The Common Origins of Philosophical and Political Power in Plato's Gorgias
Keywords:Plato, Socrates, political philosophy, rhetoric, sophistry, dunamis
Plato’s Gorgias concerns the tension between political and philosophical power. In it, Socrates and Gorgias discuss rhetoric’s power, which Gorgias claims is universal, containing all powers, enabling the rhetorician to rule over others politically. Polus and Callicles develop Gorgias’s understanding of rhetoric’s universal power. Scholars addressing power’s central focus rightly distinguish Socrates’ notion of philosophical power from Gorgias’s. However, these authors make this distinction too severe, failing to acknowledge the kinship between philosophy and politics. This paper argues that Socrates’ notion of power has its origins in Gorgias’s, but instead of seeking to persuade others, philosophy primarily concerns self-persuasion.
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