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Encyclopedia > Phaedrus (Plato)
Part of the series on:
The Dialogues of Plato
Early dialogues:
Apology - Charmides - Crito
Euthyphro - First Alcibiades
Hippias Major - Hippias Minor
Ion - Laches - Lysis
Transitional & middle dialogues:
Cratylus - Euthydemus - Gorgias
Menexenus - Meno - Phaedo
Protagoras - Symposium
Later middle dialogues:
The Republic - Phaedrus
Parmenides - Theaetetus
Late dialogues:
Timaeus - Critias
The SophistThe Statesman
Philebus - Laws
Of doubtful authenticity:
Epistles - Hipparchus
Minos - Rival Lovers
Second Alcibiades - Theages
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The Phaedrus, written by Plato, is a dialogue between Plato's main protagonist, Socrates, and Phaedrus, an interlocutor in several dialogues. The Phaedrus was presumably composed around 370 BC, around the same time as Plato's Republic and Symposium; with those two texts, it is often considered one of Plato's literary high points. Although ostensibly about the topic of love, the discussion in the dialogue revolves around the art of rhetoric and how it should be practiced, and dwells on subjects as diverse as reincarnation and erotic love. Image File history File links Plato-raphael. ... (The) Apology (of Socrates) is Platos version of the speech given by Socrates as he defends himself against the charges of being a man who corrupted the young, did not believe in the gods, and created new deities. Apology here has its earlier meaning (now usually expressed by the... The Charmides (Greek: ) is a dialogue of Plato, discussing the nature and utility of temperance. ... The Crito (IPA [kriːtɔːn]; in English usually [ˈkɹiːtɘʊː]) is a short but important dialogue by the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato. ... Euthyphro is one of Platos known early dialogues. ... The First Alcibiades or Alcibiades I is a dialogue featuring Alcibiades in conversation with Socrates, ascribed to Plato, but his authorship is doubtful, though probably written by someone within a century or two of Platos other works. ... Hippias Major (or What is Beauty) is one of the dialogues of Plato. ... Hippias Minor (or On Lying) is one of Platos early dialogues, written while the author was still young, although the exact date has not been established. ... Platos Ion aims to give an account of poetry in dialogue form. ... Laches, also known as Courage, is a Socratic dialogue written by Plato, and concerns the topic of courage. ... Lysis is one of the socratic dialogues written by Plato and discusses the nature of friendship. ... Cratylus (Κρατυλος) is the name of a dialogue by Plato, written in approximately 360 BC. In the dialogue, Socrates is asked by two men, Cratylus and Hermogenes, to advise them whether names are conventional or natural, that is, whether language is a system of arbitrary signs or whether words have an... Euthydemus (Euthydemos), written 380 BCE, is dialogue by Plato which satirizes the logical fallacies of the Sophists. ... Gorgias is an important dialogue in which Plato sets the rhetorician, whose specialty is persuasion, in opposition to the philosopher, whose specialty is dissuasion, or refutation. ... The Menexenus is a Socratic dialogue of Plato, traditionally included in the seventh tetralogy along with the Greater and Lesser Hippias and the Ion. ... Meno is a Socratic dialogue written by Plato. ... It has been suggested that Phaidon be merged into this article or section. ... Protagoras is the title of one of Platos dialogues. ... The Symposium is a dialogue by Plato, written soon after 385 BCE. It is a philosophical discussion on the nature of love, taking the form of a series of speeches, both satirical and serious, given by a group of men at a symposion or drinking party at the house of... The Republic (Greek: ) is an influential work of philosophy and political theory by the Greek philosopher Plato, written in approximately 360 BC. It is written in the format of a Socratic dialogue. ... Parmenides is one of the dialogues of Plato. ... The Theætetus (Θεαίτητος) is one of Platos dialogues concerning the nature of knowledge. ... Timaeus is a theoretical treatise of Plato in the form of a Socratic dialogue, written circa 360 BC. The work puts forward speculation on the nature of the physical world. ... Critias, a dialogue of Platos, speaks about a variety of subjects. ... The Sophist (Greek: Σοφιστής) is one of the late Dialogues of Plato, which was written much more lately than the Parmenides and the Theaetetus, probably in 360 BC.After he criticized his own Theory of Forms in the Parmenides, Plato proceeds in the Sophist with a new conception of the Forms... The Statesman, or Politikos in Greek and Politicus in Latin, is a four part dialogue contained within the work of Plato. ... Philebus is among the last of the late Socratic dialogues of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. ... The Laws is Platos last and longest dialogue. ... The Clitophon, a dialogue generally ascribed to Plato, is significant for focusing on Socrates role as an exhorter of other people to engage in philosophic inquiry. ... The Epinomis is a dialogue in the style of Plato, but today considered spurious by most scholars. ... The Epistles of Plato are a series of thirteen letters traditionally included in the Platonic corpus. ... The Hipparchus is a dialogue attributed to the classical Greek philosopher and writer Plato. ... Minos is one of the dialogues of Plato, featuring Socrates and a Companion. ... Rival Lovers (Greek: ) is a Socratic dialogue included in the traditional corpus of Platos works, though its authenticity has been doubted. ... The Second Alcibiades or Alcibiades II is a dialogue ascribed to Plato, featring Alcibiades conversing with Socrates, but there is a general consensus amongst scholars that this text is spurious, though again probably written by someone within a century or two of Platos other works. ... Theages is one of the dialogues of Plato, featuring Demodocus, Socrates and Theages. ... For other uses, see Plato (disambiguation). ... A protagonist is the central figure of a story. ... Socrates (Greek: , invariably anglicized as , Sǒcratēs; circa 470–399 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher who is widely credited for laying the foundation for Western philosophy. ... Centuries: 5th century BC - 4th century BC - 3rd century BC Decades: 420s BC 410s BC 400s BC 390s BC 380s BC - 370s BC - 360s BC 350s BC 340s BC 330s BC 320s BC 375 BC 374 BC 373 BC 372 BC 371 BC - 370 BC - 369 BC 368 BC 367... The Republic (Greek: ) is an influential work of philosophy and political theory by the Greek philosopher Plato, written in approximately 360 BC. It is written in the format of a Socratic dialogue. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Love is any of a number of emotions and experiences related to a sense of strong affection or profound oneness. ... Rhetoric (from Greek , rhêtôr, orator, teacher) is generally understood to be the art or technique of persuasion through the use of oral language and written language; however, this definition of rhetoric has been contested since rhetoric emerged as a field of study in Universities. ... Reincarnation, literally to be made flesh again, is a doctrine or mystical belief that some essential part of a living being (in some variations only human beings) survives death to be reborn in a new body. ...



