Professor Wallace: Brian and Christy, are you two ready to do your presentation of discussion on the Gorgias?

Brian: Yes we are, sir. I would first like to thank our wonderful physics department for making our presentation possible. Come in, gentlemen. (Enter Socrates, Gorgias, Polus, Callicles, Wilt Chamberlain, and Fidel Castro) These men have been "borrowed" from their respective times and places in order to assist our class in determining what a good person is.

Christy: (off to side) Brian, we didn't discuss this! I am not really prepared for these guys!

Brian: (off to Christy) Don't worry, babe. I have it all under control. (to class) If everyone is ready, we shall begin. Keep in mind that Socrates, Gorgias, Polus, and Callicles were grabbed from history only moments before their discussion in Gorgias was to take place. Wilt and Fidel were grabbed only this morning. Socrates, what is good for a person?

Socrates: Many things are good for a person. Do you want me to make a list, or do you mean to ask a different question?

Callicles: I think he means to ask what allows a person to live well.

Socrates: What do you say, then, Callicles? What allows a person to live well?

Callicles: A man who lives well will have many appetites. He must be able quench these appetites with intelligence and bravery. I mean to say that wantonness, lack of discipline, and freedom equate to excellence and happiness.

Socrates: You might not know the story about the souls of the fools in Hades, who carry water to a leaky jar using a sieve. The sieve is like a soul that is unsatiable, and tries to fill the jar to relieve the appetite. Another argument along the same lines is one of two men. One man has a well sealed jar, but the other has a leaky jar. Both men must keep their jars full in order not to feel pain. The man with the leaky jar will have to fill it often, each time with great difficulty. What say you, Callicles?

Callicles: I say that the man whose jar is full cannot experience joy or pain, living like a stone or a corpse.

Socrates: We agree that if a lot flows in, a lot must also flow out?

Callicles: Of course, Socrates.

Brian: Hold it right there, men! Does anyone feel that Callicles could have avoided accepting this argument? I feel that the man who experiences more will eventually fix one of his jars and be able to move onto another, resulting in more total substance. Why must an undisciplined man never be able to fill the jar?

Socrates: You must realize, however, that this undisciplined person will not be able to avoid pleasures long enough in order to repair his jar.

Wilt: Now I see why you brought me here. Socrates would say that my jar was never filled, but I would contest that I've had about ten thousand jars completely filled (referring to Wilt's sexual prowess). I don't think that any ever leaked. I am happy with all I wanted and got in my life.

Brian: Wilt, was your wanting ever really painful?

Wilt: Of course it was, sometimes. If we're talkin' B-Ball, I found pain in not winning, but that was overshadowed by the joy I felt in winning. While scoring off the court, I rarely experienced any pain!

Socrates: You must concede, however, that pain is often times what brings about pleasure. Think about if you are feeling the pain of thirst. The pleasure of drinking only lasts until the point that you are no longer thirsty.

Phil: I like to drink for the shear enjoyment of a beverage that tastes good. Even if I'm not thirsty, I can still drink a soft-drink and enjoy it.

Brian: A person can drink a beer both for the taste, as Phil says, and for the buzz!

Deb: I think Socrates wants us to look deeper than that.

Tom: We could just ask Socrates, you know.

Polus: Yes, Socrates! Answer them if you can. I would like to see you turn what they say upside-down and backwards.

Socrates:The fact remains that in some cases, in order for pleasure to exist, pain must exist fist. What would follow is that pleasure cannot be the good because it cannot stand alone, as the good must be able to do. Can you also not agree that some pleasures must be better than others? Would a tyrant who gains pleasure from killing and doing what is unjust not be considered a bad person?

Polus: Yes, he may be a bad person, but he always gets what he wants, which makes him a happy person.

Brian: A man named Aristotle pretty much said that virtue is the state of something that makes that something good, or able to achieve its aim. A knife might have a virtue of cutting well or durability. A tyrant might have virtues of killing well and longevity.

Fidel: You filthy American pigs brought me here for this part of the discussion, I take it. I am not a tyrant. I rule by the will of my people.

Brian: I do not doubt you, Mr. Castro. Please put away the hand grenade. No one wants to have to be a hero. (An obscure reference to a past class discussion)I only wanted to bring you here to show that we cannot know what a virtuous really is. Does that sound right to you?

Fidel: I suppose you have a point there.

Brian: Would you get pleasure from ridding this world of fascist pigs? {- Yes, indeed.}

Brian: Would you be doing what is just or what is unjust? {- Just, of course.}

Brian: This would make you a virtuous and happy man, no? {Si, si!} And you would be a virtuous and happy man only if you fulfill your purpose, which is apparently to rid the world capitalism and corruption. {You are a man after my own dictatorship!}

Christy: I think what he's trying to say is that we don't know who makes the decision as to what is just or unjust. Most of us would think of Mr. Castro as an awfully bad man, but people may also think of him as a hero and a very just man, not to mention a very virtuous and happy man. Who decides, Socrates?

