanos) and persuasive. Fools (anotoi) or non-initiates (amutoi) have minds which are as
insatiable as leaky jars. They are in constant need, like people in torment in Hades, who have to
try to fill a leaky jar with water they bring to it in a sieve.
2. Alternatively, self-disciplined people resemble those who fill good, unbroken jars with honey
or wine or milk; it takes hard work to procure the liquid, but once he has done so, he need give it
no further thought. Self-indulgent people, however, use vessels that are cracked, so they have to
work day and night to keep them filled.
3. Both analogies are meant to suggest that a life of restraint is happier [on Callicles' own

terms] than a life of self-indulgence.

1. Surely there is a difference between good and bad pleasures, depending on the source of
the pleasure.
1. 'Pleasant' and 'good' are always synonyms, according to Callicles.
2. A life spent itching and scratching, let alone drinking and eating, is a pleasant and happy life.
Even the life of a male prostitute is a happy life, on Callicles' premisses.
1. Pleasure is the satisfaction of desire.
1. The pleasant and the good are different. (497a)
1. Feeling pleasure is not the same as living well, and feeling distress is not the same as living
badly. (497a)
1. One cannot simultaneously have the good and the bad. (496c)
1. Those who live well are in the opposite situation from those who live badly. (495e, 496e)
2. [Those who are healthy are in the opposite situation from those who are ill.]
1. If an eye is diseased, it cannot simultaneously be healthy. (496a)
2. Losing the eye's disease is not simultaneously losing the eye's health. (496a)
3. The eye loses or acquires its health in turns. (496b)
3. The same three points obtain, mutatis mutandis, for other opposites such as strength and
weakness, speed and slowness, happiness and unhappiness, the good and the bad: one does not
have both at the same time, nor does one acquire or lose both at the same time, but one
acquires or loses each in turn. (496b)
2. But one can simultaneously feel pleasure and distress. (497a)
1. The situation of satisfying a desire is a situation in which the pleasure of satisfaction
coincides simultaneously with the pain of desire. (496e)
1. All desires (such as hunger and thirst) are unpleasant. (496c-d)
2. The satisfaction of all desires (such as eating and drinking) is pleasant for the person feeling
the desire. (496d-e)
2.Good things are not the same as pleasant things, and bad things are not the same as
unpleasant things. (497d)
1. Pleasure and distress can stop simultaneously. (497b-c)
1. For instance, when thirst is satisfied, the thirst (desire/distress) stops at the same time as
the satisfaction of the thirst (pleasure).
2. But we have agreed ( ) that the good and the bad cannot stop simultaneously.
3. Pleasure and the good are not identical. (499b)
1. Callicles' identification of the good and the pleasant amounts to the absurd position that
good people and bad people are almost equally good and bad. (499a)
1.There is little to tell between good people and bad people in terms of pleasure and distress;
good people (brave or intelligent people) feel both what Callicles calls the good (i.e. pleasure)
and what he calls the bad (distress) to more or less the same degree that bad people (cowards
and fools) do. (498e-499a)
1. It is thanks to the presence of good things that we call people good. (497e)
2. If the pleasant and the good are identical, it is thanks to the presence of pleasure - thanks to
how much pleasure they feel - that we call people good. (498d-e)
3. Brave and knowledgeable people are good; cowards and fools are bad. (497e)
4. Foolish and intelligent people both feel pleasure and distress to more or less the same
degree. (497e-498a)