The beginning of Phaedrus in one of the most important medieval manuscripts of Plato, Codex Clarkianus 39 in the Bodleian Library, written in AD 895.
The beginning of Phaedrus in one of the most important medieval manuscripts of Plato, Codex Clarkianus 39 in the Bodleian Library, written in AD 895.

Socrates and Phaedrus run into one another walking about the Athenian countryside. Phaedrus has just come from the home of Lysias, son of Cephalus, where Lysias has given a speech on, apparently, homosexual love. Socrates, stating that he is "sick with passion for hearing speeches" 1, walks into the countryside with Phaedrus hoping that Phaedrus will repeat the speech. They sit by a stream under a plane tree and a chaste tree, and the rest of the dialogue consists of oration and discussion. Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (706x1016, 95 KB) Beginning of Phaedrus in Codex Clarkianus 39 in the Bodleian Library, written in AD 895. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (706x1016, 95 KB) Beginning of Phaedrus in Codex Clarkianus 39 in the Bodleian Library, written in AD 895. ... Entrance to the Library, with the coats-of-arms of several Oxford colleges The Bodleian Library, the main research library of the University of Oxford, is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, and in England is second in size only to the British Library. ... Events Bohemia breaks away from Great Moravia Arnulf of Carinthia undertakes his second Italian campaign Approximate date of composition of the Musica enchiriadis, the beginnings of western polyphonic music Births Athelstan of England Erik Bloodaxe, king of Norway 933-935 (+954) Deaths Categories: 895 ... Athens (Greek: Αθήνα - Athína) is the largest city and capital of Greece, located in the Attica periphery of Southern Greece. ... Lysias (d. ... Cephalus and Aurora, by Nicolas Poussin (c. ... Eros is the Greek word for (especially) romantic or sexual love. ... Binomial name Platanus orientalis L. The Oriental plane (Platanus orientalis L.) is a very large, widespreading, and long-lived deciduous tree in the Platanaceae family. ... Species About 250 species, including: Vitex altissima Vitex agnus-castus Vitex capitata Vitex cofassus Vitex divaricata Vitex doniana Vitex incisa Vitex leucoxylon Vitex lignum-vitae Vitex lindenii Vitex lucens Vitex negundo Vitex parviflora Vitex peduncularis Vitex quinata Vitex rotundifolia Vitex trifolia Vitex zeyheri Vitex (also called Chasteberry or Monks...

The dialogue, somewhat unusually, does not set itself as a re-telling of the day's events. The dialogue is given unmediated, in the direct words of Socrates and Phaedrus, without other interlocutors to introduce the story or give it to us; it comes first hand, as if we are witnessing the events themselves. This is in contrast to such dialogues as the Symposium, in which Plato sets up multiple layers between the day's events and our hearing of it, explicitly giving us an incomplete, fifth-hand account.

Dramatis Personæ

  • Socrates
  • Phaedrus
  • Lysias (in absentia)

Lysias was one of the three sons of Cephalus, the patriarch whose home is the setting for Plato's Republic. Lysias was perhaps the most famous "logo-graphos" - lit. "argument writer" - in Athens during the time of Plato. Lysias was a rhetorician and a sophist whose best-known extant work is a defense speech, "On The Murder of Eratosthenes." The speech is a masterpiece in which a man who murdered his wife's lover in claims that the laws of Athens required him to do it. The outcome of this speech is unknown.


