Plato's Gorgias

7.5 credits

Syllabus, Bachelor's level, 5FT166

Education cycle
First cycle
Main field(s) of study and in-depth level
Theoretical Philosophy G2F
Grading system
Fail (U), Pass (G), Pass with distinction (VG)
Finalised by
The Department Board, 30 August 2022
Responsible department
Department of Philosophy

General provisions

This course may run jointly with the course 5FT165 at advanced level. The course requirements are higher on students at advanced level than on C level students.

Entry requirements

60 credits in Theoretical Philosophy or in Practical Philosophy

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 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.