SOCRATES: A Series of Philosophical Plays is now published as a book. For ordering information, please click here.
Scene: Inside the house of Callicles in 405 BC. SOCRATES and CHAEREPHON are greeted by CALLICLES as they are joining a small gathering which has just heard a talk by GORGIAS, who is nearly eighty years old (though fairly healthy since he lived for another quarter century or so). POLUS is assisting Gorgias to a chair.
They say one should arrive late for a battle
so as to share in the feast.
Have we come too late for the proverbial feast?
A very elegant feast too;
for Gorgias has just exhibited
many fine things for us.
But Callicles, Chaerephon here is responsible,
for compelling us to spend time in the marketplace.
No matter, Socrates; for I'll remedy it too.
Gorgias is a friend of mine,
so that he'll exhibit for us
either now, if you wish, or another time.
Does Socrates desire to hear Gorgias?
That's the reason why we're here.
Then whenever you wish to visit my home,
for Gorgias is my guest
and will exhibit for you.
Callicles offers chairs to Socrates and Chaerephon near those of Gorgias and Polus, and they all sit down.
That's good, Callicles;
but is he willing to discuss with us?
for I wish to learn from him the power of his art,
and what it is he promises and teaches;
let him do the rest of the exhibition,
as you say, another time.
You could ask him, Socrates.
For that was also in his exhibition;
for just now he was commanding anyone in here
to ask whatever they wished,
and said he would answer them all.
That's good. Ask him, Chaerephon.
What shall I ask?
What he is.
What do you mean?
Just as if he happened to work on shoes,
he would answer you that he's a shoemaker;
or don't you understand what I mean?
I understand and will ask.
Tell me, Gorgias,
is Callicles here telling the truth,
that you promise to answer
whatever anyone asks you?
That's true, Chaerephon;
for I just promised this,
and I tell you that for many years now
no one has ever asked me anything new.
Then you'll answer quite easily, Gorgias.
You are present to test it, Chaerephon.
By God, if you wish, Chaerephon, ask me.
For it seems to me Gorgias is tired;
since he just went through much.
But Polus, do you think
you could answer better than Gorgias?
What does it matter,
if it's well enough for you?
It doesn't; but since you wish it, you answer.
Then I ask you,
if Gorgias happened to be knowledgeable
in the same art as your brother Herodicus,
what would you justly call him?
And if he were expert in the art of Aristophon,
what would you correctly call him?
Obviously a painter.
Now since he is knowledgeable in some art,
what should we correctly call him?
Chaerephon, there are many human arts
which have been discovered from experience,
for experience proceeds according to skill,
but inexperience according to chance.
Of the various arts, Gorgias practices the finest.
Gorgias, it appears Polus
is well prepared for speeches;
but he's not doing what he promised Chaerephon.
What is that, Socrates?
He doesn't appear to be answering what is asked.
But if you wish, you ask him.
No, if you wish to answer,
I'd rather talk with you.
For it's clear to me from what was said
that Polus is more concerned with
what is called rhetoric than with discussion.
Why do you say that, Socrates?
Because when Chaerephon asked him
in what art Gorgias is knowledgeable,
Polus eulogized his art as though it were blamed,
instead of answering what it is.
Didn't I answer that it was the finest?
But no one asked what kind of art it is,
but what Gorgias should be called.
Rather then, Gorgias, tell us yourself,
what the art you know should be called.
Then should you be called a rhetorician?
A good one, Socrates,
if you wish to call me what,
as Homer says, I profess to be.
Then also may we say
you're able to make others this?
That is what I promise,
not only here, but also elsewhere.
Then would you be willing, Gorgias, to continue,
as we are now discussing, asking and answering,
and put off to a later time
this speaking Polus began?
But as you promised, don't lie,
but be willing to answer briefly what is asked.
Some of the answers, Socrates,
must be made longer,
but I'll try to be as brief as possible.
For this is also one of the things I claim,
that no one can talk in briefer terms than I.
This is needed, Gorgias;
show me brief speech
and do long speech another time.
I'll do it, and you'll say
you never heard anyone speak briefer.
since you claim to be knowledgeable
in rhetorical skill and can make another an orator,
what is rhetoric really about,
as weaving is about manufacturing clothes, isn't it?
Then isn't music about composing melodies?
By Hera, Gorgias, I admire your answers,
because you answer as brief as can be.
I certainly thought I could, Socrates.
Now answer thus about rhetoric,
what is the knowledge about?
What kind of speech, Gorgias?
Then does it reveal to the sick
treatments how they may become healthy?
Then rhetoric isn't about all speech.
Of course not.
But it does make one able to speak.
And does it make one think about what is said?
Then does the medical art,
which we just mentioned,
make one able to think and talk about the sick?
Then the medical art also is probably about speech.
Then isn't gymnastics concerned with speech
about the good and bad condition of bodies?
And the other arts, Gorgias,
are concerned with speech
about the subject of each art.
So why don't we call the other arts
concerned with speech rhetoric?
Because, Socrates, the other arts
are concerned with manual work and such activities,
while all of rhetoric is knowledge, not manual labor,
but all the activity is through speech.
Some arts require more speech than others,
and some like painting or sculpture none at all.
Arithmetic and geometry use words,
but I don't think you call them rhetoric, do you?
You're correct, Socrates.
And many other arts
use speech for different subjects.
But tell me, Gorgias, about what subject
is speech used in rhetoric?
The greatest of human affairs, Socrates,
and the best.
But Gorgias, that's debatable and not clear at all.
I'm sure you've heard the song about the best things:
health and beauty and, as it says, "honest wealth."
I've heard it, but why do you quote it?
Because I imagine that if we were to ask them,
"What do you think is the greatest good?"
the doctor would say health;
the trainer would say physical conditioning;
and the money-maker would say wealth.
Then if we told them that our friend Gorgias
says that his art creates a greater good than these,
it's clear they would ask, "What good?"
So tell us, Gorgias, what is this greatest good
which you claim that you can produce?