Deb: I think Socrates wants us to look into ourselves and search for what is really just and unjust.

Socrates: Yes, who decides that grass is green or that women have breasts. Nice shirt by the way, Christy. She is right in that I cannot tell you exactly howto behave. You must decide that for yourselves. I can only say that a man who is just lives a better life.

Brian: If we say that nature decides those things, what would follow is that only the strong, not the good necessarily, will survive.

Socrates: A point well taken, but hard to prove, since we don't really understand nature, or have you young ones figured that out, too?

Brian: No, Socrates. Getting back to a just man living a better life. Is that in this world or in the next?

Socrates: In both, if another exists.

Brian: Surely a just man who is executed at twenty cannot ever live as full a life as the person who executed him and lives into his seventies.

Socrates: But we must agree that a just man is always better off than an unjust man.

Brian: What if the executor was acting justly? The man was maybe falsely convicted. Even if he was acting unjustly, he would have time to become a just man, whereas the dead man would have no more time to do anything.

Socrates: Slow down, you rascal! Give me a moment to think....I say that the person who lived justly is better off because that is how he was living at his point of death, and what is just deals with the present. Don't you realize that when we all go to Hades we are judged naked, anyway? The judges can see only how our soul looks, and from that decide how just or unjust we were, and whether we are to be punished. A philosopher who minds his own affairs and other good men will go to the Isles of the Blessed.

Professor Wallace: So Socrates, you believe in the afterlife after all?

Alexis: Since we are dealing with the present when we decide as to who is just, what of a just man who all of a sudden becomes unjust the day of his death in that he tries to escape for a crime he did not commit? (hint)

Socrates: He has become an unjust man and will be judged in both places accordingly. We should endeavor to find the answer to a pressing question at hand. Is the person who acts justly in his or her dealings with other people going to be better off than one who acts unjustly?

Rebecca: I think that most people want to act justly toward one another. This, however, is a result of conditioning as a child, as I am well aware of because everyone tried to condition me, but I wouldn't have it!

Socrates: Settle down, miss.

Brian: Hey Socs, how then can a just man execute anyone?

Socrates: A just man would welcome execution if he had done a bad deed, so he is still doing what he would want done to himself.

Brian: I still cannot see how a just man is always better off. We never did establish that pleasures were necessarily bad, yet unjust men can have many pleasures, often times more than just men.

Socrates: We should do pleasant things for the sake of good things, but not good things for the sake of pleasant ones. We should not do bad things to for any reason.

Brian: But why do we need good if we can have pleasures?

Socrates: We want to be good more than we want to experience pleasure, don't we?

Brian: I think we would rather have pleasures that either result from or lead to good, but we do not necessarily want to be good if that means we cannot experience pleasures. Do you say that we receive more or less pleasures by being good, Socrates?{- Less, I think.}

Brian: Can we receive pleasures that either result from good, or that lead to good?

Socrates: We should not do good things only to receive pleasure.

Brian: But if something good results, why not do it for the pleasure?

Socrates: You would be doing it for all the wrong reasons.

Brian: I think that if we do something good for the right reason, wrong reason, or no reason at all, it should not matter. A good results and that is necessarily good. What if you do something bad for the right reasons, and receive pleasure. This must be bad, right?

Socrates: Yes, it is bad. I see your point. We cannot blame what happens in our live to be a result of accidental occurrences. We should have a purpose to be good, but you have effectively shown me that I do not know what the good is. I will continue to search for the good, however. You can accept pleasures as good, or whatever you wish, but please do not stop looking, for then you will never know.

Brian:I would say that only God can tell us, and we really should live according to what we deem to be good in God's eyes. I can't, unfortunately, find much to back this up Wait for your turn in Hades, or wherever you are headed. The point is that nobody knows, and maybe nobody will ever know. How we find out is up to each of us

 (The time reads twenty after eleven, and all the men disappear without a trace.)

Professor Wallace: That was a very fun discussion. Read Meno for Friday. I really gotta get one of those machines!


Plato, Gorgias, translated by Donald J. Zeyl, (Indianapolis, Indiana: Hacket Publishing Company, 1987), p. 64, 65.

Gorgias, p. 66-71.

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, translated by Terence Irwin, (Indianapolis, Indiana: Cambridge, 1985), p. 430(virtue), 406(good)

Gorgias, p. 111.

Gorgias, p. 77.