The dialogue begins with a series of speeches on love; the second half consists of discussion on the nature and proper practice of love and rhetoric, encompassing discussions of the soul, madness and divine inspiration, and the practice and mastery of an art. The soul, acording to many religious and philosophical traditions, is a self-aware ethereal substance particular to a unique living being. ... Inmates at Bedlam Asylum, as portrayed by William Hogarth Insanity, or madness, is a general term for a semi-permanent, severe mental disorder. ... Divinity has a number of related uses in the field of religious belief and study. ... The Bath, a painting by Mary Cassatt (1844-1926). ...

As they walk out into the countryside, Phaedrus agrees to recite for Socrates the speech of Lysias. Socrates, however, suspects strongly that Phaedrus has a verbatim copy of the speech with him. Saying that while Lysias is present, he would never allow himself to be used as a training partner for Phaedrus to practice his own speechmaking on, he asks Phaedrus to expose what he is holding under his cloak. Phaedrus gives in and agrees to read the speech as it is written.2

Lysias' speech

They walk through a stream and find a seat in the shade, and Phaedrus commences to read aloud the speech. Beginning with "You understand, then, my situation: I've told you how good it would be for us in my opinion, if this worked out",3 the speech proceeds to explain all the reasons why it is better for a boy to give his favor to an older suitor who does not love him, rather than one who does. Friendship with a non-lover, he says, will last longer; it will be based on intellect rather than looks, will be honest rather than based in false flattery, and a dispassionate lover will not abandon his friend for another boy. Conversely, the boy will not be giving his favor to someone who is "more sick than sound in the head" and is not thinking straight, overcome by love. Finally, Lysias explains that it is best to give one's favor to one who can best return it, rather than one who needs it most.4

Socrates declares that he is in ecstasy, and furthermore, it is all Phaedrus' doing. As the speech seemed to make Phaedrus radiant, and Socrates is sure that Phaedrus understands these things better than he does himself, he followed Phaedrus' lead and shared in his Bacchic frenzy. Phaedrus asks Socrates not to joke.5 Bacchus - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia /**/ @import /skins-1. ...

Socrates then admits that he thought the preceding speech was terrible. It repeated itself numerous times, seemed uninterested in its subject, and seemed to be showing off. He then says he can make an even better speech than Lysias on the same subject.6

First speech of Socrates

Socrates, however, refuses to give the speech. Phaedrus warns him that he is younger and stronger, and Socrates should "take his meaning" and "stop playing hard to get".7 After finally swearing on the plane tree that he will never recite another speech to Socrates if Socrates refuses, Socrates, covering his head out of embarrassment, consents.8

Socrates, rather than simply listing reasons as Lysias had done, begins by explaining that while all men desire beauty, some are in love and some are not. We are all ruled, he says, by two principles: one is our inborn desire for pleasure, and the other is our acquired judgment that pursues what is best (237d). Following your judgment is "being in your right mind", while following desire towards pleasure without reason is "outrageousness".9

Following different desires leads to different things; one who follows his desire for food is a glutton, and so on. The desire to take pleasure in beauty, reinforced by the kindred beauty in human bodies, is called Eros.10

Remarking that he is in the grip of something divine, and may soon be overtaken by the madness of the nymphs in this place,11 he goes on. In Greek mythology, a nymph is any member of a large class of female nature entities, either bound to a particular location or landform or joining the retinue of a god or goddess. ...

The problem, he explains, is that one overcome with this desire will want to turn his boy into whatever is most pleasing to himself, rather than what is best for the boy.12 The boy's intellectual progress will be stifled,13 his physical condition will suffer,14 the lover will not wish the boy to mature and take a family,15 all because the lover is shaping him out of desire for pleasure rather than what is best. At some point, "right-minded reason" will take the place of "the madness of love",16 and the lover's oaths and promises to his boy will be broken.

The non-lover, he concludes, will do none of this, always ruled by judgment rather than desire for pleasure. Socrates, fearing that the nymphs will take complete control of him if he continues, states that he is going to leave before Phaedrus makes him "do something even worse".17

However, just before Socrates is about to leave, he is stopped by the "familiar divine sign", his daemon, which occurs always and only just before Socrates is about to do something he should not. A voice "from this very spot" forbids Socrates to leave before he makes atonement for some offense to the gods. Socrates states that he is a "seer". While he is not very good at it, he is good enough for his purposes, and he recognizes what his offense has been: if love is a god or something divine, as he and Phaedrus both agree he is, he cannot be bad, as the previous speeches have portrayed him.18 Socrates, baring his head, vows to undergo a rite of purification as a follower of the Muses, and procedes to give a speech praising the lover.19 The term Daemon has several meanings: Daemon (mythology) - see also Demon Daemon (computer software), a background process Dæmon (His Dark Materials) in the Philip Pullman trilogy of novels His Dark Materials Daemon (Warhammer) Daemon (Warcraft) Daemon Sadi (SaDiablo) is a character in the Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop. ... In Greek mythology, the Muses (Greek , Mousai: from the Proto-Indo-European root *men- think, from which mind and mental are also derived[1]) are 50 goddesses or spiritual guides who embody the arts and inspire the creation process with their graces through remembered and improvised song and stage, writing...