It is, Socrates, in truth the greatest good
and the cause both of human freedom
and for each person
control over others in one's state.
So what do you mean by this?
I mean the ability to persuade by speech
in the law courts, in councils, in the assembly,
and in every other political meeting that occurs.
By this ability you'll have as your servant
the physician and the trainer,
and even the money-maker
will make money not for himself but for you,
who can speak and persuade the crowd.
Now it's clear, Gorgias, that you say
rhetoric is the worker of persuasion,
or is there anything else it can do
besides persuade the minds of an audience?
I think you've defined it adequately.
Then listen, Gorgias,
for if there was ever anyone
who discussed from wishing
to know what the meaning is,
that one is me, and also, I would expect, you.
So what, Socrates?
I'll tell you now.
I don't really understand
what rhetoric is about, though I may guess.
So I'd like to ask you what you mean by persuasion.
Do you think only rhetoric causes persuasion,
or do other arts also?
I mean, for example,
does whoever teaches something
persuade by teaching, or not?
Of course they do, Socrates.
Then do mathematicians
skilled in numbers teach us?
Then don't they persuade also?
Then aren't all the arts which persuade by teaching
workers of persuasion in the subject they teach?
Then rhetoric is not the only worker of persuasion.
Then since it's not the only one which achieves this,
of what kind of persuasion is rhetoric the art?
As I just said, Socrates,
in law courts and other crowds
and with what concerns the just and unjust.
I guessed that you meant that persuasion, Gorgias,
but I ask you what may seem obvious
so that the argument may progress in an orderly way
and you may develop your own statements.
And I think you do so correctly, Socrates.
So do you think having learned
and having been persuaded are the same,
or are learning and belief different?
I think they're different, Socrates.
and it may be known in this way:
for if someone asked you,
"Is there, Gorgias, false and true belief?"
I imagine you would say yes.
Yes, I would.
But is there false and true knowledge?
Yet those who have learned have been persuaded
as well as those who have believed.
Then shall we assume
there are two forms of persuasion,
one providing belief without knowledge,
So which kind of persuasion does rhetoric cause
in law courts and other crowds
concerning justice and injustice?
Does belief without knowledge come from it
or does knowledge come from it?
Obviously, Socrates, belief.
Then rhetoric, it seems,
is a worker persuading belief,
but not a teacher concerning justice and injustice.
Then an orator is not a teacher
of law courts and crowds
concerning right and wrong,
but only a persuader,
since one surely couldn't teach a crowd
so great a matter in a short time.
Of course not.
Now let's see what we're saying about rhetoric.
When the state meets to select doctors or builders,
surely the rhetorician doesn't give advice,
but the most skilled in these arts are selected.
On what issues, Gorgias,
could the orator advise?
Is it only on right and wrong
or on other issues too?
I'll try, Socrates, to reveal clearly
all the power of rhetoric;
for you have led well.
You know that the arsenals and walls of Athens
and the construction of the harbors
came from the advice of Themistocles,
and some from Pericles,
but not from manual workers.
It is said of Themistocles,
and I myself heard Pericles
when he advised us about the middle wall.
Whenever they are selecting as you said, Socrates,
you see that it's the orators who are the advisors
and who win the votes on these things.
That's what's amazing, Gorgias,
and why I keep asking
what the power of rhetoric is.
For so considered its power is evidently great.
If you only knew it all, Socrates,
how it takes in all the powers by itself!
I'll tell you a great proof:
Often I've gone with my brother or other physicians
to visit some of their patients,
who were unwilling
to take medicine or undergo surgery.
The physician not being able to persuade them,
I did, with no other skill than rhetoric.
Also I claim that if a rhetorician and a physician
had to compete for appointment by a state assembly,
the physician would never be selected,
but the one able to speak would be if he wished.
For the rhetorician could speak better on any subject
before a crowd than a worker of that profession.
Yet it should be used
like every other competitive skill,
just like boxing or fighting in armor
should not be used to defeat friend and enemy alike.
And if someone did learn these to attack a relative,
that's no reason to hate trainers and teachers
or to expel them from the state;
for they imparted their skill to be used justly
against enemies and wrongdoers and in self-defense,
though some may provoke
and pervert their skill's use.
Then it isn't the teachers who are bad nor the art,
but those, I think, who don't use it correctly.
The same argument applies to rhetoric.
Even though an orator can speak against everyone
and on anything so as to win the votes of the crowd,
that doesn't make it right to deprive the physicians
or other professionals of their credit;
but rhetoric should be used fairly, like athletics.
Thus it's the one who learns rhetoric from a teacher
and uses the power of this art unfairly,
who deserves to be banished, not the teacher.
I imagine, Gorgias,
you've experienced many arguments
and have observed that
it's not easy to define words for each other
by learning and teaching so as to agree;
and if they disagree and say the other is incorrect,
they get angry and one thinks the other is jealous
and not discussing in a spirit of inquiry,
sometimes ending it in a shameful scene.
Why am I mentioning this?
Because now you don't seem to me
to be in harmony with what
you said at first about rhetoric.
So I'm afraid to refute you,
lest you suspect I'm being contentious
and neglecting the issue to come down on you.
So if you're like I am,
I'd be glad to go on questioning you;
but if not, I'll let it be.
For I'm one who is glad to be refuted,
if I say anything untrue,
and glad to refute anyone else
who may say something untrue,
no less glad to be refuted as to refute,
since I believe it's a greater good for oneself
to be released from evil than to deliver another.
For I don't think there is any evil worse
than a false opinion about this current argument.
So if you claim you're this way too,
let's discuss it.
But if you think we should let it be,
we'll dismiss the argument.
But I do claim to be such, Socrates,
but maybe those present should be considered.
For before you came,
I demonstrated much for them,
and perhaps we may discuss for a long time.
Some of them may wish to do something else.
Most of the listeners murmur "No," and then some of them encourage the discussion by saying, "Please go on," which is followed by applauding approval.
