September 12

Monday, September 12, 2022

The Challenge of Callicles

Given that we have these desires, what do we do with them? Would fulfillment of your desires amount to your vision of a good life? How should one pursue one’s desires? As a starting point, we will look at an example of the view of a group of people in ancient Greece called Sophists and rhetoricians, particularly a character in Plato’s Gorgias named Callicles. Callicles seems to view happiness in terms of the fulfillment of one’s desires, and extends this to claim that we are happier if we have stronger desires (so long as we are able to fulfill them). Power is the ability to get what we desire, to accomplish what we purpose, and rhetoric (the ability to persuade others to do what one wants) is the most powerful tool for gaining and exercising power. Socrates raises a number of critical questions about this vision, and claims that the fundamental choice in life is between this Sophistic attitude and that of the philosopher.

Before Class

  • Complete the Mapping Desires Exercise and upload an image of your map to this Google Form before 10am on the day of today’s class (September 12); you’ll be considering your desire map further in your breakout class later this week.
  • Try to summarize, in a sentence or two, Callicles’ view of the good life.
  • Enumerate the concerns Socrates brings up about Callicles’ view.
  • Read the passage about the scratcher and the catamite. What seems to be the point of these examples?

After Class