The image of kinaidos in Plato’s Gorgias

Luiz Eduardo Freitas


In the final part of Plato’s Gorgias, Socrates uses an
example in order to shame Callicles and thereby confront his
hedonistic position. The term kinaidos can embarrass translators,
interpreters and contemporary readers of the dialogue - some
Brazilian editions use translations such as “devasso” and even
“veado”. Socrates suggests that if we accept the identification between
good and pleasure we should admit the life of the kinaidos
as a happy one. But what exactly is the life of the kinaidos? Why
cannot it be an example of a happy life? Although this image is
abandoned quickly, this socratic argumentative device is decisive
for the development of the discussion in the Gorgias. So until
these questions are adequately answered, Socrates’ argument
will remain partially unintelligible.
I start this article trying to demonstrate the importance of the
kinaidos as the culminating example in an imagetic refutative
process initiated by Socrates. Then I analyze the state of the question
and demonstrate why studies of the level of importance of
Charles Kahn, Kenneth Dover and John Winkler have not been
able to cover all aspects of the meaning of this specific image in
the Gorgias. Finally, I try to propose an interpretation according
to which the mention of the kinaidos would be a Platonic response
to a greek anti-intellectualist thesis, like the one present in Euripides’
Antiope. This response has a crucial role in Plato’s project to
legitimize and specify philosophy against the practice of rhetoric.


Plato; Gorgias; kinaidos; hedonism; greek homosexuality


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UNESCO Chair in Archai: on the origins of the western thought

ISSN: 1984-249X electronic version