You hear their applause yourselves,
Gorgias and Socrates,
that they wish to hear whatever you may say.
As for me, I would not be so busy
as to miss such an interesting discussion.
By the gods, Chaerephon,
of many arguments I've attended
I don't know any as delightful as this one now,
so that I'd be pleased if you'd discuss all day.
But Callicles, I don't object,
if Gorgias is willing.
It would be shameful, Socrates,
if I were unwilling,
having promised to answer whatever they ask.
But if they are so,
discuss and ask whatever you wish.
Listen then, Gorgias,
to what I'm surprised by in your statements;
for maybe you're correct,
and I'm taking your meaning incorrectly.
Do you claim you can make a rhetorician,
if someone wishes to learn from you?
Then on all issues is the crowd convinced,
not by teaching but by persuading?
You just said that even concerning health
orators will be more convincing than physicians.
I did, among the crowd at least.
Then isn't "among the crowd"
among those who don't know?
For surely among those who know
they won't be more convincing than physicians.
So then those who don't know
will be more convincing
among those who don't know than those who know,
since orators are more convincing than physicians.
That follows from this.
Then orators and rhetoric can do the same
in all the other arts too;
and they don't need to know them,
but to discover some device of persuasion,
so that those who don't know
will appear to know more
than those who do know.
Then isn't it quite convenient, Socrates,
not to be less than the professionals
by learning not the other arts but only this one?
Whether the orator is less or not than others,
we'll consider as soon as it's logical for us to do so;
but now let's consider whether rhetoricians
don't know the just and unjust, the good and bad,
any more than they know health and other arts,
and not knowing the just and unjust or good and bad
by devices do they persuade others
who don't know these that they do know?
Does one need to know these
if one intends to learn rhetoric from you, Gorgias?
Or if not, do rhetoric teachers not teach these,
since it's not their work,
but do they only make them seem to know these
and seem to be good to those who don't know?
Or couldn't you teach rhetoric to them
unless they knew the truth about these?
By God, Gorgias, as you were saying,
reveal to us what the power of rhetoric is.
I think, Socrates,
if they don't happen to know these,
they can learn these also from me.
Hold on; for you're right.
If you're to make someone a rhetorician,
they must know the just and unjust
either before or after learning them from you.
Then as those learning building are builders
and those learning music are musicians
and those learning medicine are physicians,
then are those who have learned justice just?
And those who are just do what is just.
Then must not the just wish to do what is just?
Then the just will never wish to wrong.
And from the argument
the rhetorician must be just.
Then the rhetorician will never wish to wrong.
So do you remember saying a little while ago,
that if an orator uses rhetoric wrongly,
we should not complain nor banish the teacher,
but those who wrong
and don't use rhetoric correctly?
Was that said or not?
But now it appears
the rhetorician could never wrong.
Or doesn't it?
And in the first statements, Gorgias, wasn't it said
that rhetoric concerns speech about right and wrong?
Then I took this statement at the time,
that rhetoric could never be wrong,
since the speeches it makes are always about justice;
but when a little later you said that
an orator might use rhetoric unjustly,
I was surprised
and believing these statements were not in accord,
I asked if you minded being refuted;
and examining it you see that you agree yourself
a rhetorician can't use rhetoric wrong
and intend wrong.
So by the dog, Gorgias,
it won't be a short conversation
to examine where this is going.
Is that what you think about rhetoric?
Or do you think,
because Gorgias was ashamed not to admit
that a rhetorician knows the just and good
but is willing to teach them,
and that from these admissions
came the contradictions,
which you admire so much,
when you yourself led him
into them with your questions,
since who would deny
they know and teach justice?
But it's very rude
to lead the argument into such things.
Most noble Polus,
this is why we possess young friends,
so that when we're old and stumble,
the young may restore our life in works and words.
And now if Gorgias and I are stumbling,
you're present to restore us; and it's just.
I'm willing to retract any agreement
that you don't think is right,
if you'll guard against one thing for me.
What do you mean by that?
That you cut down the long speeches, Polus,
that you attempted to use at first.
But why can't I speak as I wish.
You might suffer this if, arriving here in Athens,
where there is the most license to speak in Greece,
you alone are denied it.
But against this,
why should I suffer your long speeches
without being able to go away and not hear you?
But if you wish to restore the argument,
as you said,
retract what you please,
share in the questioning,
as Gorgias and I did,
and refute and be refuted.
For don't you claim
to know whatever Gorgias does?
Now which do you wish to do, ask or answer?
I'll do it.
Answer me, Socrates:
since you think Gorgias is in doubt about rhetoric,
what do you claim it is?
Then are you asking what art I claim it is?
None at all, Polus, to be truthful with you.
But what do you think rhetoric is?
A thing you claim to have made into an art,
in writing of yours I read.
What do you mean?
A kind of practice.
A practice of what?
Of producing gratification and pleasure.
Then doesn't rhetoric seem to you fine
in being able to gratify people?
What is this, Polus?
Did you already hear from me what I claim it is,
that you're asking if it seems fine to me?
Didn't I hear you claim
that it's a certain practice?
So if you wish, since you value gratification,
will you do me a small favor?
Ask me now what I think cooking is.
Then I ask, what is cooking?
Not an art, but a practice.
Of producing gratification and pleasure, Polus.
Then are cooking and rhetoric the same?
Not at all, but they're parts of the same pursuit.
What do you mean by the same?
The truth may be too rude to say;
for I hesitate to say it on account of Gorgias,
lest he think I'm satirizing his pursuit,
though I still don't know
if this is the rhetoric Gorgias practices;
but what I call rhetoric
is part of a business not fine at all.
Part of what business, Socrates?
Say it; you won't embarrass me.
It seems to me, Gorgias,
it's a pursuit, not an art,
strongly aimed at
dealing with people in a clever way;
in general I call it flattery.
This pursuit has many parts, and one is cooking,
which seems to be an art, but to me is a routine.