5. Cowards and brave men both feel pleasure and distress, cowards perhaps even more than
brave men. (498a-498c)
1. Pleasures may be either good or bad. (499b-500a)
[1. (from 4 .) Pleasure and the good are not identical.]
2. The good is the goal even of pleasant activities.
1. Callicles concedes that some pleasures have a good effect, others have a bad effect.
1. For instance, some of the pleasures of eating and drinking make the body healthy, but
others make the body unhealthy.
2. Likewise, some unpleasant experiences are beneficial, others harmful.
3. Whether pleasant or unpleasant, we should choose good things and avoid bad things.
4. As was agreed earlier ( Sec. 9. 1.1.B ) all activity aims for the good: the good is not a means,
but the end of every activity.
2. It takes expertise to distinguish good and bad pleasures. (500a-b)
1. Tekhnai know what's good and bad; they have considered the nature of the object they look
after (e.g. the body in the case of medicine) and the reasons for their actions, and can therefore
explain their results. (500b, 501a)
2. Knacks, such as pastry-cookery, fail to distinguish better and worse; they are routines which
have become ingrained by habituation and past experience. (500b, 501a-b)
3. The issue at stake is nothing less than how we should live our lives. (500c)
Section 15. 501d-503d
Since rhetoric is a knack, Socrates criticizes all the great figures of Athenian political history as
mere flatterers of the populace, before sketching an outline of what true rhetoric would aim to do
for its audience. In short, the expertise required to enable someone to live the good life is not the
rhetoric Gorgias practices and teaches.
1. True rhetoric, which benefits its audience and is a genuine tekhn, is extremely rare.
1. Some knacks and areas of expertise cater for the body, others for the mind. (501b)
2. Those that cater for the mind may deal with a number of minds at once, not only one at a
time. (501d)
3. It is possible to gratify the minds of a whole crowd of people at once, without considering
what's best for them. (501d)
1. Examples of such branches of flattery include musical concerts, drama and rhetoric (501d502c)
1. Strip drama of its music, rhythm and metre, and you're left with words - i.e. rhetoric. (502cd)
4. Some rhetoricians aim merely to gratify their audience, while others, those with tekhn,
consider what is best for them and imbue their speeches with the highest moral content,
whether or not it makes people enjoy listening to them. (502d-503b)
1. Even the great leaders and speakers of Athens' past (such as Themistocles, Cimon,
Miltiades and Pericles) fail to fit the bill: they aimed to satisfy the desires of the Athenian people
without considering whether the fulfilment of those desires would make the Athenians morally
better. (503c-d)
Section 16 503d-509b
Stressing once more that the underlying topic of the discussion is the question how one should

live one's life, Socrates steers the argument away from rhetoric as such to a direct consideration
of this moral question. A true rhetorical expert would discipline the minds of his fellow citizens in
order to cure them of their moral weaknesses, just as a doctor cures his patients by imposing a
strict regimen on them. Faced with defeat, Callicles resorts once more to sullen abuse. Socrates
continues the argument alone. The good life and human happiness depend crucially, he argues,
on self-discipline. In fact, the whole universe can only function well as an orderly whole. The
arguments he has been putting forward, and this cosmic perspective, provide the justification for
the revolutionary view which provoked Callicles'entry into the discussion, that doing wrong is
worse than suffering it.
1. Discipline is better for the mind than self-indulgence. (505b)
1. An organized and ordered object is good, a disordered one bad. (503e-504a)
1. All crafts and areas of expertise organize the various components they work with into a
particular structure and make them accommodate and fit one another, until they form an
organized and ordered whole.
a. Examples from painting, house-building, ship-building, medicine.
b. The kind of ideal rhetoric outlined in the previous argument would also conform to this
pattern. (503d)
2. The effect of such organization on the body is health. (505b)
3. The effect of such organization on the mind is justice and self-control. (505c-e)
1. We call the processes that organize the body 'healthy'because they cause health.
2. We call the processes that organize the mind 'law'or 'convention'because they make the
mind law-abiding and orderly.
3. A law-abiding and orderly mind is a mind with justice and self-control.
[4. Discipline is always good for one.]
1.Life is not worth living if one's body is in a bad state. (505a)
2. Anyone in a bad state needs a regimen to cure him of the bad state. (505a-b)
3. Any regimen entails the curbing of desires. (505b)
1. So, in a physical regimen, it is sick people, not healthy people, who are put on a diet and
not allowed to indulge their desires.
4. The same goes, mutatis mutandis, for a mental regimen too.
2. A true rhetorical expert will constantly be trying to find ways for justice, self-control and
goodness in all its manifestations to enter his fellow citizens'minds, and for injustice, selfindulgence and badness in all its manifestations to leave. (504d-e)
[1. It is more than likely that his fellow citizens'minds will be in a bad state.]
1. We should make virtue our personal goal, and try to inculcate it in our fellow citizens,
because that is the way to guarantee happiness. (507d-e)
1. If a self-disciplined mind is good, an undisciplined and self-indulgent mind is bad. (507a)
2. A self-disciplined person has all the virtues. (507a-c)
1. He acts with justice towards human beings and with piety towards the gods.
1. A self-disciplined person acts appropriately in all circumstances.
2. He acts with courage.
1. He doesn't choose inappropriate objects or events to seek out or avoid.
3. A virtuous person is bound to be happy. (507c)
1. A virtuous person is bound to fare well in whatever he does.
2. Faring well is happiness.
4. An undisciplined person is bound to be unhappy. (507c)

