Plato, Phaedrus

[A ‘Middle’Dialogue]

Dramatic Date: after the Symposium (416), probably after 412 (when Lysias returned to Athens); but before 399 (death of Socrates).
Characters: Socrates, an Athenian gadfly, in his late 50's (?)
Protagoras, a sophist, one of the guests at Agathon's symposium.
[ Lysias the famous speechwriter and fighter for the democracy. He was made an Athenian citizen in 403, as gratitude for his assistance in getting rid of the 30 Tyrants, but was soon deprived of it again by an ungrateful and arrogant Democracy.]
Topic: peri` kalou~ (`beauty') type: ethikos
(in fact about rhetoric, the soul, etc.; with important remarks about mania and human psychology)
Mise en scène: Socrates meets Protagoras as the latter is heading out from the house of for an afternoon walk.

Phaedrus has a speech of Lysias in his head, which he has been practicing. Socrates wants to hear it. They walk along the Ilissos and sit down under a plane tree.
The function of myths (cf. 235a-d)
Recitation of the Speech of Lysias On Love by Phaedrus:
A. The Lover (Erastes) and the Beloved (Eromenos) (230-232)

(1) Fickleness in the beloved.
(2) Fickleness in the lover.
(3) Review, from the point of view of the beloved.
(4) To get more love, choose the more loving.

B. The point of view of society.

(1) Indiscretion and foolishness (shame-embarassment)
(2) Fickleness compromises the beloved.
(3) Friendship.

C. Moral viewpoint (232e-233d)

(1) Constancy of the lover without reciprocation.
(2) Moral betterment of the soul.
(3) Response to a possible object of affection.

D. The nature and effects of demands made by the lover (233d-234)

(1) Need.
(2) Greed.
(3) Continual need to nourish the demands.

E. Peroration. Choose a lover from those not in love.

Socrates' Judgment concerning Lysias and his speech (234d-235b)
Other views of Eros exist than those of Lysias (235b-236a)
Socrates invokes Sappho and Anacreon: veiling the philosophical facts from the people who are not prepared to know them (mysteries) through poetry.
Socrates is argued into giving his own view of Eros (236a-237a)

Socrates' First Discourse on Eros (I)

(A) General principle: There must be a definition, an understanding about what the thing is which is being debated. (237b- 237d)
(B) Love is `desire', of a special sort. Two desires: for pleasure and for what is best. Rationality (sophrosyne) informs the latter. Wantonness (hybris) directs the former

Socrates' First Discourse on Eros (II)

(A) Domination by desire, passions; twisting the beloved around so that he can be controlled (perversion of the intellect ). Exploitation. Not profitable for the boy.
(B) Physical: Boy who is pursued will not be a `sturdy type' but effeminate and weak.
(C) Property and Possessions: alienation from the boy's family, for the purpose of control, postponement of social maturity (Family, children).
(D) Effects of aging on the relationship: suspicion, fear of loss.
(E) Bad faith: unfulfilled promise

Socrates breaks off. He is warned by his daimon that he is on the edge of blasphemy against the divinity Eros through his oration. `If Love is, as he is indeed, a god or a divine being, he cannot be an evil thing: yet this pair of speeches (Lysias, Soc I) treated him as evil.'









Socrates' Second Discourse on Eros

(1) Mania and its various manifestations. Sometimes a great benefit for human beings. A special kind of divine mania (connected with eros) can make a human being seem divine.

(2) Nature of the soul:

-immortal (245c-246a)
-its essence (246a-246d)
-heavenly afterlife (246d-248c)
-double eschatology (248c-249b)

(3) Eros and philosophy (249b-253c)

-origin of the mania of eros
-why the beloved produces these effects in the lover
-perception of the Beautiful
-effects in the affected soul: suffering
-Beloved with a Zeuslike soul (love of wisdom) compelled to look at him

(4) The secret drama of the lover and the beloved (253-257b)

The Charioteer (253c-256e)

Politicians and speechmaking: Rhetoric and the Sophists

The ‘Myth of the Cicadas’ (258e-260d)
Distinction: ‘What is just’/ ‘What is thought just by those giving judgment’ (260a)
Is it ‘good’ or just ‘clever’?
An attack on the practice of rhetoric, especially by politicians, whose concern is not virtue, but advantage (compare the Lover and the Beloved).

(A) Public harangues, persuasion at will. (261b-e)
Everything is made out to be like everything else.

(B) Wide and narrow definition: misleading others and misleading oneself. Malicious (261e-262c)

(C) The art of definition (262c-269e)

(1) Systematic division: (263b)
        words that fluctuate, words that don't
(2) Is eros one of the disputed terms?
(3) Divine madness: four types (265b)
(4) Procedure for correct definition: (265d-266b)
(5) Critical Bibliography of Rhetoric (267a-269c)

The Nature of the Soul

All arts need to study nature. Distinction: episteme vs doxa
Rhetoric is like (or should be like) medicine.

Definition of episteme (270d)
Function of Oratory: `to influence men's souls'

The Good Orator must know the soul (271a-272b)
Truth and similitude to the truth (272b-274b)
Value and role of writing (274b-274c)
Myth of Thoth and the invention of writing (274c-275c)
Insufficiency and danger in writings (275c-275e)
True discourse (276a-277a)

IX. Summation:

Praise of Lysias, Homer, Solon
Young Isocrates and his prospects as a truthful rhetorician (278e-279b)
X. Epilogue: The Philosopher's Prayer



May 28, 2009 9:43 AM

John Paul Adams, CSUN

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