I call this and rhetoric, fashion and sophistry,
the four parts of this business.
So if Polus wishes to inquire, let him do so,
but I'll not answer
whether I think rhetoric is fine
until I say which part of flattery it is.
Then I ask you, which part is it?
Then by my logic rhetoric is a semblance of politics.
So do you say it's fine or shameful?
Shameful; for I call evil shameful.
By God, Socrates,
I don't know what you mean.
Tell me how rhetoric
can be a semblance of politics.
I'll try, and if it's not this,
Polus here will refute me.
Do you call someone a body and a soul?
Then do you think each of these has a good condition?
May a condition seem good, but not be?
For example, many seem to have good bodies,
but it's not easy for anyone
but a physician or trainer to perceive it.
I say something like this
is in the body and the soul,
which makes them seem to be in good condition,
though it's not the case.
Let's see if I can explain what I mean more clearly.
I call the art dealing with the soul politics,
and the body has two arts, gymnastics and medicine.
In politics, legislation corresponds to gymnastics,
and justice to medicine, though there is no clear line
between the pairs, medicine and gymnastics,
and between justice and legislation;
they are similar but different from each other.
which always minister best to body and soul,
flattery notices and foolishly assumes it is like them,
and it's not thoughtful of the best
but with pleasure always catches the foolish
and deceives them
so that they think it's most valuable.
So cooking assumes it is medicine
and pretends to know what food is best for the body,
so that if a cook and a doctor had to compete
among children or people as foolish as children,
as to whether they ate useful or bad food,
the doctor would starve to death.
So I call it flattery and claim it's shameful, Polus,
because it aims at the pleasant instead of the best;
and it's not an art but a practice,
since it doesn't apply logic
nor explain the causes of nature.
I don't call an irrational business an art.
If you dispute it,
I'm willing to support the argument.
So cooking is flattery disguised as medicine;
in the same way fashion impersonates gymnastics
by deceptively using shapes and colors
in clothes and cosmetics as an extraneous beauty,
neglecting what naturally comes through gymnastics.
So not to speak too long, I'll say it as in geometry,
for now maybe you can follow it.
What fashion is to gymnastics,
this sophistry is to legislation;
and what cooking is to medicine,
this rhetoric is to justice.
Now if the soul didn't preside over the body
so that cooking and medicine
couldn't be distinguished,
but the body itself judged by its own gratification,
then the chaos of Anaxagoras would come again.
I made a long speech to explain for you,
because you didn't understand my short answers.
If I don't understand your short answers,
you may speak longer;
but if I can make use of them, let me do so.
Now see if you can make use of this answer.
So do you claim rhetoric is flattery?
I said it's a part of flattery.
If you don't remember at your age, Polus,
what will you do when you're older?
Then do you think good orators are trivial
and considered flatterers in the cities?
Are you asking a question or beginning a speech?
I don't think they're considered anything.
Don't they have the greatest power?
No, if you mean power as something good.
Aren't they like dictators,
killing, taking property,
and banishing whomever they wish?
Maybe, but is that good?
Do you think it good,
if they do what seems best without intelligence,
and do you call that great power?
No, I don't.
Then they're not really doing what they wish,
or will you refute me by proving that
orators are intelligent and rhetoric is an art?
Even if power is, as you say, good,
don't you admit acting without intelligence is bad?
Don't people often do things
for some other purpose?
one takes medicine in order to be healthy,
or ventures on a voyage in order to gain wealth.
The purpose of each is something good,
such as wisdom or health or wealth and so on.
But aren't many things we do neither good nor bad,
such as walking, sitting,
running, sailing, and so on?
Then do people do
these neutral things for good things?
Then doesn't one kill, take property, or banish
thinking it's better to do so than not to?
Then everyone doing those
aren't wishing those things,
but don't they do them for some reason?
Then we don't wish to slaughter or expel people
or take their property unless these are beneficial;
and if they're harmful,
then we don't wish to do them.
Then don't we agree that if someone
kills or banishes anyone or takes their property,
whether one is a dictator or an orator,
thinking it's better when it's actually worse,
is that really what that one wishes, since it's bad?
So does such a person have great power?
Then I said the truth when I said that
a person can do what one thinks is best
but not have great power nor do what one wishes.
As if you don't envy the authority, Socrates,
to kill, banish, and take property as one thinks best.
Do you mean justly or unjustly?
Either way, isn't it enviable?
Be quiet, Polus.
Because we shouldn't envy the wretched
but pity them.
What? Do you think they're wretched?
Why not? Unless they do so justly,
and even those who do so justly
are not to be envied.
At least the one who is killed unjustly
is to be pitied and is wretched.
Less than the killer, Polus,
and less than the one killed justly.
How can that be, Socrates?
To wrong happens to be the greatest evil.
Isn't to be wronged a greater evil?
Not at all.
Then would you rather be wronged than wrong?
I'd wish neither,
but if forced to wrong or be wronged,
I'd rather be wronged than wrong.
Then wouldn't you accept a dictatorship?
Not if by dictatorship you mean what I do.
Suppose I had a knife under my arm and said to you,
"Polus, I've just gained dictatorial power
and can kill whomever I think requires it."
So if you didn't believe me,
I'd show you the knife.
Perhaps you'd say, "Socrates,
everyone can have that kind of power."
Then great power isn't
doing what one thinks necessary.
Of course not.
So why do you condemn this kind of power?
Because one doing this must be punished.
And is punishment bad?
When is it better
to exercise the powers we mentioned?
You answer that, Socrates.
Then I claim, Polus,
if you'd like to hear from me,
that when one does these justly it's better,
and when unjustly it's worse.
You're hard to refute, Socrates,
though a child could do it.
I'd be grateful to the child who would refute me
and deliver me from my foolishness.
Do you think Archelaus, the ruler of Macedonia,
is happy or wretched?
I don't know, Polus;
I've never met the man.
But what about the great king of Persia?
I still don't know, unless I know
whether he is educated and just.
