Workshop in Ancient Philosophy Week 7 MT17

Ancient Philosophy

The School of Athens

Speaker: Agnes Callard (Chicago)

Title: 'The Pairwise Opposition Argument at Gorgias 495c-497d' 


At Gorgias 495c-497d, Socrates presents a refutation of hedonism. In this paper, I defend the argument as valid, and explain the significance of the form of hedonism adopted by Callicles for the project that animates Socrates’ conversation with all three interlocutors: the praise of oratory.  Gorgias, Polus and Callicles each seek to articulate the value of oratory in terms of their admiration for the man who can wrong others with impunity. Plato shows, however, that in order to underwrite this admiration, the hedonist must deny the most basic tenet of Socratism: the claim that desire aims at the good. The fact that the hedonist cannot make pleasure itself the object of desire has come to the attention of contemporary proponents of hedonism: Sidgwick called it the "paradox of hedonism."  My paper thus argues that Plato was the first to discover the paradox of hedonism, and to use it as an argument against hedonism. 


Convenors: Dr Karen Margrethe Nielsen, Prof Ursula Coope, and Dr Luca Castagnoli

Webpage: Workshop in Ancient Philosophy