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4.7 out of 5 stars
10


on 8 November 2017
Gorgias is a marvellous book, it takes the form of three discussions between Socrates, Gorgias, Polus and Callicles on related and connected subjects. The three discussions get longer and progressively more heated. The first discussion with Gorgias is about oratory, Gorgias thinks it is the best of arts, while Socrates thinks it’s just a knack, and that most oratory is about flattery or pandering. In order to use oratory for good, it must depend on philosophy to guide its morality. With Polus and Callicles, Socrates main point is that it is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong. The stubborn Callicles denies this, and thinks the contrary. Socrates goes on to say that to do wrong and get away with it is the greatest evil and harm that a wrongdoer can do to himself. Socrates maintains that if your enemy has done something wrong to you, you should try every means to see that he does not come before the court. Polus and Callicles are astounded at Socrates position. Callicles argues that wrongdoing is only shameful by convention, and it is not wrong by nature. Callicles also argues that it is natural and right for the strong to rule over the weak, and that it is the weak who produced laws and conventions about moderation and such, in order to put themselves on an equal footing with their betters. Socrates tries to refute Callicles on these points. Socrates also uses the analogy of the doctor and politician, who strive for the health of people’s bodies and souls respectively. Eventually, Callicles stubbornly asks Socrates to carry on the discussion by himself. Socrates finishes off the discussion with story or myth which he states is definitely true, about happens to souls when they are judged in the underworld. Some souls go to the isles of the blessed and others to Tartarus. All in all Gorgias is a brilliant read, one of Plato’s better, and would highly recommend it!
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on 28 November 2002
This is one of my favorite Socratic dialogues. The evidence suggests that Plato wrote it soon after the execution of Socrates, and while I would not say there is a bitter edge to this Gorgias dialogue, I can definitely say that the exchanges do get a little lively at times. At one point, I could almost hear the voices of Socrates and Polus being raised as they argued. Another positive aspect of this dialogue is the fact that it is comparatively easy to understand. Socrates does not start spouting ideas about true Forms or using geometry to prove his points; the more esoteric, more advanced Platonic ideas are to be found in Plato's later writings. In many ways, this dialogue also serves as an introduction to Plato's masterpiece The Republic. Socrates' ideas on some things seem nascent at this point, and he actually contradicts some points he would later make, but the heart of Socratic thought lies within easy grasp in the pages of this dialogue.
The dialogue begins as a discussion about the true nature of oratory. The famed orator Gorgias is in town, and Socrates is most anxious to have a discussion with him. At first, Gorgias' younger friend Polus desires to speak for Gorgias, but he proves little match for Socrates. When Gorgias enters the discussion, Socrates treats him very well, as a respectable man with whom he disagrees, and Gorgias for his part is never flustered by Socrates' description of his art as a knack and as a form of pandering. Later, Callicles bravely jumps into the mix, and things really get interesting. Socrates seemingly admires Callicles' courage to state what he means without shame, yet he winds up getting Callicles to agree with his points in the end. What is it all about? The main points that Socrates makes are that it is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong, and that it is better for a man to be punished for his wrongs than to escape punishment. Implicit in his argument is the belief that all wrongdoing is the result of ignorance; following up on this idea, he declares that dictators and politicians who hold vast powers are the most miserable men of all. He goes so far as to describe Athenian heroes such as Pericles as bad men because the state was less healthy when they left office than when they took office, the proof being that such men eventually lost power and were even ostracized.
For Socrates, happiness comes from being virtuous and self-disciplined. The orator can make a great speech and convince his peers that he is right, but he does this by inculcating belief rather than knowledge in the minds of his audience; he requires no knowledge to win such a debate, and as a result he tells the people what he knows they want to hear rather than what is truly best for them. Right and wrong are immaterial to the orator, Socrates charges. Callicles urges Socrates to give up his immature fixation on philosophy and become a public speaker; were he to be brought to court and charged with a wrong, Callicles tells him that he would be unable to defend himself. Much of the concluding pages consist of a wonderful defense by Socrates of his way of life. He agrees that a court could rather easily try and execute him, but if that were to happen, only his accusers would suffer for it. His thoughts are for the next world, and he has no fear of death because he believes a man with a clean, healthy soul such as his will be given immediate access to the isles of the blessed. The execution of Socrates was clearly on Plato's mind as he wrote this particular discourse.
I would recommend this dialogue to individuals seeking an introduction to Plato's philosophy. The entire discussion is clear throughout and easily comprehensible, and it proves interesting to see how some of Plato's thoughts changed between the years separating this dialogue and The Republic.
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on 22 September 2016
Some philosophers think this is Plato's greatest dialogue. I am one of them. This translation is very good.
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on 8 December 2009
When i bought this book i wanted to get acquainted with a appropriate English translation of Gorgias. And i am quite satisfied with what i got. As i haven't read the original non-translated work i can't say anything else about the translation, although one thing i disliked was the replacing of original Greek terms by English counterparts, which don't provide the whole meaning of the original. The book also had a short introduction on Plato and some explanations at the end of the book. Short summaries by the translator were also giving at the end or beginning of each chapter along with his opinion. All in all, i got what i wanted.
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on 29 December 2015
Written in the 4th century BC, "Gorgias" by Plato is one of the great Socratic dialogues and founding stones of Western civilization. This time Socrates / Plato discusses the nature of rhetoric in relation to politics and government. The art of persuasion, the power of words and justice according to nature, versus the seeking of truth, living a good life and considering the welfare of citizens are this time at stake in discussions with his eternal opponents, the Sophists.

As with all of Plato’s works, “Gorgias” is jam packed with themes, and works at several levels. It therefore requires concentrated reading, but is in the end very rewarding. Especially the part of the ‘pitiful tyrant' I found compelling. Socrates states here that it is better to be a victim of evil than to inflict evil (and get away with it).

Inspired by Peter Adamson’s podcast and books, Classical Philosophy: A history of philosophy without any gaps, Volume 1, I have started reading the sources of philosophy. What better place to start than with Plato’s Socratic dialogues.
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on 27 July 2001
'On Rhetoric', as it is often called, is from Plato's middle period, around the same time as 'The Republic'. It is, like all of Plato's works, a conversation, and here Socrates talks to a few people about the nature of rhetoric. Of course, this being Socrates, he soon gets on to the nature of 'good' and 'justice', our favourite Socratic ineffables. But the shining light at the centre of this book is Callicles, the strong, bold, proto-Nietzschean ubermench who challenges all conventional notions of morality. His fierce arguing and exultant, hedonistic ideals make him a memorable character. Here we find an excellent and fun read about ethics, rhetoric and philosophy itself, full of bad jokes and inspiring speeches. If you've never read Plato before, or have only been force fed The Republic, this is the book for you. When you do read it, just giggle at how much fun it must've been to hang around with Socrates. Then get out and start asking awkward questions yourself!
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on 13 June 2009
Surprising readable dialogue on the misuse of the powers of oratory and the importance of whether it is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong.
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on 11 June 2014
Recommended by my tutor and well worth the purchase. A really rewarding read and I very much recommend it too.
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on 19 February 2015
Well written introduction. Clear and flowing
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on 23 October 2015
Classic
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