Introduction of your paper
Using the two opposing philosophies of Socrates on the one hand, and the orators and sophists on the other, describe what kind of person you think you will be now and in the future. What kind of person were you, and what kind of person will you be after this course? If no change has been affected, why not?
What kind of life is better, the orator or philosopher? Which is happier? Which is more just, and good? Socrates thinks that your answer needs to be the same for each of the latter two questions, since goodness is what leads to happiness and the best life. Do you agree? Whichever life you think is bestthe pursuit of pleasure, or of the goodwill you pursue it in your daily decisions? Or are you likely to be akratic concerning what you think is best, the way Callicles is when he says I dont know how it is that I think youre right Socrates, but the thing that happens to most people has happened to me: Im not really convinced by you. (Gorgias, 513c5-c7)
Section 1: Two kinds of lives
In order to answer these questions, you will need to explicate thebroadly speakingtwo sides of the debate, with Socrates on the side of the philosophers, and Gorgias and his two pupils Polus and Callicles on the side of the orators.
Part of these two sides is the distinction between flattery and craftsmanship (techne). Why does this distinction matter to Socrates argument? How does it try to undermine the validity of oratory (and many other knacks)? Does Socrates argument succeed? What kind of craft or knack do you intend to practice in your life? Why? What would Socrates say about your decision? What would Callicles say about it?
If you decide to pursue the philosophical way of life, respond to the objections that Callicles makes to Socrates on pages 482c4-486e. On the other hand, if you decide to pursue the sophistic and hedonistic life, respond to some of the many objections Socrates makes to this kind of life.
In general, you should need no other sources than those in the textbooks we used for class. You should frequently quote directly from the text, but select your quotes carefully to illustrate important claims that you make about what the characters are arguing for. Avoid long winded paraphrasing of the text, and focus on making arguments or rebutting arguments succinctly and precisely.
Section 1a: Relate your position to events in your life
Discuss examples from your life to illustrate which position you have favored in the past and why you have made the decision youve made in this paper.
Do not feel the need to make this paper line up with the learning outcomes of this course, or with what you think Plato or I would want you to say. Be honest. If you were not impacted by this course, think carefully about why. Are you dogmatic, disinterested and indifferent, or just exceedingly wise? Learning requires the admission of an inadequacy: namely, that you do not know everything. Let this thought guide your writing in this paper. If you were impacted, reflect on why you were here. Were you impacted for the right reasons or the wrong reasons? Did you change your beliefs out of a desire for conformity with our authors, or because you are pursuing the truth, or some other reason?
Section 2: Take a step back
Lastly and perhaps most difficultly, consider whether the theoretical apparatus of the discussion in Gorgias is adequate. Are there kinds of lives left out of the discussion? Are there more options for us than the pursuit of pleasure or the pursuit of what is good? In short, assess the toolPlatos dialogueby which you made your decision in this paper. Are there any lurking inadequacies in the thinking of this dialogue? Or are you confident in the distinctions that weve been relying on, good and evil, pleasure and pain, sophist and philosopher, just and unjust, happy and unhappy, master and slave? Or is Platos focus misguided?
Relate your findings in this paper to your findings in the self-examination paper. Will you live in accordance with those findings? In other words, will the ethical claims you think are true, impact your life, or will they be memories from a quirky class in college? There is no wrong answer here, only thoughtful or thoughtless ones.
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