Gorgias is a Socratic dialogue written by Plato around 380 BC. In this dialogue, Socrates seeks the true definition of rhetoric, attempting to ... Show synopsis Gorgias is a Socratic dialogue written by Plato around 380 BC. In this dialogue, Socrates seeks the true definition of rhetoric, attempting to pinpoint the essence of rhetoric and unveil the flaws of the sophistic oratory popular in Athens at this time. The art of persuasion was widely considered necessary for political and legal advantage in classical Athens, and rhetoricians promoted themselves as teachers of this fundamental skill. Some, like Gorgias, were foreigners attracted to Athens because of its reputation for intellectual and cultural sophistication. In the Gorgias, Socrates argues that philosophy is an art, whereas rhetoric is merely a knack. To Socrates, most rhetoric in practice is merely flattery. In order to use rhetoric for good, rhetoric cannot exist alone; it must depend on philosophy to guide its morality. Socrates, therefore, believes that morality is not inherent in rhetoric and that without philosophy, rhetoric is simply used to persuade for personal gain. Socrates suggests that he is one of the few (but not only) Athenians to practice true politics (521d). Socrates interrogates Gorgias in order to determine the true definition of rhetoric, framing his argument around the question format, "What is X?" (2). He asks, ..".why don't you tell us yourself what the craft you're an expert in is, and hence what we're supposed to call you?" (449e). Throughout the remainder of the dialogue, Socrates debates about the nature of rhetoric. Socrates believes there are two types: ..".one part of it would be flattery, I suppose, and shameful public harangue, while the other-that of getting the souls of the citizens to be as good as possible and of striving valiantly to say what is best, whether the audience will find it more pleasant or more unpleasant-is something admirable. But you've never seen this type of oratory..." (502e). Although rhetoric has the potential to be used justly, Socrates believes that in practice, rhetoric is flattery; the rhetorician makes the audience feel worthy because they can identify with the rhetorician's argument. Socrates and Polus debate whether rhetoric can be considered an art. Polus states that rhetoric is indeed a craft, but Socrates replies, "To tell you the truth, Polus, I don't think it's a craft at all" (462b). The dialogue continues: "POLUS: So you think oratory's a knack? SOCRATES: Yes, I do, unless you say it's something else. POLUS: A knack for what? SOCRATES: For producing a certain gratification and pleasure" (462c). Socrates continues to argue that rhetoric is not an art, but merely a knack: ..".it guesses at what's pleasant with no consideration for what's best. And I say that it isn't a craft, but a knack, because it has no account of the nature of whatever things it applies by which it applies them, so that it's unable to state the cause of each thing" (465a). Socrates discusses the morality of rhetoric with Gorgias, asking him if rhetoric was just. Socrates catches the incongruity in Gorgias statements: "well, at the time you said that, I took it that oratory would never be an unjust thing, since it always makes its speeches about justice. But when a little later you were saying that the orator could also use oratory unjustly, I was surprised and thought that your statements weren't consistent" (461a). To this argument, Gorgias ..".is left wishing he could respond, knowing he cannot, and feeling frustrated and competitive. The effect of the 'proof' is not to persuade, but to disorient him." Socrates believes that rhetoric alone is not a moral endeavor. Gorgias is criticized because, "he would teach anyone who came to him wanting to learn oratory but without expertise in what's just..." (482d). Socrates believes that people need philosophy to teach them what is right, and that oratory cannot be righteous without philosophy.