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In Plato's, "Gorgias" why according to Socrates does rhetoric pose potential dangers for political society? Explain by using Socrates speech with Polus and Callicles.

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In this dialogue, Plato pits dialectic (Socrates) against rhetoric (Gorgias). Gorgias is a trained rhetorician who claims to be able to teach the art of rhetoric to others. In his dialectic probing, Socrates elicits from Gorgias that in rhetoric, the manner of speaking (style, technique, canons of rhetoric, and such) are more important as a means of persuasion than the truth expressed. In dialectic, by contrast, the act of speaking is designed to distinguish valid from invalid thinking and to therefore clarify what is likely true from what is likely false.

Gorgias is not technically a Sophist (a rhetorician for hire who will speak in favor of anything), but his elevation of rhetoric over dialectic troubles Socrates, as does the idea that rhetoric can be morally neutral--an instrument.

Turning to Polus, Socrates encounters a more hot-headed man who believes that rhetoric is a useful instrument of power. Polus and Callicles both discuss desire, and how rhetoric might aid us in getting what we desire. Socrates clearly wants to create a low opinion of Polus, who believes that the powerful rightly use rhetoric as a means to their egotistical desires, which can easily be evil or self-serving. By valuing rhetoric so highly, Polus fails to attend to what end any given rhetorician may be using the art. To Socrates, this is an abuse of rhetoric, since rhetoric is used properly (usually after dialectic) to make audiences love the truth that has been discovered. By making falsehood or evil seem equally beautiful, the position Polus advances is a debasement of rhetoric.

Callicles is the opposite to Socrates, believing not in a democracy but in a tyranny of the one over the many. As Socrates uses dialectic on him, it becomes clear that he has little rational grounding for his argument. He likes power because he has it, and he thinks people who have power deserve it but cannot identify in what way they are deserving. Rhetoric is a useful tool to keep the powerful in power. Socrates abandons his discussion with Callicles, but the reader recognizes the folly and danger in his position.

Each of these men show in descending order the danger that rhetoric can pose to the state. If one's rhetoric is not grounded in truth and used to make the true beautiful, the people in a democracy can be led easily astray. They can be made to love that which is not true and good and beautiful. For Gorgias, this seems like a worthwhile risk in order for rhetoric to be able to prosper; he minimizes the danger. For Polus, the clever man will use rhetoric to pursue his desires and, perhaps by means of his cleverness, will also be a decent enough leader. There seems to be a sense to Polus that if one can use rhetoric well, one should because others will also be pursuing their individual desires. For Callicles, we see the danger of a man who has neither intelligence nor moral excellence, and who will use this powerful tool to manipulate citizens into loving that which is evil and harmful to themselves, thereby clouding their understanding of truth. Callicles would be what we now call a "politician," rather than a statesman.

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