Christopher P. Long, “Attempting the Political Art,” Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy, 27 (2012): 153-74.

The main thesis of this essay is that the practice of Socratic political speaking and the practice of Platonic political writing are intimately interconnected but distinct.

The essay focuses on the famous passage from the Gorgias in which Socrates claims to be one of the few Athenians who attempt the political art truly and goes on to articulate the nature of his political practice as a way of speaking toward the best (521d6-e2).

It then traces the ways Socrates attempts to use words to turn Gorgias, Polus and Callicles toward the best in the course of the dialogue. What emerges is a picture of a philosophical friendship between Gorgias and Socrates rooted in a common concern for justice.

Yet, Socrates’ success with Gorgias is overshadowed by his failure to convince Polus or Callicles to allow a concern for truth, justice and the good to animate the course of their lives. Even so, the political practice of Platonic writing is shown in the essay to be designed to awaken in us, the readers, precisely such a concern to live a life in which words are spoken in ways that uncover the truth and are directed toward the best.

Attempting the Political Art is available for download on my Humanities Commons site.

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