Second speech of Socrates


Socrates begins by discussing madness. If madness is all bad, then the preceding speeches would have been correct, but in actuality, madness given as a gift of the god provides us with some of the best things we have.20 There are, in fact, four kinds of divine madness:

  1. From Apollo, the gift of prophecy;
  2. From Dionysus, the mystic rites and relief from present hardship;
  3. From the Muses, poetry;
  4. From Aphrodite, love.

As they must show that the madness of love is, indeed, sent by a god to benefit the lover and beloved in order to disprove the preceding speeches, Socrates embarks on a proof of the divine origin of this fourth sort of madness. It is a proof, he says, that will convince "the wise if not the clever".21 In Greek and Roman mythology, Apollo (Ancient Greek , Apóllōn; or , Apellōn), the ideal of the kouros (a beardless youth), was the god of the Sun, music, medicine, death dealing, and archery and also a brother of Artemis. ... Dionysus with a leopard, satyr and grapes on a vine, in the Palazzo Altemps (Rome, Italy) Dionysus (Latin) or Dionysos (Greek) (from Ancient Greek: or ; in both Greek and Roman mythology and associated with the Italic Liber), the Thracian god of wine, represents not only the intoxicating power of wine... The Birth of Venus, (detail) by Sandro Botticelli, 1485 Aphrodite (Greek: Αφροδίτη; Latin: Venus) (IPA: English: , Ancient Greek: , Modern Greek: ) was the Greek goddess of love, lust, and beauty. ...

The soul

He begins by briefly proving the immortality of the soul. A soul is always in motion and as a self-mover has no beginning. A self-mover is itself the source of everything else that moves. So, by the same token, it cannot be destroyed. Bodily objects moved from the outside have no soul, while those that move from within have a soul. Moving from within, all souls are self-movers, and hence their immortality is necessary.22

Then begins the famous Chariot allegory, called by R. Hackworth the centrepiece of Phaedrus, and the famous and moving account of the vision, fall and incarnation of the soul. A soul, says Socrates, is like the "natural union of a team of winged horses and their charioteer". While the gods have two good horses, everyone else has a mixture: one is beautiful and good, while the other is neither.24 Plato, in Phaedrus, uses the Chariot Allegory to explain his view of the human soul. ...

As souls are immortal, those lacking bodies patrol all of heaven so long as their wings are in perfect condition. When a soul sheds its wings, it comes to earth and takes on an earthly body which then seems to move itself.25 These wings lift up heavy things to where the gods dwell, and are nourished and grow in the presence of the wisdom, goodness, and beauty of the divine. However, foulness and ugliness make the wings shrink and disappear.26

In heaven, he explains, there is a procession led by Zeus, who looks after everything and puts things in order. All of the gods, with the exception of Hestia, follow Zeus in this procession. While the chariots of the gods are balanced and easier to control, other charioteers must struggle with their bad horse, which will drag them down to earth if it has not been properly trained.27 As the procession works its way upward, it eventually makes it up to the high ridge of heaven, where the gods take their stands, are taken in a circular motion and gaze at all that is beyond heaven.28 The Statue of Zeus at Olympia Phidias created the 12-m (40-ft) tall statue of Zeus at Olympia about 435 BC. The statue was perhaps the most famous sculpture in Ancient Greece, imagined here in a 16th century engraving Zeus (in Greek: nominative: Zeús, genitive: Diós), is... In Greek mythology, virginal Hestia (ancient Greek ) is the goddess of the hearth, of the right ordering of domesticity and the family, who received the first offering at every sacrifice in the household. ...

What is outside of heaven, says Socrates, is quite difficult to describe, lacking color, shape, or solidity, as it is the subject of all true knowledge, visible only to intelligence.29 The gods delight in these things and are nourished. Feeling wonderful, they are taken around until they make a complete circle. On the way they are able to see Justice, Self-Control, Knowledge, and other things as they are in themselves, unchanging. When they have seen all things and feasted on them, coming all the way around, they sink back down inside heaven.30

The immortal souls that follow the gods most closely are able to just barely raise their chariots up to the rim and look out on Reality. They see some things and miss others, having to deal with their horses; they rise and fall at varying times. Other souls, while straining to keep up, are unable to rise, and in noisy, sweaty discord they leave uninitiated, not having seen reality. Where they go after is then dependent on their own opinions, rather than the truth. Any soul that catches sight of any one true thing is granted another circuit where it can see more; eventually, all souls fall back to earth. Those that have been initiated are put into varying human incarnations, depending on how much they have seen; those made into philosophers have seen the most, while kings, statesmen, doctors, prophets, poets, manual laborers, sophists, and tyrants follow respectively.31 Sophism was originally a term for the techniques taught by a highly respected group of philosophy and rhetoric teachers in ancient Greece. ...

Souls then begin cycles of reincarnation. It generally takes 10,000 years for a soul to grow its wings and return to where it came, but philosophers, after having chosen such a life three times in a row, grow their wings and return after only 3,000 years. This is because they have seen the most and always keep its memory as close as possible, and philosophers maintain the highest level of initiation. They ignore human concerns and are drawn towards the divine. While ordinary people rebuke them for this, they are unaware that the lover of wisdom is possessed by a god. This is the fourth sort of madness, that of love.32 Reincarnation, literally to be made flesh again, is a doctrine or mystical belief that some essential part of a living being (in some variations only human beings) survives death to be reborn in a new body. ...

