Annals of Ethics
Online ISSN : 2434-4699
Reconsidering E. R. Dodds “Socrates, Callicles, and Nietzsche”
Was Nietzsche Really the ‘Calliclean’?
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2020 Volume 69 Pages 129-143


 About 60 years ago, in his essay “Socrates, Callicles, and Nietzsche,” E. R. Dodds argued that Nietzsche’s thought had been inspired by that of Callicles in Plato’s Gorgias, i. e. Nietzsche was the heir to Callicles. Although this claim has had a strong influence up to the present, it seems to remain controversial. This article aims to refute Dodds’ view by examining his arguments and to demonstrate that Nietzsche was by no means the ‘Calliclean.’  In presenting his claim, Dodds made four arguments:(a)Nietzsche’s “blonde beast” is equal to Callicles’ “lion.”(b)Both uphold “φύσις[physis]against νόμος [nomos].”(c)Nietzsche says, like Callicles, what nomos prescribes is a morality of slaves. Nietzsche’s men of resentment “are precisely” Callicles’ “many,” or the weak who preach equality.(d)As Callicles has his own conception of the morality which suits the master class, so Nietzsche claims the necessity of a morality of masters “beyond good and evil,” or within good and bad: Nietzsche defines his “will to power” as “Haben- und Mehrhabenwollen[will to have and have more],” which is inspired by Calliclean term “πλεονεξία[desire to have more].” For Callicles, “τὰς ἐπιθυμίας μὴ κολάζειν[not to suppress desires]” is normative, so is to live in accordance with the “will to power” for Nietzsche.  Each of these, however, is based merely on word similarities. Systematical examination of the contexts in which Nietzsche used Calliclean terms will lead to the completely opposite conclusions: The “blonde beast” differs from Callicles’ “lion,” and Nietzsche does not uphold physis. According to Nietzsche, what nomos prescribes is a morality of masters. Callicles’ “many” are not men of resentment in Nietzsche’s terminology because the latter who preach slave morality are also in master morality. Nietzsche’s master and slave morality are thus not contradictory concepts; both are to be criticized for him. Further, Nietzsche raised “will to power” not as the norm but as the “primordial fact of all history,” the object of accusation.  In conclusion, Nietzsche’s thought is not compatible with that of Callicles: Nietzsche was by no means the ‘Calliclean.’

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