Does all happiness consist of that?
Like I said, Polus,
good men and women are happy,
and the unjust and bad are wretched.
Then by your logic is Archelaus wretched?
If, my friend, he's unjust.
But how could he not be unjust?
He had no legitimate claim to his throne,
but if just he'd still be a slave; yet he's wretched,
because he murdered his master and cousin,
then while raising him as the prince
he threw the son of Perdiccas into a well to drown
and told his mother Cleopatra he fell in.
Now the most unjust Macedonian
is wretched and unhappy,
because he rules all Macedonia
and does what he wishes;
yet maybe some Athenians
would change places with him.
This is rhetoric and not dialectic,
and I don't agree you've refuted me.
You're not willing,
even though you think as I do.
that's because you try to refute rhetorically
by bringing more witnesses on your side,
but if you fail to convince me they are true,
even with one or none I must stay with the truth.
I prefer the method
which attempts to uncover the truth,
regardless of how many people believe it.
Let's examine if someone
may be happy while doing wrong.
For don't you believe
Archelaus is unjust but happy?
Will the unjust be happy if punished?
Not at all.
I think the unjust is wretched
whether punished or not,
but is less wretched if corrected by justice.
What do you mean?
If a person is caught unjustly plotting to be dictator,
and is tortured on the rack, has his eyes put out,
his family tormented,
and is finally crucified or burned,
will he be happier than if he escaped to be dictator
and ruled the city doing what he wishes,
envied and blessed by citizens and foreigners?
You may be frightening, Polus,
but you don't refute.
For of two wretched people neither is happier,
but the one who escapes is still more wretched.
Polus laughs out loud in mockery.
What, do you laugh, Polus?
Is this another form of refutation?
Don't you think you're refuted, Socrates,
when you say what no person claims?
Ask anyone here.
I'm not a politician, Polus, and let's not vote.
Last year when by lot I presided in the council,
I was laughed at for not knowing
how to take the vote.
I'm seeking only your vote now,
for I think you and I and everyone believes that
doing wrong is worse than suffering it,
and escaping punishment is worse than receiving it.
I nor anyone else believes that.
Which is more shameful,
to wrong or be wronged?
If wronging is more shameful than being wronged,
is it either more painful or more evil or both?
Do those wronging have more pain
than those wronged?
Then the excess is not in pain.
Of course not.
Then if not in pain, not in both.
Then evil is left.
Then to wrong is more evil than to be wronged.
So would you rather have
more shameful evil or less?
Don't hesitate to answer,
for you won't be harmed.
But submit to logic,
as to a doctor, and answer.
I wouldn't choose it, Socrates.
Would anyone else?
Not by this logic.
Let's consider the second point,
whether for the unjust
the greatest evil is
to be given judgment or not.
Is giving judgment the same
as being justly punished?
So would you say all just things are good?
It seems to me they are, Socrates.
When someone does something,
does another suffer the effect of the agent's action?
I think so.
So one experiences an effect like the agent's action.
Is being given judgment
experiencing what someone does?
It must be, Socrates, suffering from the punisher.
And is the punisher punishing justly?
So is the one being given judgment
And was it agreed that justice is good?
Then is being given judgment
a beneficial experience?
Does the soul become better if justly punished?
Then does being given judgment
relieve the soul's evil?
Then as injustice is the vice of the soul,
is disease the vice of the body,
and is poverty the vice of one's property?
I'd say so.
Isn't injustice as the vice of the soul the worst?
Is that because it's not most painful
but most shameful?
It must be.
Then injustice must be great harm
and the greatest evil?
Now is injustice relieved
by a judge giving judgment,
as disease is by a doctor
giving medicine or surgery,
and poverty is relieved by money-making?
Which of these three remedies is best?
Justice is far better than medicine or money-making.
Is it pleasant to be medically treated?
But it's beneficial.
Is medical treatment to relieve the evil better
than not to be treated and keep it?
Then is it also better
to be given judgment by a judge?
Then the happiest person has no vice in the soul,
and the second happiest has been relieved of it
by being reprimanded and corrected by justice,
but the worst has vice and hasn't been relieved.
And is this the one
who has done the greatest wrongs
but has managed to escape reprimand and judgment,
like Archelaus, dictators, and orators?
Aren't they like those with the worst diseases
who refuse to submit to a doctor's treatment
from fear of a painful incision?
So those evading judgment out of fear of pain,
being ignorant of its healing benefits,
are more wretched than the sick,
because they're corrupt, unjust, and unholy;
and to avoid the judgment
that relieves the greatest evil
they may use money or friends or persuasive speech,
and so the disease of injustice may become chronic.
Then to defend oneself for the sake of injustice
using rhetoric would not be a good thing,
but one would be better off to accuse oneself
and bring the wrong to light for justice and health
and so accept the judgment of correction,
by using rhetoric to relieve the greatest evil, wrong.
Shall this be what we claim, Polus, or not?
It seems unusual to me, Socrates;
yet perhaps it agrees with what went before.
Then if that's not undone, must not this follow?
Tell me, Chaerephon, is Socrates serious about this,
or is he kidding?
It seems to me, Callicles, he's extremely serious.
But you could ask him.
By the gods, I do want to.
Socrates, if you're serious,
and what you say is true,
then our life is upside down,
and shouldn't we be doing everything opposite?
Callicles, I know you love the Athenian country,
and whenever the country changes its views,
you change from one side to the other;
but I love philosophy, and she is always the same.
So you must refute her, like I said,
and show that
wrong and unpunished wrong aren't evil;
and if you can't, by the dog of Egypt,
there will be no agreement in your life.
Yet I would rather have many disagreeing with me
than have any discord in myself.
Socrates, you're juvenile
like a true public speaker
now that Polus has fallen
into the same trap as Gorgias.
For Gorgias was ashamed to admit
that he wouldn't teach justice,
and Polus was shamed into conceding that
to wrong is more shameful than to be wronged.
