Thursday, January 15, 2009

Quote of the Day: Socrates (or Plato)

During my insomnia last night, I picked up, as I usually do when I cannot sleep, some ancient philosophy--it works rather well as an antidote. Last night I picked up Plato's Gorgias, mainly because it is short. Socrates interrogates Gorgias and his colleague Polus about who they are and the nature of what they do--they are orators. In the process he begins to discuss the nature of justice (because he sees oratory as a "knack" or irrational component that opposes justice--justice being a great good because it heals the soul, since the soul is responsible for behavior.

Its literary or even philosophical quality is not on par with Plato's other works in my humble opinion. The dialogue is often awkward and the arguments occasionally seem forced.

But it has some redeeming qualities. One is an objection I have heard from my students concerning Socrates is that Socrates always gets to question in the elenchus process and never submits to similar questioning. But in Gorgias, he does, albeit briefly, but his interlocutors prove deficient in their questioning abilities. Moreover, in the process, Socrates articulates the following statement that I think is worthy of continued reflection (and which Gorgias does persist in working out its implications. Socrates says:

I would rather suffer wrong than do wrong. (Gorgias 469; trans. Walter Hamilton)

No comments: