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Socrates and Gorgias

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image of Phronesis

In this paper I try to solve some problems concerning the interpretation of Socrates’ conversation with Gorgias about the nature of rhetoric in Plato’s Gorgias (448e6-461b2). I begin by clarifying what, ethically, is at stake in the conversation (section 2). In the main body of the paper (sections 3-6) I address the question of what we are to understand Gorgias as believing about the nature of rhetoric: I criticise accounts given by Charles Kahn and John Cooper, and suggest an alternative account of my own. In the final section I spell out some of the implications of my account for the interpretation of the Gorgias, and of Plato more generally.

Affiliations: 1: University of Bristol, Department of Philosophy 9 Woodland Rd, Bristol BS8 1TB, UK Institute for Advanced Study Princeton, USA, Email:


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