Plato Gorgias Paper

Submitted By Caitlen-Sloan
Words: 1475
Pages: 6

Caitlen Sloan
Dr. Staal
POL 200
01 May, 2015
Tyranny: The Greatest of all Fortunes

Ali ibn Abi Talib, an important leader in the Islamic faith, once said, “Do for today as if you live forever, do for the afterlife as if you die tomorrow” (Hilal). This quote outlines one of the basic beliefs of the Muslim religion: All people have the choice to act justly or unjustly, but they must one day be held responsible for their choices. Their faith contests that when dead, souls remain in a sleep-like state until judgment day, when Allah will determine their fate by their actions on Earth. In fact, most religions believe in a form of afterlife. The Christian faith, too, believes in an eternal life based on a judgment of one’s conduct throughout their time on Earth. God will evaluate one’s faith, upon death, to decide his placement in heaven or hell. Buddhists believe everyday actions elicit karma and one’s karma dictates their life stance for reincarnation. Even the ancient Greeks believed in a version of “heaven and hell” where bad souls went to the underworld and good souls went to a tranquil paradise. Socrates describes this Grecian belief and parallels Talib’s quote in his idea of the afterlife as described in, Gorgias by Plato. The entire dialogue of Gorgias asserts that living a just life is the only true form of happiness and, therefore, tyranny is worse for the tyrant than the oppressed. If one lives a just life, he confirms a positive judgment in the hereafter while the actions of a tyrant will ensure punishment upon judgment. However, if one were to remove the idea of an afterlife, Socrates’ indication of what a just life entails will change drastically. Socrates’ conversational skills are almost artful in the sense that he describes a word with the definition that best fits his needs for any particular topic. Although individual words may have many different meanings, once a specific one is agreed upon in a conversation, the participants are constrained to use the word in the context of the established definition. Socrates uses this skill throughout Gorgias, but especially while attempting to convince Polus that, “the greatest of all misfortunes is to do wrong” (Plato, 469b). The two agreed that doing wrong was more shameful than suffering wrong, but Polus asserted that suffering wrong was still worse than causing it. Due to this initial disagreement, Socrates began to define terms in order to unquestionably support his claim. They quickly agreed that suffering and pleasure were opposites and that good was the opposite of evil and pain. Socrates then convinced Polus that pleasure is synonymous with good, which must result in shameful being synonymous with evil and pain (Plato, 474c-475e). With these definitions in place, the initial agreement that doing wrong was more shameful than suffering wrong inevitably proved that doing wrong was also more evil than suffering wrong. Tyranny, therefore, is one of the ultimate evils. Tyrants kill, banish, steal, and wrong as they please, but the happiness their actions appear to bring them are only skin deep; their soul is suffering and scarred for the evil actions they commit. Socrates has hinted towards his idea of what a good life consists of during the course of his dialogues with all three men. He emphasizes that matters of the soul are far more important than that of the body because they contain the purest forms of ourselves (Plato 507-508). In his last discussion with Callicles, Socrates describes in further detail what a just man is like. He says a man who acts disciplined, brave, just, and reverent consequentially is a man characterized by the same traits. This man is considered a good man, due to his behaviors, and is therefore happy (Plato, 507a-c). True happiness is attained by pursuing self-discipline and justice, running from the opposite, and controlling our desires. This happiness is only true for a just man; an unjust man merely has the appearance of happiness.…