PHL 204-07

Socrates v. Polus

Socrates’ long speech (craft or knack?)

Why have a long speech instead of elenchus? In order to show how ineffective the method is.

Gorgias pp27-31 (to 468c)
Do orators have great power in their city?

  1. How does Polus answer, what evidence does he give?
  2. dictators, police power, orators=tyrants

  3. Socrates bring up distinction between:
    Doing as you see fit
    Doing what you want
    Explain – how does he use it to respond to Polus?

I see little difference between the two, Socrates uses shifting word definitions and multiple meanings of words to his advantage, eventually clouding the issue. Soc. addressses ends rather than means, but primarily seems to be concerned with semantics and “tripping people up” over minor variations of language. “Good” & “bad” are used in very slippery fashion.

Polus believes that oratory gives its users the greatest power in the city. Like a tyrant, an orator can put anyone he wants to death, banish them, etc. More generally, an orator can determine how the state is going to run.

Socrates & Polus agree that having power (whatever that is) is “good” for the one who has it. what you want is the destination (eudaimoneia), doing as you see fit is the means to the destination. You must know what Eud. is, and what activities will lead to it.

“Power” tied up with the eud. concept, moral overtones, etc.

Orators can do as they see fit. But on their own admission, they lack knowledge about what they’re doing, and the decisions they make. So there is no assurance they will get what they want, (eud.)

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