Sunday, February 18, 2018

2a Rhetoric in the Phaedrus [and in the Gorgias – with reference to Plato’s Seventh Letter]

Yesterday I opened my post with the words: ‘Socrates says in the Phaedrus that in his two speeches on love ‘two forms’ (eidê) were involved, and ‘that it would be very agreeable if we could seize their significance in a scientific fashion’ (ei autoin tên dunamin technê̢ labein dunaito tis, ouk achari, 265c9-d1; translations from the Phaedrus in this entry are R. Hackforth’s, unless stated otherwise).’ In doing so I combined a direct quotation with my paraphrase. I did so, for Hackforth made two mistakes in translating the words I paraphrased, and I didn’t want to distract attention from the important remark with which he commented on the way in which Plato referred his outline of dialectic to his two speeches on love. But the mistakes he made deserve attention. In his translation the paragraph is as follows:

‘For the most part I think our festal hymn has really been just a festive entertainment; but we did casually allude to a certain pair of procedures, and it would be very agreeable if we could seize their significance in a scientific fashion (265c8-d1).’

Hackforth’s ‘For the most part I think our festal hymn has really been just a festive entertainment’ stands for Socrates’ Emoi men phainetai ta men alla tô̢ onti paidia̢ pepaisthai. But Socrates’ words are not limited to his second speech, ‘the festal hymn’. Rowe translates: ‘To me it seems that the rest really was playfully done, by way of amusement.’ Rowe correctly avoids limiting Socrates’ reflection to the ‘festal hymn’, but he wrongly translates ta men alla as ‘the rest’, as if Socrates contrasted ‘the rest’ with the ‘two principles of method’ (duoin eidoin) of which he is going to talk. Walter Hamilton in his translation of the dialogue makes the same mistake as Rowe: ‘though the rest of the speech was really no more than a jeu d’esprit’, combining it with the mistake Hackforth made, i.e. limiting Socrates’ reflection to the ‘festal hymn’.

Hackforth’s ‘but we did casually allude to a certain pair of procedures, and it would be very agreeable if we could seize their significance in a scientific fashion’ stands for Socrates’ toutôn de tinôn ek tuchês rêthentôn duoin eidoin, ei autoin tên dunamin technê̢ dunaito labein tis, ouk achari. Hackforth refers Socrates’ toutôn de tinôn ek tuchês rêthentôn (which Jowett brilliantly translates ‘in these chance fancies of the hour’) ‘to a certain pair of procedures’, i.e. to Socrates’ duoin eidoin, which is wrong. Socrates’ toutôn de tinôn ek tuchês rêthentôn (‘in these chance fancies of the hour’) refers to Socrates’ two speeches on love in their totality. Rowe makes the same mistake: ‘but by chance two principles of method of the following sort were expressed’. Hamilton in this respect correctly: ‘yet in its [‘in their’ Socrates speaks in plural about his two speeches (toutôn de tinôn), reserving the dual for the ‘two forms’ ,duoin eidoin, i.e. Hackforth’s ‘pair of procedures’, Rowe’s ‘two principles of method’, Hamilton’s ‘two methods of reasoning’] random utterances two methods of reasoning can be discerned’.

Jowett translated: ‘I mean to say that the composition was mostly playful (Emoi men phainetai ta men alla tô̢ onti paidia̢ pepaisthai). Yet in these chance fancies of the hour (toutôn de tinôn ek tuchês rêthentôn) were involved two principles (duoin eidoin) of which we should be too glad to have a clearer description if art could give us one  (ei autoin tên dunamin technê̢ dunaito labein tis, ouk achari).’

Saturday, February 17, 2018

2 Rhetoric in the Phaedrus and in the Gorgias – with reference to Plato’s Seventh Letter

Socrates says in the Phaedrus that in his two speeches on love ‘two forms’ (eidê) were involved, and ‘that it would be very agreeable if we could seize their significance in a scientific fashion’ (ei autoin tên dunamin technê̢ labein dunaito tis, ouk achari, 265c9-d1; translations from the Phaedrus in this entry are R. Hackforth’s, unless stated otherwise):

1. ‘The first is that in which we bring the dispersed plurality under a single form, seeing it all together (Eis mian te idean sunorônta agein ta pollachê̢ diesparmena): the purpose being to define so-and-so (hina hekaston horizomenos), and thus to make plain (dêlon poiê̢) whatever may be chosen as the topic for exposition (peri hou an hekastote didaskein ethelê̢). For example, take the definition given just now of love (hôsper ta nundê peri Erôtos), about what it is when defined (ho estin horisthen): whether it was right or wrong (eit’ eu eite kakôs elechthê), at all events it was that which enabled our discourse to achieve lucidity and consistency (to g’oun saphes kai to auto hautô̢ homologoumenon dia tauta eschen eipein ho logos, 265d3-7).’

