Socrates vs. Callicles: examination & ridicule in Plato's Gorgias

David Levy

Abstract


The Callicles colloquy of Plato’s Gorgias features both examination and ridicule. Insofar as Socrates’ examination of Callicles proceeds via the elenchus, the presence of ridicule requires explanation. This essay seeks to provide that explanation by placing the effort to ridicule within the effort to examine; that is, the judgment/pronouncement that something/someone is worthy of ridicule is a proper part of the elenchic examination. Standard accounts of the Socratic elenchus do not include this component. Hence, the argument of this essay suggests a need to revise the standard account of the elenchus, at least as it relates to the use of that method within the Gorgias.
Insofar as a revised account of the elenchus has implications for our understanding of Socratic moral psychology, the argument of this essay also suggests a need to reconsider the moral psychological framework within which Socrates operates in the Gorgias.

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