1. A self-indulgent person will never be on good terms with his fellow citizens and is incapable
of co-operation. (507e)
1. Self-indulgence forces one to prey on one's fellow citizens.
2. Co-operation, love, order, discipline and justice bind heaven and earth, gods and men. (507e508a)
1. The universe is a kosmos, an ordered whole, not a disorderly mess.
2. Gods and men are governed by 'geometrical equality', rather than by the attempt to gain a
disproportionate share of things.
3. SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS: (506c-507a; 508b-509b)
1. The pleasant is not the same as the good. (506c)
2. The good should be the reason we do pleasant things, rather than the other way around.
3. Goodness is a product of organization and orderliness. (506d-e)
4. In the psychological domain, orderliness is discipline, so a good mind is a disciplined mind.
5. If happiness depends on a person having the attributes of justice and self-discipline, and
unhappiness on immorality, then rhetoric should be used to denounce wrongs committed by
ourselves and those dear to us. (508b)
6.If happiness depends on a person having the attributes of justice and self-discipline, and
unhappiness on immorality, then doing wrong is worse, and hence more shameful, than suffering
wrong. (508b)
7. If happiness depends on a person having the attributes of justice and self-discipline, and
unhappiness on immorality, then a genuine rhetorician does have to be a moral person and to
understand morality. (508c)
8. If happiness depends on a person having the attributes of justice and self-discipline, and
unhappiness on immorality, it is less shameful and less bad for Socrates to be at the mercy of
unjust attacks, on the streets or in the courts, than it is for his attackers to assault him unjustly.
9. At least the last four conclusions have been secured by arguments of iron and adamant; no
one can disagree with them without making a fool of himself. (508e-509a)
10. What is truly shameful is not the inability to defend oneself in court against unjust charges,
but the inability to avert from oneself and those dear to one what is truly harmful. (509b)
Section 17. 509b-521a
Obviously, the best course is to avoid both doing and suffering wrong. But how do we achieve
this? It seems that in a political context one can only avoid suffering wrong by doing wrong.
Practical politics, as it stands, ignores quality of life (which is what true expertise at living would
produce) in favour of simply staying alive by pandering to the whims of the powers that be.
Politicians consistently fail to exhibit the slightest expertise at improving people. In fact, there
have never been any true statesmen in Athens; the only candidates turn out to be practitioners
of flattery - and rhetoric is a type of flattery which is actually more contemptible than sophistry.
1. Political power and happiness are incompatible. (513a)
1. It would be best to be able to avoid both the greater evil of doing wrong and the lesser evil
of suffering wrong. (509c-d)
1. What is most harmful is doing wrong without being punished; next most harmful is doing
wrong and being punished; third most harmful is suffering wrong. (509b-c)
2. In order to avoid both suffering wrong and doing wrong, one must not just want to do so, but
also be equipped with the ability or branch of expertise to do so. (509d-510a)

