Syllabus for Plato's Gorgias

Platons Gorgias


  • 7.5 credits
  • Course code: 5FT165
  • Education cycle: Second cycle
  • Main field(s) of study and in-depth level: Theoretical Philosophy A1N

    Explanation of codes

    The code indicates the education cycle and in-depth level of the course in relation to other courses within the same main field of study according to the requirements for general degrees:

    First cycle

    • G1N: has only upper-secondary level entry requirements
    • G1F: has less than 60 credits in first-cycle course/s as entry requirements
    • G1E: contains specially designed degree project for Higher Education Diploma
    • G2F: has at least 60 credits in first-cycle course/s as entry requirements
    • G2E: has at least 60 credits in first-cycle course/s as entry requirements, contains degree project for Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science
    • GXX: in-depth level of the course cannot be classified

    Second cycle

    • A1N: has only first-cycle course/s as entry requirements
    • A1F: has second-cycle course/s as entry requirements
    • A1E: contains degree project for Master of Arts/Master of Science (60 credits)
    • A2E: contains degree project for Master of Arts/Master of Science (120 credits)
    • AXX: in-depth level of the course cannot be classified

  • Grading system: Fail (U), Pass (G), Pass with distinction (VG)
  • Established: 2022-08-30
  • Established by: The Department Board
  • Applies from: Spring 2023
  • Entry requirements:

    180 credits, or equivalent, including 60 credits in philosophy, aesthetics, musicology, literature or art history. Proficiency in English equivalent to the Swedish upper secondary course English 6.

  • Responsible department: Department of Philosophy

Decisions and guidelines

This course may run jointly with the course 5FT166 at C level. The course requirements are higher on students at advanced level than on C level students.

Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students should:

  • have an overview of the main argumentative moves in Plato's Gorgias
  • know how to locate this classic in Plato's work and show its relevance for Plato's overall philosophy
  • have acquired tools for thinking about the relationship between different rhetorical skills, their relationship to political power, philosophical argumentation, and virtue
  • be familiar with the relevant philosophical context
  • have acquired skills to read, understand and assess historical texts in philosophy
  • have acquired skills to interpret and criticize classical philosophical theories and arguments.


This course offers a thorough reading of one of the classical texts of ancient philosophy, Plato's Gorgias. The Gorgias is famous for its critique and inquiry into the what kind of art the art of rhetoric is, and what kind of effects it has on human beings. The main speaker, Gorgias, famously argues that he in rhetoric can teach his pupils something that leads to freedom, and control of other people, their listeners. On what grounds does Plato criticise rhetoric, and how is this critique connected to what philosophy is and can accomplish? The dialogue offers, among other things, different classifications and working definitions for intellectual activities, leading us to consider their aims and the skills that they involve. How are the arts of speaking and argumentation connected to political power? Why do we need knowledge of the subject matter of what we speak about? What possibilities are there of finding common ground between people who aim at political power and someone like Socrates who aims at wellbeing and virtue?


In addition, the course offers tools for thinking about how to interpret a Platonic text--a dialogue rather than a treatise--and how to understand the connection between literary form and philosophical argumentation.


Lectures and seminar discussions. The lectures will be interactive and students are expected to participate and contribute.


One longer essay (3000 words) and one shorter written assignment (1000 words). A student's active participation and good performance in class may be a positive factor in the overall assessment of the student's work for the course.

If there are special reasons for doing so, an examiner may make an exception from the method of assessment indicated and allow a student to be assessed by another method. An example of special reasons might be a certificate regarding special pedagogical support from the University's disability coordinator.

Reading list

Reading list

Applies from: Spring 2023

Some titles may be available electronically through the University library.