POLUS: O Chaerephon, there are many arts among mankind which are experimental, and have their origin in experience, for experience makes the days of men to proceed according to art, and inexperience according to chance, and different persons in different ways are proficient in different arts, and the best persons in the best arts. And our friend Gorgias is one of the best, and the art in which he is a proficient is the noblest.-Plato, "Gorgias"
SOCRATES: Polus has been taught how to make a capital speech, Gorgias; but he is not fulfilling the promise which he made to Chaerephon.
GORGIAS: What do you mean, Socrates?
SOCRATES: I mean that he has not exactly answered the question which he was asked.
GORGIAS: Then why not ask him yourself?
SOCRATES: But I would much rather ask you, if you are disposed to answer: for I see, from the few words which Polus has uttered, that he has attended more to the art which is called rhetoric than to dialectic.
POLUS: What makes you say so, Socrates?
SOCRATES: Because, Polus, when Chaerephon asked you what was the art which Gorgias knows, you praised it as if you were answering some one who found fault with it, but you never said what the art was.
POLUS: Why, did I not say that it was the noblest of arts?
SOCRATES: Yes, indeed, but that was no answer to the question: nobody asked what was the quality, but what was the nature, of the art, and by what name we were to describe Gorgias. And I would still beg you briefly and clearly, as you answered Chaerephon when he asked you at first, to say what this art is, and what we ought to call Gorgias: Or rather, Gorgias, let me turn to you, and ask the same question,—what are we to call you, and what is the art which you profess?
GORGIAS: Rhetoric, Socrates, is my art.
SOCRATES: Then I am to call you a rhetorician?
GORGIAS: Yes, Socrates, and a good one too, if you would call me that which, in Homeric language, 'I boast myself to be.'
SOCRATES: I should wish to do so.
GORGIAS: Then pray do.
POLUS: Then what, in your opinion, is rhetoric?
SOCRATES: A thing which, as I was lately reading in a book of yours, you say that you have made an art.
POLUS: What thing?
SOCRATES: I should say a sort of experience.
POLUS: Does rhetoric seem to you to be an experience?
SOCRATES: That is my view, but you may be of another mind.
POLUS: An experience in what?
SOCRATES: An experience in producing a sort of delight and gratification.
POLUS: And if able to gratify others, must not rhetoric be a fine thing?
SOCRATES: What are you saying, Polus? Why do you ask me whether rhetoric is a fine thing or not, when I have not as yet told you what rhetoric is?
POLUS: Did I not hear you say that rhetoric was a sort of experience?
SOCRATES: Will you, who are so desirous to gratify others, afford a slight gratification to me?
POLUS: I will.
SOCRATES: Will you ask me, what sort of an art is cookery?
POLUS: What sort of an art is cookery?
SOCRATES: Not an art at all, Polus.
POLUS: What then?
SOCRATES: I should say an experience.
POLUS: In what? I wish that you would explain to me.
SOCRATES: An experience in producing a sort of delight and gratification, Polus.
POLUS: Then are cookery and rhetoric the same?
SOCRATES: No, they are only different parts of the same profession.
POLUS: Of what profession?
SOCRATES: I am afraid that the truth may seem discourteous; and I hesitate to answer, lest Gorgias should imagine that I am making fun of his own profession. For whether or no this is that art of rhetoric which Gorgias practises I really cannot tell:—from what he was just now saying, nothing appeared of what he thought of his art, but the rhetoric which I mean is a part of a not very creditable whole.
GORGIAS: A part of what, Socrates? Say what you mean, and never mind me.
SOCRATES: In my opinion then, Gorgias, the whole of which rhetoric is a part is not an art at all, but the habit of a bold and ready wit, which knows how to manage mankind: this habit I sum up under the word 'flattery'; and it appears to me to have many other parts, one of which is cookery, which may seem to be an art, but, as I maintain, is only an experience or routine and not an art:—another part is rhetoric, and the art of attiring and sophistry are two others: thus there are four branches, and four different things answering to them. And Polus may ask, if he likes, for he has not as yet been informed, what part of flattery is rhetoric: he did not see that I had not yet answered him when he proceeded to ask a further question: Whether I do not think rhetoric a fine thing? But I shall not tell him whether rhetoric is a fine thing or not, until I have first answered, 'What is rhetoric?' For that would not be right, Polus; but I shall be happy to answer, if you will ask me, What part of flattery is rhetoric?
POLUS: I will ask and do you answer? What part of flattery is rhetoric?
SOCRATES: Will you understand my answer? Rhetoric, according to my view, is the ghost or counterfeit of a part of politics.
POLUS: And noble or ignoble?
SOCRATES: Ignoble, I should say, if I am compelled to answer, for I call what is bad ignoble: though I doubt whether you understand what I was saying before.
GORGIAS: Indeed, Socrates, I cannot say that I understand myself.
SOCRATES: I do not wonder, Gorgias; for I have not as yet explained myself, and our friend Polus, colt by name and colt by nature, is apt to run away. (This is an untranslatable play on the name 'Polus,' which means 'a colt.')
GORGIAS: Never mind him, but explain to me what you mean by saying that rhetoric is the counterfeit of a part of politics.