2. ‘Being able to cut it up again, form by form (To palin kat’eidê dunasthai diatemnein), according to its natural joints (kath’ arthra hê̢ pephuken), and not try to break any part into pieces (kai mê epicheirein katagnunai meros mêden), like an inexpert butcher (kakou mageirou tropô̢ chrômenon, tr. of this sentence C. J. Rowe); but to take example from our two recent speeches (all’ hôsper arti tô logô). The single general form which they postulated was irrationality (to men aphron tês dianoias hen ti koinê̢ eidos elabetên); next, on the analogy of a single natural body (hôsper de sômatos ex henos) with its pairs of like-named members (dipla kai homônuma pephuke), right arm or leg, as we say, and left (skaia, ta de dexia klêthenta), they conceived of madness as a single objective form existing in human beings (houtô kai to tês paranoias hôs hen en hêmin pephukos eidos hêgêsamenô tô logô): wherefore the first speech divided off a part on the left (ho men to ep’ aristera temnomenos meros), and continued to make divisions (palin touto temnôn), never desisting (ouk epanêken) until it discovered one particular part bearing the name of “sinister” love (prin en autois epheurôn onomazomenon skaion tina erôta), on which it very properly poured abuse (eloidorêsen mal’ en dikê̢). The other speech conducted us to the forms of madness which lay on the right-hand side (ho d’ eis ta en dexia̢ tês manias agagôn hêmas), and upon discovering a type of love that shared its name with the other but was divine (homônumon men ekeinô̢, theion d’ au tina erôta epheurôn), displayed it to our view (kai proteinamenos) and extolled it (epê̢nesen) as the source of the greatest goods that can befall us (hôs megistôn aition hêmin agathôn) (265e1-266b1).

Hackforth remarks: ‘There are serious difficulties in this paragraph. Socrates speaks as though the generic concept of madness (to aphron, paranoia, mania) had been common to his two speeches, and there had been a formal divisional procedure followed in both of them. Neither of these things is true. In the first speech Socrates starts by bringing erôs [‘love’] under the genus epithumia [‘desire’, 237d3] but this is superceded by hubris [‘wantonness’, 238a2], which is declared to be polumeles kai polueides [‘it has many branches and forms’, 238a3]; it is then shown that erôs [‘love’] is a species of hubris [‘wantonness’], but this is done not by successive dichotomies, but by an informal discrimination from an indefinite number of other species, of which only two are named [gastrimargia ‘gluttony’, 238b1, and hubrisperi methas turanneusasa ‘wantonness … dominating in the matter of drinking’, 238b2]. It is only in the second speech that Socrates starts with a clear concept of “madness”; but here again there is no scheme of successive divisions, whether dichotomous or other: there is merely the single step of fourfold division.

It must therefore be admitted that Socrates’ account of the dialectical procedure followed in his speeches is far from exact. Nevertheless it may be said to be substantially true: for it is true to the spirit and implication of what has happened: it describes how the two speeches might naturally be schematized when taken together as part of a design which has gradually unfolded itself. A writer with more concern for exact statement than Plato had, would have made Socrates say something to the following effect: “I can illustrate these two procedures, Collection and Division, by reference to my two speeches; if you think of them together, you will agree that I was in fact, though not explicitly, operating with a generic concept, mania [‘madness’], under which I contrived to subsume two sorts of erôs [‘love’]: though I grant you that my actual procedure was very informal, and in particular that I tended to leap from genus to infima species [‘the lowest species’], without any clear indication of intermediate species.”

