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Gorgias

Plato

Important Terms

General Summary

Philosophical Themes, Arguments, Ideas

Art  -  From the Greek word techne, which signifies a patterned technical skill. Arts are distinguished from their opposites—the attempted art-impostors routine and flattery—by aiming at the truly good rather than the merely pleasant. Socrates uses this definition (for example) in order to classify rhetoric as flattery's counterpart to the art justice. Another aspect of an art is its relationship with rationality. Whereas false arts are based on mistaken irrationality, true ones are true and of worth because they are founded upon reason. To illustrate, one might be tempted to term a purveyor of alcohol a practitioner of the art of health, since one feels better when provided with the merchant's product. However, Plato would argue this to be an irrational attribution of positive effect, since the health is not truly but only deceptively improved. Since a practitioner of medicine more truly improves the health of he/she on whom such a physician practices, the latter is a disciple of skilled rational art while the former is one of a more hollow irrational one.
Dialogue  -  The primary method of Socratic verbal and Platonic written philosophy, based upon a conversational posing of and response to questions about any given matter or concept. Though at times almost painfully methodical, the presentation of ideas in dialogue form creates at least an impression of increased philosophical legitimacy, since the treatment of a topic (even if fictional) moves forward only with agreement among the multiple participants regarding the argument's prior steps. In contrast to the false art rhetoric, Socrates (and through him Plato) argues dialogue to be the only reliable method of philosophical inquiry. This is so since it takes into account a democracy of multiple perspectives, unlike the dominant tyranny of rhetoric. Plato often quite cleverly uses the dialogue structure to the great advantage of his various arguments. For example, he frequently has one of the more minor characters in a discussion profusely agree with Socrates's every inquiry, which serves to reinforce the points to which he assents in the mind of the reader. Or again, rather than undercutting the force of his points, Plato uses the disagreement with Socrates of any of the other characters to introduce ever newer perspectives and objections, the subsequent answering of which pushes the dialogue into ever newer territory for consideration. This device presents a perfect opportunity for the advancement of whichever claims Plato desires.
Flattery  -  Represents the false arts—those practices which create a false impression of good by means of exciting the pleasant. This definition rests upon the pleasant existing as different from the good—a point that Socrates attempts to prove later in the dialogue—based essentially on goals of impressions versus actual manifestations of good. The false arts stand in opposition to the true ones (e.g. gymnastics), which directly target the good for its own sake. See also routine.
Gymnastics  -  The art of physical fitness, a notion quite important to the classical Greek culture which held man as the measure of all things. Quite distinct from its flattery counterpart of beautification (the false impression of good fitness), the modern equivalent of ancient gymnastics exists in fitness cross-training. Gymnastics was of huge importance to the same Grecians who created the Olympics and who placed humans and the human form at the pinnacle of reason, beauty, and strength within the universe. This fact is evidenced by their near-obsessive focus (discovered in the remains of Greek art) on the fit human figure. Proper health and fitness, attained through the art of gymnastics, was evidence of the healthy life and soul.
Justice  -  Fairness (or, as defined by Socrates, equal shares of all for all, whether prosperity or punishment). Justice is a sort of medicine for the soul; the art of ultimate balance and the highest state in which the soul can be. Unlike its false counterpart rhetoric, this art is achieved through temperance and is argued by Socrates to be the most virtuous (and therefore significant) of the arts because it pertains to proper governance of the immortal soul as it resides in a mortal human shell. The opposite of justice is injustice.
Medicine  -  The art of bodily health, as opposed to the flattery of cookery. As remains the case today, medicine during Plato's time was practiced by physicians, though with a greater emphasis on proper aspects of diet, and by means of less technical treatments than are currently practiced.
Rhetoric  -  a) The routine of oration, as opposed to the art of justice. Rhetoric aims at persuasion, pleasure and belief rather than at instruction, the good and truth. b) The Sophistic method of philosophy, of which Gorgias is an imminent practitioner (his student Polus also is a rhetorician). Rhetoric consists of dense unilateral speeches on philosophical issues, delivered to the exclusion of alternative perspectives. See also dialogue.
Routine  -  Another denotation of the deceitful false arts—those trades that create mere impressions of good through excitation of the pleasant. See also flattery.
Sophism  -  The ancient Greek method of rhetorical philosophy. For sophists such as Gorgias, truth is a matter of persuasion and belief rather than a matter of knowledge and truth.
Temperance  -  The discipline and restraint of one's desires. As Socrates utilizes the term, temperance represents a crucial factor in the attainment of the good. Within the body, it improves health and abolishes desire, thus increasing the power of its possessor. Within the soul, it combines with justice to create the highest of human virtue. The opposite of temperance is intemperance.
Virtue  -  The good life, proper living, harmony of body and soul. For Socrates (as well as for Plato), virtue represents the ultimate human goal, and is attained through a proper combination of fitness, temperance, justice, and the other arts. Virtue is the highest good (good existence), and it is the abstract sum total of all more specific instances of good. It is the unifying focus of both Gorgias and Plato's life-long philosophical inquiry.

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