The Rhetoric of Action - Reflection on Plato's Gorgias

Posted: 15 Dec 2009

Date Written: December 14, 2009


This paper will attempt to comment on the tension between politics and philosophy in the Platonic dialogue Gorgias. The aim is to ground this discussion through an analysis of the character of Callicles who plays the role of sparring partner as it were, testing and challenging Socrates’ positing of philosophy as an end in itself and the best life, and not as a preparation and cultivation for the life of action. The mimetic exchange between Socrates and Callicles stems from their common experience as erotic men. Socrates will try to elaborate his teaching upon this shared sense of longing. But Callicles is reluctant. As we will see he grows impatient with Socrates and at some point refuses to converse, or even listen: his motivation for an active life animates him, and for this he will need not only courage, but also phronesis, a political prudence that he aspires to learn from Gorgias, his teacher.

Keywords: Political Philosophy, Education, Socratic Dialectic, Eros, Phronesis, Rhetoric

JEL Classification: B30, B31

Suggested Citation

Parra, Jose Daniel, The Rhetoric of Action - Reflection on Plato's Gorgias (December 14, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Jose Daniel Parra (Contact Author)

Universidad Externado de Colombia ( email )

Calle 12 # 1-17 este
Calle 12 0 83
Bogota D.C, Cundinamarca 3456

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