You cleverly used nature and convention,
which are opposite to each other;
for by nature suffering wrong is worse,
but by convention to wrong is more shameful.
This suffering wrong is a slave's role for the weak,
and the lawmakers are the weak and more numerous.
Using the convention of equality
they try to terrorize the stronger who have more
in order to protect themselves since they're inferior;
but nature says it's right for the better to have more.
Now philosophy is charming, Socrates,
but like a youthful pastime,
it should be put aside when one becomes mature.
You philosophers are likely
to be arrested and executed.
What wisdom is there, Socrates, in an art
where a good person cannot even help oneself
or save oneself or anyone else
from the greatest dangers,
but robbed by enemies of everything,
one is an outcast.
It's possible, if I may speak crudely,
to hit them in the head and not be given judgment.
So obey me, and stop refuting;
look to the practical.
I think I'm fortunate in meeting you, Callicles.
Because whenever you agree with me,
it must be true.
I think to test the soul adequately on correct living,
one should have three qualities,
all of which you have:
knowledge, good will, and frankness.
Many aren't wise;
some won't tell the truth;
and Gorgias and Polus,
though wise and friendly to me,
lacked frankness and are too shy.
So I was glad to hear you give me the same advice
about not studying philosophy too far
that I once heard you giving your best friends.
You're well educated,
and you obviously speak frankly.
So anything you and I agree on
should be perfect truth.
Now if I don't conduct my life correctly,
I don't err intentionally,
but it's my ignorance.
So I ask you to show me
what I should pursue and how.
Let's take it from the beginning:
What do you claim is natural justice?
Should the stronger lead the weaker by force
and should the better rule the worse
and have more than the poor?
That's what I said then, and I say it now.
Do you mean the stronger and better are the same,
and so stronger states may take over weaker ones?
Then aren't many stronger than one by nature?
Then are the laws of the majority
stronger and better?
Then doesn't the majority believe,
as you just said,
that it's just to have equality
and more shameful to wrong than to be wronged?
The majority believes so.
Then it's not only by convention that
doing wrong is worse than being wronged
and having equality is just, but it's also by nature.
aren't you ashamed to catch at words?
Don't you know I meant superior not stronger
like a pack of slaves who are strong only in body?
I thought you might; that's why I asked.
So starting again tell me what you mean by better.
I mean more able.
More able in doing what?
Do you mean in thinking?
By God, I do.
One thinking is often better
than a thousand who don't,
and so should rule
and have more than those ruled.
That's what I mean,
for I think that's naturally just.
Then if we gathered to enjoy food and drink,
should a doctor
who knows more about that have more?
Should a weaver have more clothes,
a shoemaker more shoes,
a farmer more seed, and so on?
You're talking about food and doctors
and weavers and other nonsense;
I don't mean that.
You always talk about the same things in the same way.
By superior I mean thoughtful in the state's business
and courageous, capable of accomplishing purposes,
and they should have more than those they rule.
You criticize me for always saying the same things,
but you don't say the same thing on the same subject.
Now you say the superior are courageous
and should have more than those they rule.
Should they have more than themselves?
What do you mean?
I mean everyone rules oneself as well as others
by prudence and inner control,
ruling the pleasures and desires within oneself.
The great and powerful aren't prudent
but courageously have strong desires.
Luxury and liberty are virtue and happiness,
and human restraints are nonsense.
Then it isn't correct what is said
about people needing nothing being happy.
for then stones and corpses would be the happiest.
So you don't think a soul
like a leaky bowl is a problem,
but one must always be itching and scratching,
hungry and eating, thirsty and drinking.
I don't see anything wrong with a life of pleasure.
Then are all pleasures equally good,
and is pleasure the same as the good?
I'll agree to be consistent.
Don't ruin an earlier promise, Callicles,
but be frank.
Is this what you really think?
Is hunger pleasant or painful?
It's painful, but eating when hungry is pleasant.
Then is it the same with thirst and drinking?
Then do you admit
all needs and desires are painful?
But do you claim it's pleasant
to drink while thirsty
and to eat when hungry?
So do you perceive what follows,
that one may enjoy oneself while in pain?
But do you claim it's impossible
to do well and badly at the same time?
Then enjoyment is not doing well
and pain is not doing badly,
so that the pleasant is different from the good.
I don't understand the subtlety, Socrates.
You do, but you pretend not to, Callicles.
Don't pain and pleasure occur at the same time?
I don't know what you mean.
No way, Callicles, but answer for our sake,
so that the discussion may be concluded.
But Socrates is always asking these little questions
until one is refuted.
What difference does it make?
Just let him refute you as he wishes.
Go on with your little questions,
since Gorgias thinks so.
You are blessed, Callicles, to have been initiated
into the great mysteries before the little ones.
Do you say pleasure is experiencing good
and pain is experiencing bad?
Are the wise and courageous good,
and are the foolish and cowardly bad?
So do the wise and courageous
experience more pleasure and less pain
than the foolish and cowardly?
For example, when the enemy attacks,
do the brave as well as the cowards feel the pain?
And when the enemy retreats,
don't cowards feel even more joy than the brave?
So do the brave experience more joy
and less pain than cowards?
It seems they experience them about the same.
Does this follow from the assumption
that the pleasant and the good are the same?
You really like this game, don't you, Socrates?
Do you think I or anyone else doesn't believe
some pleasures are better than others?
You're a rascal, Callicles,
treating me like a child,
saying one thing at one time and another later on.
Now you say some pleasures are good, others bad.
So are the good beneficial and the bad harmful?
Similarly with pains,
are some useful, and others not?
Then aren't the useful pleasures and pains
to be selected for practice,
but not the harmful ones?
Do you agree with Polus and I
that the good is the goal of all actions,
and all other things are done for its sake?
Then on account of the good
the pleasant should be done,
but not the good for the sake of pleasure.
So is everyone able
to select the good from the pleasant,
or is skill needed?
It takes skill.
