Gorgias

by: Plato

Important Quotations Explained

Rhetoric [is] to justice what cookery is to medicine.

With this early (465c) analogy comes a crucial claim concerning one of the dialogue's central topics: rhetoric. Socrates discusses what he believes are false arts, such as cookery and beautification. Each of these flawed pursuits chases a more worthy counterpart (medicine and gymnastics respectively). The key distinction between the true and the false arts lies in the fact that the latter target the pleasant, ignoring the good and thereby create a false impression of value within their recipients. True arts, by contrast, aim at the good and thus by nature benefit those on whom they are practiced. In this statement, then, Socrates defines rhetoric as a mere false impression of the more pure notion of justice, just as the false routine of cookery is to the true art of medicine: each provides a hollow image of something more wholesome and real.

The claim reveals Socrates's (and through him Plato's) strong distaste for rhetoric and oration, despite his own use of speech later in the dialogue.