1. No one wants to do wrong, and every wrong act is done unwillingly.

[2. No one wants to suffer wrong.]
3. It is impossible both to have political power in order to be able to avoid suffering wrong, and
not to corrupt one's mind or soul (psykh). ( On 1.1.3-4 )
1. In order both to have political power and avoid suffering wrong, one has to be either the
ruler of one's community, or to have assimilated oneself to the powers that be. (510a, d)
1. For instance, in a state ruled by a savage dictator, the dictator will be afraid of anyone who
is better than him and will despise anyone who is his worse. The only serious friendship a
dictator can form is with someone with the same likes and dislikes, but who doesn't mind being
subject to a ruler. (510b-d)
[2. All governments are more or less vicious.]
1. In a state ruled by a savage dictator, to assimilate oneself to his mores is to become unjust
oneself, and to acquire the ability to commit countless crimes and avoid the paying the penalty
for them. (510e)
2. In order to win political power in Athens, one would have to possess the same characteristics
as the Athenian people [ - i.e. fickleness, brutality, etc. -] which would not be in one's best
interests. (513a-c)
[3. Being or becoming vicious corrupts the mind.]
4. It is impossible both to have political power in order to be able to avoid doing wrong, and not
to corrupt one's mind or soul (psykh). (510e-511a)
1. In order both to have political power and avoid doing wrong, one has [to be either the ruler
of one's community, or] to have assimilated oneself to the powers that be.
[2. All governments are more or less vicious.]
1. In a state ruled by a savage dictator, to assimilate oneself to his mores is to become unjust
oneself, and to acquire the ability to commit countless crimes and avoid the paying the penalty
for them. (510e)
2. In order to win political power in Athens, one would have to possess the same characteristics
as the Athenian people [ - i.e. fickleness, brutality, etc. -] which would not be in one's best
interests. (513a-c)
[3. Being or becoming vicious corrupts the mind.]
1. One should not consider merely how to preserve one's life, but how best to live however
many years one has to live. (512d-e)
1. It is not worth preserving one's life at the cost of doing wrong. (513a)
1.Doing wrong is the worst thing in the world, and causes unhappiness in the soul of the
perpetrator. (513a)
2. The most important skills to acquire are not those which enable one to preserve one's life at
times of danger, such as rhetoric, swimming, engineering, medicine or helmsmanship. (511b512dd)
3. The true measure of benefit is not the mere preservation of life. (511b-512b)
1. Someone whose body is riddled with incurable diseases is better off dying.
2. Someone whose mind is riddled with incurable ailments is even worse off, and, if left alive,
would lead an even worse life.
JOB: (513d-515b; 527d)
1. Any aspiring politician (like Callicles) should be asked to establish his credentials for taking
up public service by proving that in the private sphere he has demonstrated the ability to
improve people. (515a)

1. This is a universal practice in other spheres. (514d)

1. Prospective builders of public works are reasonably asked whether they have expertise in
the field, who their teachers were, and what good private buildings they have built in the past.
2. Prospective community doctors are reasonably asked to demonstrate that they are in good
health themselves, and have restored others to good health in their capacity as private doctors.
3. It would be sheer stupidity to appoint to such posts anyone who failed to satisfy these
requirements. (514c, e)
2. The political leaders of a community should try to make the community and the citizens as
good as possible. (513e)
1. The political leaders of a community should do what's best for their citizens. (513e)
2. What's best for anyone is the improvement of his mind or soul (psykh). (513e-514a)
3. There are two procedures for looking after the body or the mind; one is flattery, which makes
pleasure the point of the operation; the other, which is the better procedure, confronts its
subject, rather than pandering to it, and makes its goal what's best for the body or the mind.
2.Only after one has completed one's training and become a good person should one undertake
to become a politician. (527d)
1. The so-called great statesmen of Athens' past - Pericles, Themistocles, Cimon, Miltiades fail by the standard that any statesman should leave his fellow citizens better people than he
found them. (515c-d)
1. Pericles is commonly accused (by right-wing opponents) of having made the Athenians idle,
work-shy, garrulous and mercenary, by introducing the system of payment for public services.
2. Any statesman who makes his fellow citizens more vicious than they had previously been
towards himself is not a good statesman. (516a-d, e)
1. Anyone who is in charge of any living creatures, human or otherwise, should leave his
charges more tame (or more moral) than he found them. (515d, 516a-b)
2. To be tame is, according to Homer, to be just. (516c)
3. Towards the end of his life, but not before, Pericles was found guilty by the Athenian people
of embezzlement. (515e-516a)
4. Cimon and Themistocles were both ostracized by the Athenian people towards the end of
their careers. (516d)
5. Miltiades was condemned and almost put to death. (516d-e)
2.Present-day Athenian politicians are no better. (517a)
3.The only difference between present-day politicians and the great leaders of the past is that
the leaders of the past were better at gratifying the people with ships, fortifications, dockyards,
etc. (517b-c)
4. There are two procedures for looking after the body or the mind; one is flattery, which makes
pleasure the point of the operation; [the other confronts its subject, rather than pandering to it,
and makes its goal what's best for the body or the mind.] (517c)
1.So, in the domain of the body, retailers, importers, bakers, cooks, weavers, shoe-makers and
tanners are all flatterers who keep the body supplied with food, drink, clothing and footwear.
5. Flattery adopts a servile attitude towards its sphere of operation and keeps satisfying its
subjects' desires. (517d, 518a, c)

