Plato, Gorgias
****There are two philosophy magazines to which the library
subscribes: The Philosophers’ Magazine and Philosophy Now – they are
excellent and often contain material that’s relevant to the course. Back
copies are available and worth perusing.
1. Using the Internet, authoring tools, class handouts and/or encyclopaedias, provide a brief
biographical sketch on Socrates, Plato, Gorgias and Polus. As well, situate the text and the
author in their historical context. Ms Buckland, the library Internet wizz, has done a great
deal of work for you, and has set up a number of philosophy sites on the Library Page under
‘Philosophy’ so some of your information can be accessed from here. Some sites
recommended by VCAA are as follows, and are also worth investigating:
General sites
Sites on ‘Ancient Greek Conceptions of the Good Life’
2. Using the overview prepared by Dr Doug Adeney as a guide and in your own words, provide
a more detailed summary of the arguments, assumptions and assertions in the Gorgias
extract. Now analyze and evaluate the key arguments. This is the most important work for
the SACs and the examination. Be sure that you clarify the premises and conclusions of the
major arguments in your own words, so that they make sense when you come to revise for
SACs and for the examination. See the end of this document for a guide.
3. Outline one of Socrates' arguments against Callicles' view that the 'good' and 'the pleasurable'
are one.
4. Choose what you think is the weakest argument. How would you alter it to make it more
plausible? Also choose what you think is the strongest argument and explain why it is
effective in countering one of Callicles’ or Socrates' assertions.
5. To what extent are the social and political circumstances of Plato reflected in the conception
of the good life developed in the extract from Gorgias?
6. Who were the Cynics and how did the Cynic School of Philosophy respond to Socrates’
concepts of virtue and happiness?
7. Explain the Ancient Greek concept of arete. What role did it play in Athenian society?
Compare and contrast Callicles’ and Socrates’ views on arete.
8. What role does the example of the catamite play in Socrates’ argument with Callicles? Why
did Socrates feel that this might force Callicles to agree with him? Sophocles draws on a
number of other examples / analogies to clarify his arguments – find another three, explain
their purpose and comment on their effectiveness.
9. Are the ideas developed in the extract from Gorgias only appropriate to people of a certain
class, race, gender and historic period or do they have contemporary relevance?
10. Can the ideas on the good life (how we should live for life to be good), as expressed in
Gorgias, be compared with the notions of the good life in traditions such as Christianity,
Buddhism, Confucianism, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Indigenous cultures or
modern materialism? See attached overview of major religions.
11. What is Socratic irony? See attached extract by Peterman.
12. Who were the Sophists?
13. What is Callicles' belief about the nature of 'right'?
14. How do you think Socrates' trial and execution influenced the tone and content of the extract
from Gorgias? In your answer, you may like to consider the scathing attack that oratory
15. "The unexamined life is not worth living." (Plato, Apology) What role does the pursuit of
philosophy play in living a Good Life?
16. Now, to pull it all together - in Plato's Socratic dialogue what exactly is being said about what
it is to live a good life?
A brief guide to use when analysing and evaluating arguments
****See attached document "Methods of Philosophic Inquiry" for a detailed guide
***Your task in analysing and evaluating is to decide which is the most plausible way of
reading the arguments, if there is one. Do not expect that the structure of an argument will
always be clear. The aim is to find one or more plausible arguments, which can be found in
the texts.
 Identify key terms that are difficult to understand and work out their interpretation in the
context of the text.
 Work out the structure of the argument.
 Work out whether the premises are true.
Examine whether the conclusions follow from the premises, and construct counter examples.
If the argument as characterised looks weak, work out whether the text can be reinterpreted in
order to be transformed into a more plausible argument.
Rewrite, in your own words, important sections of the text, clarifying the premises and
conclusions of the arguments.
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