Socrates says that all that matters is his own purity of soul; he has maintained this, and it is the only thing that is really within his power 522d. Not in the ordinary sense, like Alcibiades or Pericles, but in a higher one; and this will sooner or later entail the same consequences on him. The false arts stand in opposition to the true ones e. Seeing that rhetoric is one of those arts which works mainly by the use of words, and there are other arts which also use words, tell me what is that quality in words with which rhetoric is concerned. He did not wield power over Athenians like the power a shepherd wields over flocks, or a tyrant over his subjects.
Was that not the distinction which we drew? Is not this, as they say, to begin with the big jar when you are learning the potter's art, which is a foolish thing? I myself know not the true nature of these things, but I know that no one can deny my words and not be ridiculous. But Gorgias has already admitted the opposite of this, viz. Some, like , were foreigners attracted to Athens because of its reputation for intellectual and cultural sophistication. Whom did they make better? Do the many think, or do they not think thus? And you are lover of the Athenian dēmos, and of Dēmos the son of Pyrilampes. That teacher of yours will, then, make you just like them, will make you just what you desire: a statesman and orator. And therefore the criminal should himself go to the judge as he would to the physician, and purge away his crime.
The consequences may be inevitable, for they may follow an invariable law, yet they may often be the very opposite of what is expected by us. In general spirit and character, that is, in irony and antagonism to public opinion, the Gorgias most nearly resembles the Apology, Crito, and portions of the Republic, and like the Philebus, though from another point of view, may be thought to stand in the same relation to Plato's theory of morals which the Theaetetus bears to his theory of knowledge. Let us illustrate the meaning of his words by applying them to the history of our own country. I bears noting that myths and fables were associated with the sort of instruction that small children received. Socrates believes that people need philosophy to teach them what is right, and that oratory cannot be righteous without philosophy. He is not a mere theorist, nor yet a dealer in expedients; the whole and the parts grow together in his mind; while the head is conceiving, the hand is executing.
The old he makes young again; the familiar principle he invests with a new dignity; he finds a noble expression for the common- places of morality and politics. We may further observe that the art of government, while in some respects tending to improve, has in others a tendency to degenerate, as institutions become more popular. They provide themselves with money and friends, and cultivate to the utmost their powers of persuasion. Shall we break off in the middle? For Gorgias has just been exhibiting to us many fine things. And if I am to carry on the enquiry by myself, I will first of all remark that not only I but all of us should have an ambition to know what is true and what is false in this matter, for the discovery of the truth is a common good.
It cannot be supposed to matter here which of them is affected. Pleasure and good are the same, but knowledge and courage are not the same either with pleasure or good, or with one another. But the streams which fill them are few and scanty, and he can only obtain them with a great deal of toil and difficulty. In the first division the question is asked--What is rhetoric? Does not Socrates think him happy? If Socrates can persuade Callicles, then he knows he must be right. For, as they are incurable, the time has passed at which they can receive any benefit.
The latter class are generally kings and potentates; meaner persons, happily for themselves, have not the same power of doing injustice. Everyone, with the exception of myself, are of your way of thinking. Socrates however finds this answer unsatisfactory as he does not understand what rhetoric is concerned with. Socrates rejects the idea that it is in any way a good thing that a skilled rhetorician could, say, beat a ship-builder in an argument about ship-building. And having believed is quite different from having learnt. I would rather say that those who make a bad use of the art are to blame.
In all of them order has to be brought out of disorder, truth out of error and falsehood. Nor is he unwilling to be a politician, although he foresees the dangers which await him; but he must first become a better and wiser man, for he as well as Callicles is in a state of perplexity and uncertainty. Although obliged to descend to the world, he is not of the world. He gives you the bitterest potions, and compels you to hunger and thirst. The effect is gained by many literary and conversational devices, such as the previous raising of curiosity, the mention of little circumstances, simplicity, picturesqueness, the naturalness of the occasion, and the like. The conclusion is that there are two kinds of statesmanship, a higher and a lower--that which makes the people better, and that which only flatters them, and he exhorts Callicles to choose the higher. Your reputation, Callicles, is not at stake.
Gorgias is compelled to admit that if he did not know them previously he must learn them from his teacher as a part of the art of rhetoric. I do not call it an art, but only a knack, because it is unable to explain or to give a reason for the nature of its own uses. Yet in the most irregular of the dialogues there is also a certain natural growth or unity; the beginning is not forgotten at the end, and numerous allusions and references are interspersed, which form the loose connecting links of the whole. His mission is not to disguise men from themselves, but to reveal to them their own nature, and make them better acquainted with the world around them. He adds that he has exercised a similar power over the patients of his brother Herodicus. At any rate they must have the spirit and desire to be.