The madness of love

One comes to manifest this sort of love after seeing beauty here on earth and being reminded of true beauty as it was seen beyond heaven. When reminded, the wings begin to grow back, but as they are not yet able to rise, the afflicted gaze aloft and pay no attention to what goes on below, bringing on the charge of madness. This is the best form that possession by a god can take, for all those connected to it.33

When one is reminded of true beauty by the sight of a beautiful boy, he is called a lover. While all have seen reality, as they must have to be human, not all are so easily reminded of it. Those that can remember are startled when they see a reminder, and are overcome with the memory of beauty.34

Beauty, he states, was among the most radiant things to see beyond heaven, and on earth it sparkles through vision, the clearest of our senses. Some have not been recently initiated, and mistake this reminder for beauty itself and pursue pleasure and making babies. This pursuit of pleasure, then, even when manifested in the love of beautiful bodies, is not "divine" madness, but rather just having lost one's head. The recent initiates, on the other hand, are overcome when they see a bodily form that has captured true Beauty well, and their wings begin to grow. When this soul looks upon the beautiful boy it experiences the utmost joy; when separated from the boy, intense pain and longing occur, and the wings begin to harden. Caught between these two feelings, the lover is in utmost anguish, with the boy the only doctor for the pain.35

Socrates then returns to the myth of the chariot. The charioteer is filled with warmth and desire as he gazes into the eyes of the one he loves. The good horse is controlled by its sense of shame, but the bad horse, overcome with desire, does everything it can to go up to the boy and suggest to it the pleasures of sex. The bad horse eventually wears out its charioteer and partner, and drags them towards the boy; yet when the charioteer looks into the boy's face, his memory is carried back to the sight of the forms of Beauty and Self-control he had with the gods, and pulls back violently on the reins. As this occurs over and over, the bad horse eventually becomes obedient and finally dies of fright when seeing the boy's face, allowing the lover's soul to follow the boy in reverence and awe.36 This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Theory of Forms typically refers to Platos belief that the material world as it seems to us is not the real world, but only a shadow of the real world. ...

The lover now pursues the boy. As he gets closer to his quarry, and the love is reciprocated, the opportunity for sexual contact again presents itself. If the lover and beloved surpass this desire they have won the "true Olympic Contests"; it is the perfect combination of human self control and divine madness, and after death, their souls return to heaven.37 Those who give in do not become weightless, but they are spared any punishment after their death, and will eventually grow wings together when the time comes.38 Ruins of the training grounds at Olympia The Ancient Olympic Games, originally referred to as simply the Olympic Games (Greek: ; Olympiakoi Agones) were a series of athletic competitions held between various city-states of Ancient Greece. ...

A lover's friendship is divine, Socrates concludes, while that of a non-lover offers only cheap, human dividends, and tosses the soul about on earth for 9,000 years. He apologizes to the gods for the previous speeches, and Phaedrus joins him in the prayer.39


After Phaedrus concedes that this speech was certainly better than any Lysias could compose, they begin a discussion of the nature and uses of rhetoric itself. After showing that speechmaking itself isn't something reproachful, and that what is truly shameful is to engage in speaking or writing shamefully or badly, Socrates asks what distinguishes good from bad writing, and they take this up.40

Phaedrus claims that to be a good speechmaker, one does not need to know the truth of what he is speaking on, but rather how to properly persuade,41 persuasion being the purpose of speechmaking and oration. Socrates first objects that an orator who does not know bad from good will, in Phaedrus's words, harvest "a crop of really poor quality".42 Yet Socrates does not dismiss the art of speechmaking. Rather, he says, it may be that even one who knew the truth could not produce conviction without knowing the art of persuasion;43 on the other hand, "As the Spartan said, there is no genuine art of speaking without a grasp of the truth, and there never will be".44

They go on to examine this. They first determine that rhetoric, the art of persuasion, is one single art that governs all speaking.45 To practice this art of persuasion, even when one is persuading the audience to a falsehood, one draws their audience through similarities. To do this properly, whether to deceive or avoid deception, one must know the truth- precisely in what respects things are similar and different; without this knowledge, to make proper comparisons is impossible, and to do so can not be considered an art.46

To acquire the art of rhetoric, then, one must make systematic divisions between two different kinds of things: one sort, like "iron" and "silver", suggests the same to all listeners; the other sort, such as "good" or "justice", lead people in different directions.47 Lysias failed to make this distinction, and accordingly, failed to even define what "love" itself is in the beginning; the rest of his speech appears thrown together at random, and is, on the whole, very poorly constructed.48 Socrates then goes on to say,

Every speech must be put together like a living creature, with a body of its own; it must be neither without head nor without legs; and it must have a middle and extremities that are fitting both to one another and to the whole work.49

Socrates's speech, on the other hand, starts with a thesis and procedes to make divisions accordingly, finding divine love, and setting it out as the greatest of goods. And yet, they agree, the art of making these divisions is dialectic, not rhetoric, and it must be seen what part of rhetoric may have been left out.50 In classical philosophy, dialectic (Greek: διαλεκτική) is an exchange of propositions (theses) and counter-propositions (antitheses) resulting in a synthesis of the opposing assertions, or at least a qualitative transformation in the direction of the dialogue. ...

