Good Essays

In Gorgias we have a conversation between Socrates, Gorgias, and Polus, Gorgias' young assistant. They speak on the matters of rhetoric, knowledge, and whether injustice and suffering is better to do or have done onto you. While conventional wisdom tells us that it is better to inflict suffering than to receive it, Socrates argues that it is completely the opposite. Part of Socrates view is that moral goodness is connected with knowledge, and that morally it is better to receive suffering than inflict it.

The argument begins with Polus telling Socrates that rhetoric and oratory can give you great power and high regard. He likens their position to tyrants who do what they see fit. To this Socrates says, " I say, Polus, that both orators and tyrants have the least power in their cities…" Though this may seem absurd there are points to this argument that fall into place.

Socrates position on oratory is that it is not a craft but a knack or a part of flattery, and that it can be used for both good and evil persuasion. You can persuade others to se your point of view, but without intelligence it can be unjust. He believes that, "…doing what one sees fit without intelligence is bad." Socrates argument is that moral virtue is s form of intelligence, and convinces Polus that in order to have great power, you must use it for what you believe to be the better. Polus believes that those who have the power do what they see fit, and at the same time are doing what it is they want to do. Socrates refutes this and says that though the tyrant may do what he sees fit, it is not really what he wants to do.

His argument to support this is found in moral intelligence and the want to do the best...

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... doing what we want when the outcome is wicked. Moral goodness is a form of knowledge to him, and that knowledge is necessary in order to do well. It is the good that we strive to achieve by doing what we see fit, but if we do what we see fit and actually create a wicked outcome we are not truly doing what we want. In order to do what we want we must have the knowledge of moral goodness to do what is right, and not to inflict suffering on someone else. In order to be morally sound it is better to receive the suffering at the hands of another than inflict injustice on us and become miserable. Though Polus does not want to accept this Socrates, in the end, brings him to his side.

So though there are many questions that are left hanging in the balance from this argument, Socrates point is clear that it is better morally to receive injustice than to inflict it.
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