Let's recall what was said with Gorgias and Polus,
that some activities are not skilled arts
but are pursuits of pleasures, such as cooking,
while the art of medicine concerns the good.
Some pursuits flatter either body or soul
by trying to please them
regardless of what is good for them.
Among these we might consider flute-playing, harp,
and other musical performances before audiences,
perhaps poetry and plays in addition.
If the music is removed from the latter,
aren't they like speeches to a large crowd of people?
Do you think poets use rhetoric in the theaters?
So when orators use rhetoric
to the Athenian people,
do they please them with flattery,
or do they consider
what is best for the city's good?
It's not that simple;
some do, and some don't.
Do you know of any orators who attempt
to make the citizens' souls as good as possible,
whether it's pleasant or not?
By God, I don't, not now.
What about in the past?
For I don't know of any.
What about Themistocles and Cimon and Miltiades
and the great Pericles, whom you heard yourself?
Maybe, Callicles, if virtue is what you said---
the satisfaction of desires.
But if it's, as we have logically agreed,
fulfilling only those desires
which make people better
and the skill to distinguish them,
I don't think any of them were.
But if you search well enough, you'll find one.
Let's consider it calmly to see if we can.
Surely orators organize speeches
for specific purposes,
just like manual workers
bring order to their crafts,
and trainers and doctors bring order to the body.
Do you agree with this or not?
Let it be so.
What about the soul?
If it has order, is it good?
It must be from the previous agreement.
So what name is given to order in the body?
Probably you mean health and strength.
What about the order of the soul?
Try to find the name for that.
Why don't you say it yourself, Socrates?
If you prefer, I will;
but if I'm not right,
you must refute me
and not let me get away with it.
I think the order in souls is law and lawfulness,
by which they are just and prudent.
Looking at this the skilled and good orator,
applies words to the souls
and in all actions always has this in mind,
how justice may be in the citizens' souls,
and injustice may be removed,
how they may be prudent and remove crime,
and produce virtue and expel vice.
Do you go along with this or not?
I'll go along.
For does it benefit the body when it's sick
to give it pleasant things to eat or drink?
Don't doctors, unless one is healthy,
rarely allow one to eat and drink all one desires?
Do you go along with this at least?
Isn't it the same way, good friend, with the soul?
If it's criminal, unjust, and unholy,
shouldn't it be restrained and not be allowed
to do anything but what will make it better?
Then discipline is better for the soul
than what you were thinking now.
I don't know what you mean, Socrates;
ask someone else.
This man won't submit to
the very benefit being discussed, discipline.
I don't care what you say;
I only answered you to please Gorgias.
Answer your own questions.
Then I must speak for two,
but if any of you think
the agreements I make with myself aren't right,
you must speak up and refute me;
or we can go.
No, Socrates, for I wish to hear you
go through the rest of the argument yourself.
So if order in the soul is beneficial,
I claim that the prudent soul is good.
When the prudent do
what is proper to humans and gods,
the actions will be just and holy;
and surely the prudent is also brave
in avoiding what one shouldn't do
and in pursuing what one should;
thus the good are blessed and happy,
while those doing wrong are wretched.
We've found it's best to need no correction,
but if needing it, it's better to be corrected.
So all efforts should be
put on justice and prudence,
not letting desires be unrestrained,
which leads to endless troubles and a robber's life;
for friendship is impossible
when there's no communion.
The wise claim, Callicles,
that both heaven and earth, gods and humans,
are held together by friendship
and order and prudence and justice.
But you think one should practice selfishness,
for you neglect the power of geometrical equality.
Now I say rhetoric should be used to accuse oneself,
and so let's consider
what you said are my weaknesses,
that anyone may hit me in the head, or rob me,
banish me from the city, or finally kill me.
Yet I hold that these are not as shameful for me
as to do wrong by striking or stealing and so on.
Thus to wrong is worse than to be wronged.
But can power help us to avoid being wronged?
But what about doing wrong?
Do you agree that no one intentionally does wrong?
Let it be so, Socrates.
So we need skill to be able to avoid wrong.
To avoid suffering wrong
must one either be a dictator
or somehow associated with the government?
Do you see how ready I am to praise you
when you're right, Socrates?
To be friendly with dictators
must not one be like them?
But the powerful can do wrong
without being punished,
and so won't they be in the worst condition,
as we agreed before in our discussion?
Then the soul like them will have the greatest evil.
I don't know how you
turn each argument upside down, Socrates,
or don't you realize
that this person imitating a master
will kill anyone else who doesn't?
I've heard it too often around here lately, Callicles,
but it's the bad killing the good.
Isn't that the problem?
Not for the intelligent,
or do you think one should practice rhetoric
to preserve us from death
and danger in the lawcourts?
By God, it's the right advice for you.
Yet the good is not merely being saved,
but to live as best we can our allotted span.
How can anyone gain great power
without conforming to the state,
for better or worse?
I don't know of any other way.
But for the good of the soul maybe it's better
that we not please the state with flattery
but work to make the citizens as good as we can.
Just as any skilled worker must show their ability
before we would consider their advice for the state,
shouldn't we show that
we have made someone good
before we speak to the good of all,
and can we make anyone else good
if we're not able to first make ourselves good?
So perhaps our first task is to improve ourselves.
Now if the people condemn
or ostracize their leaders,
even great ones like Pericles
and those you mentioned,
they must not have made the state good,
and without justice and prudence
they stuffed the state with arsenals,
walls, tribute, and other trash,
and if they complain they were treated unjustly
after all their valuable services to the state,
the whole thing is a lie,
since a ruler could never be unjustly ruined
by a state which one has ruled.
It's like the sophists
who claim they make people better,
but complain their students
wrong them by not paying.
Doesn't this seem absurd to you, my friend?
I've had to give a speech,
since you won't answer.
Aren't you the one who couldn't speak
unless someone answered?
It seems I can.
But tell me, Callicles, if you think
I should, like a doctor, make the Athenians good,
or should I serve and minister to their pleasures?