When Socrates and Phaedrus procede to recount the various tools of speechmaking as written down by the great orators of the past, starting with the "Preamble" and the "Statement Facts" and concluding with the "Recapitulation", Socrates states that the fabric seems a little threadbare.51 He goes on to compare one with only knowledge of these tools to a doctor who knows how to raise and lower a body's temperature but does not know when it is good or bad to do so, stating that one who has simply read a book or came across some potions knows nothing of the art.52 One who knows how to compose the longest passages on trivial topics or the briefest passages on topics of great importance is similar, when he claims that to teach this is to impart the knowledge of composing tragedies; if one were to claim to have mastered harmony after learning the lowest and highest notes on the lyre, a musician would say that this knowledge is what one must learn before one masters harmony, but it is not the knowledge of harmony itself.53 This, then, is what must be said to those who attempt to teach the art of rhetoric through "Preambles" and "Recapitulations"; they are ignorant of dialectic, and teach only what is necessary to learn as preliminaries.54 In general usage a tragedy is a play, movie or sometimes a real world event with a sad outcome. ... Harmony is the use and study of pitch simultaneity, and therefore chords, actual or implied, in music. ... The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view. ...

Rhetoric, then, must determine the nature of the soul to be an art, just as medicine must determine the nature of the body; it must know the different types of souls and how they are moved.55 And yet, Socrates says, the truth is of no import in a law court, but rather the convincing; rhetoric, people claim, consists of cleaving towards the likely and should leave the truth aside. However, as it has already been determined that only people that know the truth can properly use the art of the "likely", this popular opinion is decided to be clearly wrong.56

They go on to discuss what is good or bad in writing. Socrates tells a brief legend, critically commenting on the gift of writing from the Egyptian god Theuth to King Thamus, who was to disperse Theuth's gifts to the people of Egypt. After Theuth remarks on his discovery of writing as a remedy for the memory, Thamus responds that its true effects are likely to be the opposite; it is a remedy for reminding, not remembering, he says, with the appearance but not the reality of wisdom. Future generations will hear much without being properly taught, and will appear wise but not be so, making them difficult to get along with.57 , or , or [1] Thoth (Ramesseum, Luxor) Thoth, a Greek name derived from the Egyptian * (djih-how-tee) (written by Egyptians as ) was considered one of the most important deities of the Egyptian pantheon. ... Amun (also spelled Amon, Amoun, Amen, and rarely Imen, Greek Αμμον Ammon, and Άμμον Hammon, Egyptian Yamanu) was the name of a deity, in Egyptian mythology, who gradually rose to become one of the most important deities, before fading into obscurity. ...

No written instructions for an art can yield results clear or certain, Socrates states, but rather can only remind those that already know what writing is about.58 Furthermore, writings are silent; they cannot speak, answer questions, or come to their own defense.59

Accordingly, the legitimate sister of this is, in fact, dialectic; it is the living, breathing discourse of one who knows, of which the written word can only be called an image.60 The one who knows uses the art of dialectic rather than writing:

The dialectician chooses a proper soul and plants and sows within it discourse accompanied by knowledge- discourse capable of helping itself as well as a the man who planted it, which is not barren but produces a seed from which more discourse grows in the character of others. Such discourse makes the seed forever immortal and renders the man who has it happy as any human being can be.61

To be a proper rhetorician, then, one must know the truth of what he is speaking or writing on and how to define and divide it until reaching something indivisible, one must understand the nature of the soul and what sort of speech is proper to each soul, and only then will he be able to use speech artfully, to teach or to persuade. This, he says, is the whole point of the argument they have been making.62

You are only a true practitioner of the art of rhetoric, then, if you have

. . . composed these things with a knowledge of the truth, if you can defend your writing when you are challenged, and if you can yourself make the argument that your writing is of little worth . . .

And furthermore,

then you must be called by a name derived not from these writings but rather from those things that you are seriously pursuing . . . To call him wise, Phaedrus, seems too much, and proper only for a god. To call him wisdom's lover- a philosopher- or something similar would fit him better and be more seemly.63

With the afternoon over and the heat dying down a bit, Socrates offers a short prayer to "dear Pan and all the other gods of this place", and they depart for the city. Pan (Greek , genitive ) is the Greek god of nature who watches over shepherds and their flocks: paein means to pasture. ...