It should further be remembered that the word mania [‘madness’] did occur in Socrates’s first speech, although more or less casually: the lover whose passion was spent was described as metabalôn allon archonta en hautô̢ kai prostatên [‘having changed in himself and adopted a different ruler and master’], noun [‘sense’] kai sôphrosunên [and sanity’] ant’ erôtos kai manias [‘in place of love and madness’] (241A2-4). Moreover, when introducing his palinode Socrates had said ouk est’ etumos logos [‘Fals is the tale’] hos an parontos erastou tô̢ mê erônti mallon phê̢ dein charizesthai [‘that when a lover is at hand favour ought rather to be accorded to one who does not love’], dioti [‘on the ground’] ho men mainetai [‘that the former is mad’], ho de sôphronei [‘and the latter sound of mind’] (244A3-5). These passages, taken in conjunction with our present passage, will justify a belief that the conception of mania [‘madness’] as the genus of erôs [‘love’] was present in Plato’s mind from the outset of the dialogue.’ (R. Hackforth, Plato’s Phaedrus, Cambridge at the University Press, 1972, p. 133.)

Hackforth’s insight that the two procedures, Collection and Division, were ‘present in Plato’s mind from the outset of the dialogue’ gets the importance it deserves if we consider it within the framework of our viewing the Phaedrus as Plato’s first dialogue. For if we subject any dialogue of Plato to analysis similar to the one to which Hackforth subjected Socrates’ two speeches in the Phaedrus, we shall find that ‘the two procedures’ underlie every dialogue of Plato. Particularly instructive is the Gorgias, in which Socrates opposed rhetoric to dialectic.

In the Gorgias, Polus, a teacher of rhetoric, asks Socrates ‘What do you think rhetoric is (ti soi dokei hê rêtorikê einai; 462b10)?’ Socrates answers that rhetoric is ‘a knack’ (empeiria, 462c3). Polus asks: ‘A knack of what (Tinos empeiria;)?’ Socrates answers: ‘Of the production of a certain gratification and pleasure (Charitos tinos kai hêdonês apergasias).’ – Polus: ‘Then don’t you think rhetoric is a fine thing (Oukoun kalon soi dokei hê rêtorikê einai), the ability to gratify people (charizesthai hoion te einai anthrôpous;)?’ – Socrates: ‘What’s that (Ti de;), Polus (ô Pôle;)? Have you already found out from me (êdê pepusai par’ emou) what I say it is (hoti phêmi autên einai), so that you ask the next question (hôste to meta touto erôta̢s), if I don’t think it’s fine (ei ou kalê moi dokei einai;)? (462c6-d2, the translation of the passages from the Gorgias in this post is by T. Irwin.)

As can be seen, the definition of rhetoric is in Socrates’ mind at the outset of the discussion – he had time to accomplish the preliminary ‘Collection’ in his encounters with sophists and rhetoricians – and it is instructive to see how he compels Polus to participate in a dialectic enquiry.

Polus: ‘Haven’t I found out that you say it’s a certain knack (Ou gar pepusmai hoti empeirian tina autên phê̢s einai;)?’ – S.: ‘Well then, since you admire gratification, would you like to gratify me a small thing (Boulei oun, epeidê tima̢s to charizesthai, smikron ti moi charisasthai;)? … Ask me now (Erou nun me) what craft I think cookery is (opsopoia hêtis moi dokei technê einai).’ – P.: ‘What craft is cookery (tis technê opsopoia;)?’ – S.: ‘No craft (Oudemia), Polus (ô Pôle).’ – P.: ‘Then what (Alla ti;)? Tell me (phathi).’ – S.: ‘I tell you (Phêmi dê) it’s a certain knack (empeiria tis).’ – P.: ‘What knack (Tis;)?’ – S.: ‘A knack of producing pleasure and gratification (charitos kai hêdonês apergasias).’ – P.: ‘Then is cookery the same as rhetoric (T’auton ara estin opsopoia kai rêtorikê;)?’ – S.: ‘No, not at all (Oudamôs ge); but it’s a part of the same practice (Alla tês autês men epitêdeuseôs morion).’ – P.: ‘What practice is this you’re speaking of (Tinos legeis tautês;)?’ (462d3-e5) Socrates hesitates ‘for fear Gorgias may think I’m ridiculing his own practice’ (mê oiêtai me diakômô̢dein to heautou epitêdeuma, 462e7-8).

