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A Problem In The Gorgias: How Is Punishment Supposed To Help With Intellectual Error?

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Chapter Summary

The traditional Anglophone view of Plato’s writing divides it up into three periods: ‘early’, ‘middle’, and ‘late’. In Book IV of the Republic Socrates seems specifically to reject intellectualism, and numerous other dialogues clearly imply its rejection. On the one hand the Gorgias contains one of the most spectacular applications of the Socratic theory of action. On the other hand, the Gorgias is likely to look in significant respects significantly un-Socratic. The theme of punishment seems to surface as a distinct topic at 469a, when Socrates declares that the person who kills someone justly, while not being miserable, athlios, is nevertheless not enviable. Polus and Socrates are taking punishment in different ways. Polus takes it just as involving suffering for the person being punished; Socrates sees it as a means to improvement. Socrates specifically introduces the idea of ‘ruling oneself ’ in terms of what the many think.

Keywords: Gorgias; intellectual error; Plato; Polus; punishment; Republic IV psychology; ruling oneself; Socrates; traditional Anglophone



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