Interpretations and themes

Madness and divine inspiration

In the Phaedrus, Socrates makes the rather bold claim that some of life's greatest blessings flow from madness; and he clarifies this later by noting that he is referring specifically to madness inspired by the gods. It should be noted that Phaedrus is Plato's only dialogue that shows Socrates outside the city of Athens, out in the country. It was believed that spirits and nymphs inhabited the country, and Socrates specifically points this out after the long palinode with his comment about listening to the cicadas. After originally remarking that "landscapes and trees have nothing to teach me, only people do",64 Socrates goes on to make constant remarks concerning the presence and action of the gods in general, nature gods such as pan and the nymphs, and the Muses, in addition to the unusually explicit characterization of his own daemon. The importance of divine inspiration is demonstrated in its connection with and the importance of religion, poetry and art, and above all else, love. Eros, much like in the Symposium, is contrasted from mere desire of the pleasurable and given a higher, heavenly function. Unlike in the Ion, a dialogue dealing with madness and divine inspiration in poetry and literary criticism, madness here must go firmly hand in hand with reason, learning, and self-control in both love and art. This rather bold claim has puzzled readers and scholars of Plato's work for centuries because it clearly shows that Socrates saw genuine value in the irrational elements of human life, despite many other dialogues that show him arguing that one should pursue beauty and that wisdom is the most beautiful thing of all. Geoffrey Chaucer was an exponent of the palinode A palinode or palinody is an ode in which the writer retracts a view or sentiment expressed in an earlier poem. ... Genera Many. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Platos Ion aims to give an account of poetry in dialogue form. ... Literary criticism is the study, discussion, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. ...


This section may contain original research or unattributed claims.
Please help Wikipedia by adding references. See the talk page for details.

The pederastic relationships common to ancient Greek life are also at the fore of this dialogue. In addition to theme of love discussed in the speeches, seeming double entendres and sexual innuendo is abundant; we see the flirtation between Phaedrus and Socrates as Phaedrus encourages Socrates to make his first speech, Phaedrus makes a remark at noon-time that Socrates should not leave as the heat has not passed and it is "straight-up, as they say,"65 Socrates wishes to know what Phaedrus is holding under his cloak, and so on. The relationships discussed in the speeches are explicitly pederastic. And yet, this is tempered in various ways; role reversals between lover and beloved are constant, as they are in the Symposium. Socrates, ostensibly the lover, exhorts Phaedrus to lead the way at various times, and the dialogue ends with Socrates and Phaedrus leaving as "friends"- equals, rather than partaking in the lover/beloved relationship inherent in Greek pederasty. In the beginning, they sit themselves under a chaste tree, which is precisely what its name suggests- often known as "monk's pepper", it was used by monks to decrease sexual urges and is believed to be an antaphrodisiac. Notably, Socrates sees the pederastic relationship as ideally devoid of sexual consummation; rather than being used for sexual pleasure, the relationship is a form of divine madness, helping both lover and beloved to grow and reach the divine. Image File history File links Circle-question-red. ... Shortcut: WP:NOR Wikipedia is not the place for original research such as new theories. ... The term pederasty or paederasty embraces a wide range of erotic practices between adult and adolescents, generally between males. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Species About 250 species, including: Vitex altissima Vitex agnus-castus Vitex capitata Vitex cofassus Vitex divaricata Vitex doniana Vitex incisa Vitex leucoxylon Vitex lignum-vitae Vitex lindenii Vitex lucens Vitex negundo Vitex parviflora Vitex peduncularis Vitex quinata Vitex rotundifolia Vitex trifolia Vitex zeyheri Vitex (also called Chasteberry or Monks... An antaphrodisiac is something that quells or blunts the libido. ...

Rhetoric, philosophy, and art

The Phaedrus also gives us much in the way of explaining how art should be practiced. The discussion of rhetoric, the proper practice of which is found to actually be philosophy, has many similarities with Socrates's role as a "midwife of the soul" in the Theaetetus; the dialectician, as described, is particularly resonant. To practice the art, one must have a grasp of the truth and a detailed understanding of the soul in order to properly persuade. Moreover, one must have an idea of what is good or bad for the soul and, as a result, know what the soul should be persuaded towards. To have mastered the tools of an art is not to have mastered the art itself, but only its preliminaries. This is much like the person who claims to have mastered harmony after learning the highest and lowest notes of the lyre. To practice an art, one must know what that art is for and what it can help one achieve. Midwifery is a blanket term used to describe a number of different types of health practitioners, other than doctors, who provide prenatal care to expecting mothers, attend the birth of the infant and provide postnatal care to the mother and infant. ... The Theætetus (Θεαίτητος) is one of Platos dialogues concerning the nature of knowledge. ...

The role of divine inspiration in philosophy must also be considered; the philosopher is struck with the fourth kind of madness, that of love, and it is this divine inspiration that leads him and his beloved towards the good- but only when tempered with self-control.

Writing, examined separately but ultimately equated with philosophy and rhetoric, is somewhat deprecated; it is stated that writing can do little but remind those who already know, somewhat reminiscent of the archetypical Zen master's admonishment that "those who know, know". Unlike dialectic and rhetoric, writing cannot be tailored to specific situations or students; the writer does not have the luxury of examining his reader's soul in order to determine the proper way to persuade. When attacked it cannot defend itself, and is unable to answer questions or refute criticism. As such, the philosopher uses writing "for the sake of amusing himself" and other similar things rather than for teaching others. A writer, then, is only a philosopher when he can himself argue that his writing is of little worth, among other requirements. Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism that places great importance on moment-by-moment awareness and seeing deeply into the nature of things by direct experience. ...

