Journal of the History of Philosophy 59 (3):349-369 (2021)

Tushar Irani
Wesleyan University
This paper focuses on a neglected portion of Plato’s Gorgias from 506c to 513d during Socrates’s discussion with Callicles. I claim that Callicles adopts the view that virtue lies in self-preservation in this part of the dialogue. Such a position allows him to assert the value of rhetoric in civic life by appealing not to the goodness of acting unjustly with impunity, but to the badness of suffering unjustly without remedy. On this view, the benefits of the life of rhetoric depend on the idea that virtue consists in the power to protect oneself from the predations of others. I argue that by challenging this understanding of virtue as self-preservation, Socrates both deprives Callicles of any remaining justification for the rhetorical life in the Gorgias and, at the same time, makes room for his own defense of the life of philosophy.
Keywords Plato  Gorgias  Socrates  Callicles  philosophy  rhetoric  virtue  the good life  hedonism  self-preservation
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DOI 10.1353/hph.2021.0045
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