6. Although these branches of flattery are regarded as looking after the body, this ignores the
fact that there is such a thing as expertise in exercise and medicine, which really looks after the
body. (517e)
7. True branches of expertise should be dominant over the branches of flattery which imitate
them. (518a)
1.True branches of expertise know which food and drink promotes a good physical state and
which doesn't, whereas branches of flattery have no such knowledge. (517e)
8. In the political sphere, it was the leaders of the past who made Athens bloated and rotten,
but they are praised while current leaders, who are only partially responsible (if that), get the
blame. (518e-519b)
1.To say that Pericles etc. were good political leaders is the same as saying that Thearion the
baker etc. were good at looking after people's bodies. (518b-c)
2. Exactly the same goes in the domain of the mind as in the domain of the body. (518a)
3. Where the body is concerned, it takes time for the bad effects wrought by bakers etc. to
come through and ruin the body. (518c-d)
4. Because of this time lag, people blame their bodily ailments on whoever happens to be there
at the time, and ignore the bakers etc. of the past who are really responsible. (518d)
SOPHISTRY: (519b-521b)
1.Sophistry is better than rhetoric. (520b)
1. Exercise is better than medicine, and legislation (the domain of sophists) is better than the
administration of justice (the domain of rhetoricians). (520b)
[1. Prevention is better than cure.]
2. In other respects, sophistry and rhetoric are comparably absurd. (519b-520e)
1. Since sophists claim to, and rhetoricians should, inculcate virtue in their students or
subjects, they are the only people who should be in a position to give their services away without
immediate payment and with hope of being fairly treated in the future. (519c-e, 520b-c)
1. It is not considered degrading for a trainer or a builder, say, to charge for his services, but it
is considered shameful to withhold information relating to how a person might improve himself
and run his household or community in the best possible way until after payment has been
received. (520c, d-e)
2. But sophists and politicians both often say that they have been wronged by their students or
1.Sophists claim to be wronged when their students withhold their fees. (519c)
2. Politicians claim to be wronged when their subjects take them to court. (519b-c)
3. But this is absurd: either they have done their job and made their students or subjects moral,
in which case they could not be wronged by them, or they have failed to do their job. (519d-e)
Section 18 521b-527e
Since Socrates is probably the only person in Athens who is concerned with people's moral
development, he is the only true statesman (for all his notorious lack of involvement in politics).
That is precisely why he will be misunderstood and condemned if he is taken to court. But this is
unimportant: what is crucial is to avoid immorality. An immoral person may be able to escape
punishment in this life, but he cannot in the afterlife, where he will be known for what he is,
judged accordingly, and punished (that is, cured). The more power one has, the greater the
chance of corruption. We must therefore set our own lives in order before even considering
gaining power over others.