I'd say serve and minister.
Then you invite me to flatter them.
If you like to call it that, Socrates;
since unless you do what I say---
Don't tell me that anyone who wishes may kill me,
for only a coward charges one
who's done no wrong.
Yet it wouldn't surprise me if they executed me.
Shall I tell you why?
I think I'm one of a few Athenians,
not the only one,
who attempts to practice the true political art;
but since the speeches I give
aren't aimed at pleasing,
I'll be like a doctor before children
charged by a cook,
accused of cutting and drugging and starving them
instead of gorging them with nice treats.
If they say I corrupt the youth by confusing them
and criticize elders in private and public,
I can only tell the truth that I said all this justly,
and perhaps anything might happen to me.
So do you think it's good
a person can't help himself?
If I avoid doing or saying anything unjust,
for often we agreed this is the best self-help,
then I wouldn't be ashamed to be convicted;
and if I was punished for lacking flattering rhetoric,
you should realize that I would accept death easily.
For no one who is not irrational or cowardly
is afraid of dying,
but one is afraid of wronging,
since to arrive in Hades
with a soul full of wrongs
is the worst of evils.
If you wish,
I'd like to tell a tale how this is so.
Since you've finished the rest, finish this.
Listen then to a very fine account,
which you may regard as a fable,
but which I think is a true account.
As Homer tells it, rule was divided
between Zeus and Poseidon and Pluto,
when they took over from their father Kronos.
So in the era of Kronos
there was a law for humans,
and there still is now among the gods,
that people who went through life justly and holy,
when they die, go to the isles of the blessed
to dwell in all happiness free from evils,
but the unjust and ungodly go to a prison
of judgment and recompense,
which they call Tartarus.
In the time of Kronos the living judged the living
on the day that they would die.
Thus the judges decided badly.
So Pluto and those taking care of the blessed isles
went and said to Zeus
that the undeserving were coming.
So Zeus said, "I'll stop that.
For now the judges decide badly,
since those on trial are clothed,
for their cases are decided while they're alive.
Thus many having vicious souls
are dressed in fine bodies and families and wealth,
and when tried
many witnesses testify they've been just.
So the judges are dazzled by this,
and being also dressed themselves
they judge with the soul veiled
by eyes, ears and the whole body.
So first the foreknowledge of death is to be stopped,
and Prometheus has been told to stop it.
Next the tried are to be naked of all this;
for they should be tried when dead.
And the judge should be naked and dead,
looking with the soul itself at the soul
at the moment of death without all the relatives
and having left behind
all those decorations on earth,
so that the decision may be just."
This Callicles, is what I heard and believe is true;
and from this account I infer what follows.
Death, it seems to me, is nothing but
the parting of the soul and the body from each other;
when parted from each other, each more or less
keeps the same condition as when the person lived,
the body showing its nature, marks and sufferings.
And everything in the soul is also obvious,
when stripped bare of the body,
its natural talents and experiences
which the person has in the soul
due to the practice of various pursuits.
So when they arrive there,
the judge looks at each soul
without knowing whose it is,
and often with a great king or other sovereign
there is no health in the soul,
but its whipped and scarred
with perjuries and crimes
where each action marked the soul,
and its all crooked from lies and pretense,
because of being brought up without the truth;
and by license, luxury, and insolent actions
the soul is unbalanced and full of ugliness;
when this is seen
it's sent straight to the guardhouse,
where it will suffer what is appropriate.
It's fitting for all
who are corrected by retribution,
either to be improved and benefit
or to become an example for others,
so that others seeing the sufferings may improve.
Those benefited by being given judgment by the gods
are the ones with curable offenses,
but nevertheless it's through grief they improve
both here and in Hades;
for nothing else relieves the wrongs.
But those with the worst wrongs become examples
as they undergo the most severe sufferings.
There I say Archelaus will be,
if Polus told the truth,
and any other dictator of that kind,
for through their authority
they commit the greatest and most unholy crimes.
Callicles, among the powerful are the worst people;
the good may be powerful,
and these are very worthy;
for with authority to wrong it's hard to live justly.
There are few with the virtue to administer justly;
most of the powerful become bad.
So, Callicles, I'm convinced by these accounts,
and consider how I may
show the judge a healthy soul;
and saying goodby to the honors of most people,
considering the truth I try to be as good as I can
both in life and, when I die, in death.
I invite all other people as best I can,
including you, to this life and contest,
which I claim is the contest of them all here,
and I reproach you,
because you won't be able to help yourself
when your judgment and decision occur,
but coming before the judge
when you're led to Hades,
you'll be dizzy there no less than I am here,
and perhaps someone may hit you and insult you.
Maybe you think this story
is like an old woman's tale,
and condemn it, and it wouldn't be surprising,
if searching we could find something better;
but now you see that the three of you,
who are the wisest now in Greece,
haven't proved that one should live any other life.
While the other arguments were refuted,
this logic alone is well taken,
that to wrong is worse than to be wronged;
all should take care not to seem but to be good,
both individually and collectively;
and if one becomes bad, one is to be disciplined;
all flattery of oneself or others is to be avoided;
and rhetoric is to be used always for justice,
as are all other activities.
So being convinced follow me to where arriving
you'll be happy alive and dead, as logic indicates.
Let anyone condemn you as a fool
and abuse you if they wish,
and by God you may be hit by a dishonorable blow;
yet you won't experience anything terrible,
if you are good and practicing virtue.
And when we've practiced it in common,
we may engage in politics,
or we may advise then on whatever may seem best,
being better advised than we are now.
For it's shameful for us now to appear juvenile,
as we're so uneducated that
even the greatest things never seem the same to us.
Thus let's use the logic indicated to us,
that the best way of life is in practicing justice
and virtue both in life and death.
So let's follow and invite others to this,
not to what you believe and invited me, Callicles,
for that's not worth anything.
SOCRATES: A Series of Philosophical Plays is now published as a book. For ordering information, please click here.