Plan for the Day
- Encomiums of Helen (last week)
- Plato’s Phaedrus (Benjamin Jowett Trans. online)
- Aristotle preview
- Mini-Rhetorical Analysis
Gorgias’ and Isocrates’ “Encomium(s) of Helen”
Let’s jump back to last week’s discussion on these two important works. We’ll also discuss Biesecker a bit before heading onto Phaedrus.
Initial Information about Plato
There is plenty more of Plato’s work out there, but, in the interest of having more figures to study, I decided to have us just read Phaedrus. Instead of thinking about Plato’s different ideas across his texts, I’d rather us just focus on a single work. We could spend the entire semester on Plato…In fact, you could do an entire degree just on Plato. In Gorgias, Plato has nothing good to say about rhetoric, 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.
“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.
More from Hamilton’s “Introduction” (p. 17):
- 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.”
- “…there exists a Form for every class of things which can be embraced under a common name, beauty, for example, or triangle or horse.”
- “The Forms, arranged in a hierarchy at the head of which stands the Form of Good, constitute the only true objects of knowledge….the business of the philosopher is to make use of the reminders of them furnished by a sensible world as a starting-point in [their] pilgrimage back from the changing world of sense and opinion to the eternal world of reality and truth.” (italics mine)
Notice the capitalized words: Forms and Good. Any comments?
Once again, keep these in mind:
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?
- Platonic Dialogues
- 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)?
Another online version of Phraedrus (that I couldn’t access earlier…it was “forbidden”)
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.
- Online Jowett Trans: “As wolves love lambs so lovers love their loves.”
- 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
- 5th: soothsayer
- 6th: poet or other (imitative) artist
- 7th: artisan or farmer
- 8th: popular teacher or demagogue
- 9th: tyrant
- 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?
If I didn’t get to the semester’s assignments, we’ll do that first thing next class–our first face-to-face meeting in Fretwell 210. We’ll finish up any Plato if needed, and we have two weeks for Aristotle’s On Rhetoric. Don’t forget to do the Weekly Discussion Post #3 before Noon on 1/25.
The above link to On Rhetoric is fine, but there’s another one using standard numbering online, but you need to use the Wayback Machine. The late Lee Honeycutt (an alumnus of our Tech/Prof Writing program) created this based on W. Rhys Roberts’s translation. (Rhetorica. The Works of Aristotle, vol 9. Ed. W.D. Ross. Oxford: Clarendon P: 1924 [vols 1- , 1913-1931]. If you like old books, Volume 9 is linked here, but it is a HUGE file and will take a minute or 10 to load.)