When Gorgias insists, Socrates answers: ‘I think it is a practice (Dokei toinun moi einai ti epitêdeuma), not of a craftsman (technikon men ou), but of a guessing (psuchês de stochastikês), brave soul (kai andreias), naturally clever at approaching people (kai phusei deinês prosomilein anthrôpois); and I call the sum of it flattery (kalô de autou egô to kephalaion kolakeian).’ (463a6-b1)

Irwin’s ‘the sum of it’ does not adequately express to kephalaion, for which it stands. Kephalê means ‘head’, to kephalaionsummum genus’; Socrates’ to kephalaion corresponds to the concept that we get as a result of ‘Collection’, the first dialectic procedure, which Plato expressed in the Phaedrus as ‘that in which we bring the dispersed plurality under a single form (eis mian idean), seeing it all together: the purpose being to define so-and-so, and thus to make plain whatever may be chosen as the topic for exposition (265d3-5).’

In the Gorgias the corresponding procedure, the ‘Division’, follows, as Socrates goes on: ‘I think this practice has many other parts too (tautês moi dokei tês epitêdeuseôs polla men kai alla moria einai), and cookery is also one of them (hen de kai hê opsopoiikê); it seems to be a craft (ho dokei men einai technê), but on my account (hôs de ho emos logos) it isn’t a craft (ouk estin technê), but a knack (all’ empeiria) and procedure (kai tribê, literally ‘rubbing’; in this case: ‘getting experienced by rubbing elbows with many people, in crowds, meetings and assemblies’). I call rhetoric a part of this too (tautês morion kai tên rêtorikên egô kalô), and also cosmetics (kai tên ge kommôtikên) and sophistry (kai tên sophistikên) – these four parts (tettara tauta moria) set over four things (epi tettarsin pragmasin). And so if Polus wants to find out (ei oun bouletai Pôlus punthanesthai), he should find out (punthanesthô); for he hasn’t yet found out (ou gar pô pepustai) what sort of part of flattery I say rhetoric is (hopoion phêmi egô tês kolakeias morion einai tên rêtorikên).’ (463b1-c2)

Socrates explains what he thinks rhetoric is in a discussion with Gorgias; his explanation can be seen as a model application of ‘Collection’ and ‘Division’, the two dialectic procedures introduced in the Phaedrus. The explanation is preceded by a brief preliminary discussion.

Socrates: ‘I’ll try to explain (egô peirasomai phrasai) what I think rhetoric is (ho ge moi phainetai einai hê rêtorikê) … You call something body (sôma pou kaleis su) and soul (kai psuchên;)?’ – Gorgias: ‘Of course (Pôs gar ou;).’ – S.: ‘And don’t you also think there is a good condition of each of them (Oukoun kai toutôn oiei tina einai hekaterou euexian;)?’ – G.: ‘Of course (Egôge).’- S.: ‘Well then (Ti de;), is there also an apparent good condition (dokousan men euexian) which isn’t one (ousan d’ ou;)? For instance, I’m talking about this sort of thing (hoion toionde legô): – Many people appear to have their bodies in good condition (polloi dokousin eu echein ta sômata), and no one would easily notice (hous ouk an ra̢diôs aisthoito tis) that they are not (hoti ouk eu echousin), except a doctor (all’ ê iatros te) or a gymnastic trainer (kai tôn gumnastikôn tis).’ – G. ‘You are right (Alêthê legeis).’ – S.: ‘I say there is this sort of thing both for the body (To toiouton legô kai en sômati einai) and for the soul (kai en psuchê̢). It makes the body or the soul appear to be in good condition (ho poiei men dokein eu echein to sôma kai tên psuchên), but it’s still in no better condition (echei de ouden mallon).’ – G.: ‘That’s right (Esti tauta).’ (463e5-b1)

