Socrates vs Callicles 

In the dialogue “Gorgias”, by Plato; it speaks of justice, power, and temperance.This dialogue further speaks to the reader on how rhetorical and dialectic methods can influence one’s philosophy, and ideas on how society should work. In this paper I will be discussing how Socrates successfully convinced Callicles that might, and power does not make right.

Callicles begins by saying that “justice is natural justice”, meaning that powerful individuals should rule weaker ones. He believes that power and better are the same, and that superiors should rule, and receive more than the rest. Socrates uses what Callicles said, and gives Callicles an example of a slave owner. He continues by saying that the slave is better than his or her owner due to possessing greater strength.

Callicles immediately gets disgusted by that idea and defends his claim by saying that no base such as a slave should rule their slaveowner due to increased strength. Callicles then gives Socrates a better example for his concept of natural justice, by saying that the better and wiser should posses more than other individuals. Callicles is leaning towards a survival of the fittest mentality. Socrates takes a second to think about what Callicles told him, and he asks him if the rulers of such, which were just described would be in control of themselves.

In this case Socrates is talking about temperance, which Callicles is against. Callicles believes that temperance is a sign of weakness, and that an individuals desires should be free to grow and manifest. Callicles also thinks that happiness and power should be maintained, but Socrates disagrees. Socrates gives him the example of a leaking jar, he states that if you have unrestrained desires.

Which would make you wanting more, and never being complete. Callicles is still not convinced; he 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 states 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 conversation.He believes that this flow will bring in new experiences and purpose throughout our lives. Socrates states that you will always be losing pleasure, and that it is easier to not worry about pleasure 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)

Socrates was successful at convincing Callicles that natural justice is the best, and that temperance is the way everyone should live. By using his dialectic method, Socrates was able to break down Callicles thinking, and slowly convince him that his way of thinking isn’t the best.