Plato vs Callicles

Plato was one of the most important philosophers to have ever existed. His writings and his ideas, have been studies for thousands of years throughout the world. Many of his dialogues has been about his teacher, and his adventures on his quest to find knowledge. In one of Plato’s writings, he shows us how Socrates unsuccessfully convinced Callicles that might, and power does not make right.

“Justice is natural justice”, this the philosophy the Callicles firmly believes in. He believes that power and better are the same, and that superiors should rule. Callicles also argues that the better and the wiser should posses more the inferior. Socrates disagrees with this notion, and to oppose Callicles definition of justice, he gives an example of a slave owner. Being that the slave is better than his or her owner due to possessing greater strength. This statement contradicts the ideaology that Callicles in pursuing, and he is quick to redefine and explain that a slave will not be able to rule his or her slave owner due to a possession of strength. However, Callicles does agree that each individual should be entitled to an equal share, opportunity, and punishment.

Socrates revisits the idea that the better and wiser should posses more. Socrates questions, and responds by asking if these specific individuals would be able to “control themselves”. Following this, Socrates has now brought the conversation to a subject that Callicles is against; temperance. Callicles believes that temperance is a sign of weakness, and desires should be free to grow and manifest.

Socrates gives him a metaphor of a leaking jar, which in turn, makes his statement clear and impossible to neglect. Socrates states that if you have unrestrained desires, it would leave you wanting more, and thus feeling incomplete. Callicles denies and responds, that a jar that is full allows no room for pleasure, so temperance and restraints become unwanted.“The man who has filed himself up has no pleasure any more, and when he’s been filled up and experiences neither joy nor pain, that’s living like a stone, as I was saying just now. Rather, living pleasantly consists in this: having as much pleasure flow in”(837).

Callicles continues by stating that life should always have a constant stream of pleasure going through the jar, and coming out of the holes which Socrates had incorporated in the metaphor .He believes that this flow will bring in new experiences and purpose throughout our lives, but Socrates states that you will always be losing pleasure, and that it is easier to not worry about chasing after what you are loosing and focus more on order and harmony. “Now one man, having filled up his jars, doesn’t pour anything more into them and gives them no further thought. He can relax over them. As for the other one, he to has resources that can be procured, though with difficulty, but his containers are leaky and rotten. He’s forced to keep on filling them, day and night, or else he suffers extreme pain.”(837).

In conclusion, Socrates tried his best to convince, and have Callicles conform to his logic. It did not work due to Callicles being well disposed, and him being able to exchange his thoughts confidently and stubbornly. Callicles left this dialogue still convinced in the idea of natural justice, while he did agree that perhaps temperance is something that everyone should incorporate within themselves