The Sounds of Silence: Rhetoric and Dialectic in the Refutation of Callicles in Plato's Gorgias

The Sounds of Silence: Rhetoric and Dialectic in the Refutation of Callicles in Plato's Gorgias In his admirable book Reason and Emotion, John Cooper echoes a whole host of commentators to the effect that Socrates' attempt to refute Callicles in the Gorgias is obviously unsuccessful. Cooper speculates that Plato's motive for including what he, Plato, surely must have recognized as a woefully inadequate argument was to represent his gathering skepticism about Socratic ethics. Roughly, according to this picture, Plato represents Callicles' defense of a life spent maximizing pleasure as "undefeated" in order to suggest that there are rocks ahead for the Socratic representation of moral psychology. In this paper, I will try to show, contrary to Cooper, Santas, Irwin, Kahn, Grube et al., that Callicles is not a straw man, and that Socrates' argument against him is both complete and cogent. When we attend to the entire dialectical situation, I think, we can see not only that Callicles adopts the only position available to him, but also that that position really is refuted by Socrates. I will argue that the Compresence Argument at 495e­497d positively occludes the Benthamite escape route other scholars believe is left open to Callicles.1 I. The Context of the Compresence Argument Gorgias' answers Socrates' query as to the nature http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Philosophy and Rhetoric Penn State University Press

The Sounds of Silence: Rhetoric and Dialectic in the Refutation of Callicles in Plato's Gorgias

Philosophy and Rhetoric, Volume 40 (2) – Apr 26, 2007

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Publisher
Penn State University Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2007 by The Pennsylvania State University. All rights reserved.
ISSN
1527-2079
Publisher site
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Abstract

In his admirable book Reason and Emotion, John Cooper echoes a whole host of commentators to the effect that Socrates' attempt to refute Callicles in the Gorgias is obviously unsuccessful. Cooper speculates that Plato's motive for including what he, Plato, surely must have recognized as a woefully inadequate argument was to represent his gathering skepticism about Socratic ethics. Roughly, according to this picture, Plato represents Callicles' defense of a life spent maximizing pleasure as "undefeated" in order to suggest that there are rocks ahead for the Socratic representation of moral psychology. In this paper, I will try to show, contrary to Cooper, Santas, Irwin, Kahn, Grube et al., that Callicles is not a straw man, and that Socrates' argument against him is both complete and cogent. When we attend to the entire dialectical situation, I think, we can see not only that Callicles adopts the only position available to him, but also that that position really is refuted by Socrates. I will argue that the Compresence Argument at 495e­497d positively occludes the Benthamite escape route other scholars believe is left open to Callicles.1 I. The Context of the Compresence Argument Gorgias' answers Socrates' query as to the nature

Journal

Philosophy and RhetoricPenn State University Press

Published: Apr 26, 2007

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