1. Socrates accepts the possibility that, especially in Athens, he may end up in court, but he
feels secure that only a bad man would prosecute him, that he is a good man, and so that
whatever his prosecutor gains will do him harm rather than good. ( On 1.1-5 ) (521b-d)
2. Socrates claims to be the only man in Athens who undertakes the true art of politics. (521d)
[1. Politicians should attempt to improve their fellow citizens]
2. Socrates is the only one in Athens who attempts to improve his fellow citizens. (521d)
3. Precisely because he has specialized in morality, [he has never learnt to flatter, and] he will
be tongue-tied in court; his trial will be equivalent to a doctor being prosecuted by a cook before
a jury of young children. (521d-e)
1. The cook could make out a strong case to such a jury that the harsh treatments prescribed
by the doctor have been their ruination, when in fact they have been good for their health.
2. So Socrates will be unable to provide an account of the pleasures he has brought them in the
past, and will be unable to convince the jury that the aporia into which he has led the young men
of Athens, and his criticisms of their elders, have always been prompted by a sense of justice.
4. It is no disgrace for Socrates to be incapable of defending himself, because he has the
ultimate defence: he has never wronged anyone, mortal or divine, in word or deed. (522c-d)
5. Socrates is not worried about being put to death as a result of an inability to flatter in court,
but he would be ashamed to be proved to lack the ability to say in his defence that he had never
wronged anyone, whether the demonstration of this lack was given in a rhetorical speech or in a
dialectical argument. (522d)
6. Although the mere fact of death is not frightening, it is frightening to face death with one's
soul riddled with injustice. There is nothing worse than arriving in Hades with one's soul in this
state. One should present to the judges in Hades as healthy a soul as one can. (522e, 526d)
1. On death anyone who has lived a moral and god-fearing life goes to live in the Isles of the
Blessed, and dwells there in perfect happiness. ( On 1.6.1-10 , On 1.6.1-2, 10 ) (523a-b)
2. On death, anyone who has lived an immoral and godless life goes to be imprisoned in the
place of retribution and justice, which is called Tartarus. (523b)
3. Zeus has arranged things so that people are judged for their lifetimes after they have died,
so that their souls are exposed to the view of their judges, who are also dead, and therefore
unhampered by the limitations of mortal vision. (523b-d)
4. Zeus has arranged things so that we do not know the time of our deaths, [and so do not have
time to find a defence for our misdeeds during our lifetimes.] (523d)
5. Death is the separation of the soul from the body. (524b)
6. After death both the soul and the body remain in the same state, at least for a while, with all
their scars etc. visible. So a soul retains its blemishes - the marks of its crimes - but that is all:
the judges do not know whose soul it used to be during life. (524b-525a)
7. A soul with blemishes is sent off to prison (Tartarus) for the appropriate punishment. (525a,
8. Some souls are curable, some incurable. For the curable, appropriate punishment consists in
being benefited; for the incurable, it consists in acting as an example, a deterrent, to others: the
horrific nature of their punishment will deter others from sinning in their next lives. (525b-c)
9. Almost all the incurable souls are despots and dictators like Archelaus of Macedon. (525d-e)
1. It is possible to gain power and remain good - Aristides of Athens managed it - but usually
power corrupts. (526a-b)
10. A soul without blemishes - most likely the soul of a former philosopher - is sent off to the
Isles of the Blessed. (526b-c)

7. In order to present a healthy soul to the underworld judges, one should avoid public honours,
follow the path of truth, and try to be as moral a person as possible, and to persuade others on
to the same course. (526d-e)
8. Just as Callicles sees it as a weakness in Socrates that he will not be able to defend himself in
a human court, so Socrates urges Callicles to prepare for himself a defence - an unblemished
soul - for the judges in Hades, before whom he will be in just as much of a loss as Socrates would
be in a human court. (526e-527a)
1. The following views, argued for in the dialogue, are true:
(a) that we have to take greater care to avoid doing wrong than we do to avoid suffering
(b) that we must concentrate not on making people believe that we're good, but on being
actually good, in both our private and public lives;
(c) that punishment is essential for anyone who has done wrong, in the sense that although it is
best to be good, the next best thing is to become good - that is, learning restraint by paying the
penalty for one's wrongdoing.
(d) that we must have nothing to do with flattery in any of its guises;
(e) that rhetoric and all practical skills should only ever be used in the service of right.
1. Any idea that fails to survive testing by dialectical argument is wrong.
2. Callicles, Polus and Gorgias - the three cleverest people in Greece today - have failed to make
an impression on Socrates' views
2. For people who have wavering and unsure beliefs, the discussion offers a clear light, pointing
the way forward and suggesting that the exercise of justice and virtue in general is the ideal way
of doing things during one's lifetime and after one's death too.
3. The alternative view is good for nothing.