Analytical essay about Polus and Socrates in Plato's Gorgias

Essay by karl987654321High School, 11th gradeA+, March 2009

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In Plato's Gorgias, Socrates seeks to find the meaning and purpose of justice. He talks with a man named Polus, who thinks that an unjust man who is never punished for his unjust actions can have a happier life than a just man. Polus' reason behind this is an example, King Archelaus, whom everyone knows to be an extremely unjust tyrant, who has so much power that he has to be happy. 1Socrates says you cannot prove whether he is happy or not, and just because the majority believes something does not mean it is true. So Socrates says that Polus can refute him by answering his questions instead. Before they begin, Socrates restates their points of difference. Polus thinks that the unjust who are not punished are happier than the just. However, Socrates says the just live happier lives than the unjust.2 Why do the just live happier lives? First of all, justice produces pleasure and benefit.

Secondly, injustice produces evil. Lastly, punishment relieves unhappiness for the unjust.

First of all, justice produces pleasure and benefit. When Socrates questions him, Polus states that suffering injustice is worse than doing it. Therefore, doing injustice is more shameful than suffering injustice, because the victim will always be "worse" off than the perpetrator will be. Socrates thinks that because causing injustice is more shameful, it must be worse, however Polus at first disagrees, as he does not think that bad and shameful are the same, nor that with admirable and good.3 Socrates and Polus than come up with a definition of the word "admirable", and find out that it is only used to describe an object that fulfills a beneficial or pleasurable purpose, relative to whatever the object is used for. For example, one would call a piece of...