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When a person’s back is against the wall and the stakes are the highest, how should they handle the pressure? When the lines between right and wrong become so blurred, how is one to know what is the ethical choice in the matter? Imagine being accused of first degree murder, a crime in which you did not commit. However, the evidence against you is stacked so high, it seems you do not have a chance. Your lawyer says he could have you acquitted, but in order to do so he must engage in some unethical courtroom tricks. So with your life on the line, what is the right thing to do? Do you keep the lawyer or should you stand by the truth?
I believe the nice thing for everyone to say is that they would stand by the truth. That would be if we, as a society, could really believe that the truth always wins out. However, realistically we know that bad things happen to good people and not always does good triumph over evil. I know that for myself I honestly think that being trapped like that, I would stick with the lawyer. For me being in that situation, I would be too scared to take the chance that the lawyer with the good, honest tactics could get me off. I would be too scared to not go with what seems to be a good thing. My attitude would probably be that since I am being falsely accused in the first place, then it would be fine to use whatever means necessary to have me acquitted.
In this situation, I believe that Gorgias would have the same opinion as I would. Gorgias would have rather stayed with the same lawyer, because he would have more belief in the power of oratory. He believed that through oratory anyone or anything could be convinced even though that person might not be a professional on the subject he was expounding on. Through oratory, Gorgias believed that a person gains his personal freedom. In a courtroom, oratory could be used to convince the jury system of anything. Oratory, Gorgias believed, had the total power to persuade. Gorgias thought that oratory had the ability “to persuade the jurors in the court, the members of the council, and the citizens attending the assembly - in short, to win over any and every form of public meeting of the citizen body.
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Socrates, in the other hand, no matter what the price would have been, would have invested his full trust in what was right instead of what was unethical. Socrates believed that no matter what the price was, total honesty and truth was the only choice in order for one to live a happy, fulfilling life. No matter what, a person still is to be judged when they leave this earth. How can one have a healthy soul after committing such dishonesty? Socrates believed that the “administration of justice is poor at the moment and that people are being assessed with their clothes on, and plenty of people with corrupt souls are dressed in attractive bodies, noble birth, and wealth.” That way, Socrates believed, that when a person was judged, people come forward to testify to the good things they have done to impress the judge. In order to honestly assess someone’s soul, they would have to die and be totally stripped of their barriers. Oratory constitutes a barrier in which Socrates disagreed with. By using oratory in the courtroom, you are committing dishonesty which is no less a sin than what you might be standing trial for. To Socrates, one must use total honesty at all times because a person has to trust in that good in him through his roughest moments, not a work of lies that one has made up to excuse him from his circumstances.
Both Gorgias and Socrates make excellent arguments in why the power of oratory should or should not be used. Gorgias finds that the power of persuasion should be used for the innocent no matter how dishonest it may or may not be. Socrates, however, would want to live in a blessed state in which he knew he did the right thing no matter what the consequences might be. However, for anyone deciding their state and relying on a system that in itself is not always fair is the most difficult. A person would have to have complete confidence in himself in order to place his life in someone else’s hands. Perhaps the power of oratory can have its advantages after all.