The Republic



“Why it is better to suffer wrong than do wrong”

Plato explored this strange question in the Gorgias. In the dialogue, the sophist Callicles gives a most entertaining performance, as a young man with no morals, who believes that as long as he can get away with it, anything goes. The only yardstick is his own pleasure. [How fortunate that such young people no longer exist]. Socrates tries to argue him down, and apparently succeeds (after all, Plato wrote the book!) - but we, the readers, know he's cheating. He doesn't really have the answer to Callicles' uncompromising amorality, and the dialogue ends with a poetic attempt to defend the unprovable - that physical pleasure does not bring happiness, and that it is better to be on the receiving end of someone else's bad conduct than to behave badly yourself.


This is the Big Question that Plato comes back to in the Republic: is it possible to find a rational, logical proof that the good life is better (ie makes you happier) than a life of self-indulgence, pleasure or crime? Plato, I sense, feels that he is right in his intuition that it is better to suffer wrong than do it - but can he prove it?

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