This final critique of writing with which the dialogue concludes seems to be one of the more interesting facets of the conversation for those who seek to interpret Plato in general; Plato, of course, comes down to us through his numerous written works, and philosophy today is concerned almost purely with the reading and writing of written texts. It seems proper to recall that Plato's ever-present protagonist and ideal man, Socrates, fits Plato's description of the dialectician perfectly, and never wrote a thing.

There is an echo of this point of view in Plato's Seventh Epistle (Letter), wherein Plato says not to write down things of importance. 66

See also

To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Plato. ... Theory of Forms typically refers to Platos belief that the material world as it seems to us is not the real world, but only a shadow of the real world. ...


  • 1 Plato, the Phaedrus, trans. by Alexander Nehamas and Paul Woodruff. From Plato: Complete Works, ed. by John M. Cooper. ISBN 0-87220-349-2, 228b (stph. p.)
  • 2Ibid. 228a-e
  • 3Ibid. 230e-231
  • 4Ibid. 231-234c
  • 5Ibid. 234d-e
  • 6Ibid. 235a, c
  • 7Ibid. 236c-d
  • 8Ibid. 236e-237
  • 9Ibid. 237e-238
  • 10Ibid. 238a-c
  • 11Ibid. 238c-d
  • 12Ibid. 238e
  • 13Ibid. 239c
  • 14Ibid. 239c
  • 15Ibid. 240a
  • 16Ibid. 241a
  • 17Ibid. 242a
  • 18Ibid. 242c-e
  • 19Ibid. 243a-b
  • 20Ibid. 244a
  • 21Ibid. 245c
  • 22Ibid. 245c-e
  • 23Ibid. 246a
  • 24Ibid. 246a-b
  • 25Ibid. 246c
  • 26Ibid. 246d-e
  • 27Ibid. 246e-247b
  • 28Ibid. 247b-c
  • 29Ibid. 247c
  • 30Ibid. 247d-e
  • 31Ibid. 247e-248e
  • 32Ibid. 248e-249d
  • 33Ibid. 249d-e
  • 34Ibid. 250a
  • 35Ibid. 250d-252b
  • 36Ibid. 253d-254e
  • 37Ibid. 255e-256b
  • 38Ibid. 256b-e
  • 39Ibid. 256e-257c
  • 40Ibid. 258d
  • 41Ibid. 260a
  • 42Ibid. 260d
  • 43Ibid. 260d
  • 44Ibid. 260e
  • 45Ibid. 261e
  • 46Ibid. 262a-c
  • 47Ibid. 263b
  • 48Ibid. 263e-264b
  • 49Ibid. 264c
  • 50Ibid. 266c
  • 51Ibid. 266d-268a
  • 52Ibid. 268a-c
  • 53Ibid. 268c-e
  • 54Ibid. 269b-c
  • 55Ibid. 271a-272b
  • 56Ibid. 273d
  • 57Ibid. 274e-275b
  • 58Ibid. 275d-e
  • 59Ibid. 275e
  • 60Ibid. 276a
  • 61Ibid. 276e-277a
  • 62Ibid. 277b-c
  • 63Ibid. 278c-d
  • 64Ibid. 230d
  • 65Ibid. 242a
  • 66 Plato, Seventh Epistle, "Therefore every man of worth, when dealing with matters of worth, will be far from exposing them to ill feeling and misunderstanding among men by committing them to writing." [1]

Stephanus pagination is the system of reference and organisation used in the works of Plato. ... Ibid (Latin, short for ibidem, the same place) is the term used to provide an endnote or footnote citation or reference for a source that was cited in the preceding endnote or footnote. ...



Hackforth, R. (tr. and ed.). Plato's Phaedrus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972 (orig. vers. 1952). ISBN: 0521097037.

External Links

  • Text (English and Greek) of Phaedrus (Fowler, 1925) at the Perseus Project
  • Text of Phaedrus (Jowett, 1892) with Introduction and running commentary

  Results from FactBites:
Plato on Rhetoric and Poetry (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) (0 words)
Plato certainly thought that matters of the greatest importance hang in the balance, as is clear from the famous statement that “there is an old quarrel between philosophy and poetry” (Rep.
Plato has in his sights all of “poetry,” contending that its influence is pervasive and often harmful, and that its premises about nature and the divine are mistaken.
The questions are complicated by the fact that Plato was not (or, not primarily) thinking of poetry as a written text read in silence; he had in mind recitations or performances, often experienced in the context of theater.
Phaedrus (Plato) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (4339 words)
The Phaedrus, written by Plato, is a dialogue between Plato's main protagonist, Socrates, and Phaedrus, an interlocutor in several dialogues.
The Phaedrus was presumably composed around 370 BC, around the same time as Plato's Republic and Symposium; with those two texts, it is often considered one of Plato's literary high points.
The dialogue begins with a series of speeches on love; the second half consists of discussion on the nature and proper practice of love and rhetoric, encompassing discussions of the soul, madness and divine inspiration, and the practice and mastery of an art.
  More results at FactBites »



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