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    Hello. I was wandering about the licence supported by Callicles. Is it that he didn’t see the contradiction of total freedom meaning that one could do anything? Did he, on the other hand, have a refutation for my freedom ending where it crosses withthe freedom of another man? Did he even discuss this point? I wonder if he was saying that the phusis was total licence… that is that it is our nature to do whatever we want but that this bumps up against reality and so, as a consequence, law is created.

    Law isnt natural for this reason but my question is this: Was he actually criticising law as being against nature? Did he hold this “natural” way of being of man as superior to the law abiding way of life? I wonder if this was rather just an observation.

    Take a child for example. Every one of them is capable and inclined to be “naughty” most of the time. It is only after being smacked and told off a million times that we, as children, start to get the message of what we can and can’t do. It is only the fact that we are in the company of others that right and wrong outside of what actually hurts us has any meaning at all. So anyway… Sorry to ramble… I wonder if he saw law… albeit slave morality, as “just the way it is… but necessary” or if he actually saw it as something contemptable. Would he prescribe a “return to nature” as it were?

    Good course by the way.



    Hello Brendan,

    Thanks for the post and for your kind remark about the course. I hope you find the remainder of the lectures informative.

    We don’t have much material on Callicles so what can be said about him is to a large extent speculative. (You might find it helpful to take a look at

    All the Sophists in one form or another made a distinction between the natural and the conventional. Many of them regarded law as falling on the conventional side of the distinction and Callicles would seem to be of this opinion too. It seems to have been the case that Callicles regarded law as a device by which the weak imposed on the strong, a view sometimes attributed to Nietzsche also.

    Your comment on the inculcation of morality via training is, I believe, largely correct. Callicles would seem to have regarded social norms as simply another form of training by which the strong are hamstrung.

    Best wishes,

    Gerard Casey

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