Plan for Tonight
- Leading Class Discussion
As I mentioned in your Canvas prompt, we probably should have read Gorgias before Phaedrus. Plato has nothing good to say about rhetoric in Gorgias, but he seems to believe it has a place in Phaedrus. Keep in mind that Plato (via Socrates) believes in absolute truth and that perfect types exist. However, it’s hard to know if Plato believed we could ever reach a full understanding of perfection or good. It seems that we can get close if we’re really devoted to philosophy.
Initial Information about Plato
“Plato sought a cure for the ills of society not in politics but in philosophy, and arrived at his fundamental and lasting conviction that those ills would never cease until philosophers became rulers or rulers philosophers.” Hamilton, Walter. Trans. Phaedrus and Letters VII and VIII. Radice, Betty. Ed. New York: Penguin, 1973: 1.
Platonic “Forms, of which shifting phenomena of the sensible world are imperfect imitations or copies…The Forms are in fact universals given the status of independent and absolute entities.” (p. 17)
Questions for Phaedrus
Before Lysias’ Speech
- What is the nature of the dialogue between Socrates and Lysias?
- Is it important for Socrates to draw (or drag) out the word-for-word speech Lysias brought with him?
- Why is Socrates close to dismissing the myths “too ingenious and labored” and, instead, claims he wants to know himself before worrying about “other such monsters” (pp. 24-25, 230)?
Curious parts of Lysias’ Speech
- p. 27: Love is fickle: it “value[s] any new love in the future more than the old.”
- p. 27: Love is a disorder. Lovers aren’t in their right minds, so their intentions can’t be trusted.
- p. 28: Those in love “are apt to interpret anything as a personal slight.” They don’t like their partners with others.
- p. 30: Love the one who’s most grateful and “gratitude will be proportionate.”
Socrates 1st Speech
p. 36: “Most people are unaware that they are ignorant of the essential nature of their subject.” Consider the benefit of starting a speech by defining your terms.
pp. 36-37: “in each one of us there are two ruling and impelling principles…a desire for pleasure…and an acquired conviction which cause us to aim at excellence.”
p. 37: “The conviction which impels us towards excellence is rational…self-control.”
“the desire which drags us towards pleasure is irrational…excess.”
p. 40: “the companionship of a lover, besides being injurious, is in the highest degree disagreeable to the object of his passion.”
pp. 40-41: “While he is in love the lover is a tedious nuisance, but” he’ll leave you when “his passion cools” regardless of any vows, oaths, or promises made.
p. 41: Socrates concludes “that it is far better to yield to a non-lover who is in his sober senses than to a lover who from the very nature of things is bound to be out of his mind.”
p. 41: Socrates also warns that lovers aren’t friends, and an older man has an appetite for a young boy that he needs satisfied.
Socrates gets a divine sign that makes him stay and redo his speech on love. This sets up his 2nd speech. Before he talks, though, he seems to set up his argument and warns that they risk being seen as uncivilized if anyone heard them talk this way.
Question: “Is Plato being genuine here? Why bring up something so specific (the idea of lover in the previous speech) just to refute it? Is he trying to hide what he really thinks? Perhaps he’s shunning the corrupt “illusion” of love that some maintain between each other.
Socrates on Souls
After explaining “that soul is uncreated and immortal,” Socrates explains the myth of the charioteer and how souls come to earth and, eventually, get freed.
pp. 52-53: The main gods (Zeus et. al. on Mount Olympus) have horses that take them on easy journeys, allowing them to see truth. The lesser gods and lower (humans) don’t get that glimpse and see varying degrees of the truth.”
p. 53: Those souls beneath gods don’t get the entire “absolute knowledge…in the fullest sense.”
p. 53: The lesser souls struggle with their horses and “depart without achieving initiation into the vision of reality, and henceforth upon mere opinion.”
Opinion: has the appearance of knowledge but isn’t reality, which is “knowledge of the real world of the forms” (Hamilton, note 1, p. 53).
p. 54: The hierarchy of souls—how much they glimpse of the truth.
1st: seeks wisdom, beauty, or love—a philosopher
2nd: monarch or warrior commander
3rd: manager of a household or financier (banker)
4th: lover of physical activity
6th: poet or other (imitative) artist
7th: artisan or farmer
8th: popular teacher or demagogue
Apparently, it takes 10,000 years for a soul to regrow wings…unless—
Love is Regrowth
p. 57: the corrupted man “feels no fear or shame in pursuing a pleasure which is unnatural.”
pp. 58-59: the soul that glimpses its love and is shut off will be awestruck when it sees its love again.
p. 58: “he is ready to be a slave and to make his bed as near he is allowed to the object of his passion.”
p. 61: “every man desires to find in his favourite a nature comparable to his own particular divinity.”
Notice what’s happened here. Instead of aiming to love a lesser soul, as Socrates advocated in his first speech, he claims true love is a desire to be with one comparable to oneself.
Rhetoric and Philosophy
p. 92: Once the speaker knows the types of souls and knows them when he encounters them, “then can he be said to have perfectly mastered his art.”
p. 94: Socrates has a problem with probability and, therefore, rhetorical training because “probability establishes itself in the minds of the populace because of its likeness to truth.”
p. 97: “once a thing is [written] it circulates equally among those who understand the subject and those who have no business with it.”
Who is a suitable and unsuitable reader? Any parallels in American history?
We’re staying in Greece (and with Plato) and covering Gorgias next week, so make sure you have that read. Don’t forget to do the Canvas post.