Since Gorgias had accepted all these preliminary points, Socrates can explain: ‘Come then, I’ll try to display more clearly to you what I’m saying, if I can (Phere dê soi, ean dunômai, saphesteron epideixô ho legô). For these two things (duoin ontoin toin pragmatoin) I say there are two crafts (duo legô technas); the one set over the soul (tên men epi tê̢ psuchê̢) I call the political craft (politikên kalô); I can’t off-hand find a single name for the single craft set over the body (tên de epi sômati mian men houtôs onomasai ouk echô soi), but still body-care is one craft (mias de ousês tês tou sômatos therapeias), and I say there are two parts of it (duo moria legô), the gymnastic (tên men gumnastikên) and the medical crafts (tên de iatrikên). The part of politics corresponding to gymnastics is legislation (tês de politikês anti men tês gumnastikês tên nomothetikên), and the part corresponding to medicine (antistrophon de tê̢ iatrikê̢) is justice (tên dikaiosunên) … Here are four crafts (tettarôn dê toutôn ousôn), taking care of either body or soul, aiming at the best (kai aei pros to beltiston therapeuousôn tôn men to sôma, tôn de tên psuchên). Flattery noticed them (hê kolakeutikê aisthomenê) – I don’t say it knew (ou gnousa legô), but it guessed (alla stochasamenê) – and divided itself into four (tetrarcha heautên dianeimasa) impersonating each of these parts (hupodusa hupo hekaston tôn moriôn), and pretends to be (prospoieitai einai touto) what it impersonates (hoper hupedu); it does not care a bit for the best (kai tou men beltistou ouden phrontizei), but lures and deceives foolishness with what is pleasantest at the moment (tô̢ de aei hêdistô̢ thêreuetai tên anoian kai exapata̢), making itself seem (hôste dokei) to be worth most (pleistou axia einai). Cookery impersonates medicine, then (hupo men oun tên iatrikên hê opsopoiikê hupodeduken), and pretends (kai prospoieitai) to know the best foods for the body (ta beltista sitia tô̢ sômati eidenai).’ (464b2-d5)

Tutning to Polus, Socrates goes on to say: ‘Well then, I call it flattery (kolakeian men oun auto kalô) … And I say it is not a craft (technên de autên ou phêmi einai), but a knack (all’ empeirian), because it has no rational account (hoti ouk echei logon oudena) by which it applies (hô̢ prospherei) the things it applies (ha prospherei), to say what they are by nature (hopoi’ atta tên phusin estin), so that it cannot say what is the explanation of each thing (hôste tên aitian hekastou mê echein eipein); and I don’t call anything a craft (egô de technên ou kalô) which is unreasoning (ho an ê̢ alogon pragma) … and cosmetics is disguised as gymnastics in the same way (tê̢ de gumnastikê̢ kata ton auton tropon touton hê kommôtikê [hupokeitai]) … as cosmetics (ho kommôtikê) is to gymnastics (pros gumnastikên), so is sophistry (touto sophistikê) to legislation (pros nomothetikên), and as cookery (kai hoti ho opsopoiikê) is to medicine (pros iatrikên), so is rhetoric (touto rêtorikê) to justice (pros dikaiosunên) … What I say rhetoric is, then (ho men oun egô phêmi tên rêtorikên einai) – you’ve heard it (akêkoas). It corresponds to cookery, doing in the soul what cookery does in the body (antistrophon opsopoias en psuchê̢, hôs ekeino en sômati).’ (464e2-465e1)

***
As I have argued, if the Phaedrus was written as Plato’s first dialogue, as the ancient biographic tradition suggests, it must have been written prior to the Charmides. The Charmides must have been written in the early days of the Thirty, that is in 404, and Phaedrus in the latter days of the Athenian democracy, in 405. This means that Plato wrote the Phaedrus in the days when his desire to become engaged in politics was most ardent, as we can learn from his Seventh Letter (324b8-325a5). Doing politics in Athens without applying oneself to rhetoric was unthinkable. Plato’s attempt to conceive rhetoric as technê‘ in the Phaedrus – that is as ‘craft’ (Irwin), as ‘science’ (Rowe), as ‘art’ (Hackforth) – gives us an insight into his thoughts and hopes of that time.
Plato’s rejection of rhetoric in the Gorgias indicates that it must have been written at the time when Plato realised that there was no place for him in the politics of Athens. The date of its provenance can be only conjectured on the basis of the Seventh Letter, for there is no reference in the Seventh Letter to the period in which Plato had given up on his desire to become engaged in politics of his native city. For in it Plato proceeds from the days in which he vacillated between despair and hope concerning his engagement in the Athenian politics straight into the days when he conceived the state in which the philosophers become rulers, to which he devoted the Republic (see Seventh Letter 325b5-326b4). The Gorgias nevertheless clearly indicates that there must have been such a period – the days in which the Gorgias was written – for the way in which Socrates discusses rhetoric in this dialogue clearly indicates that he had given up on any hope of becoming engaged in the politics of Athens, yet there is no inkling in it of his realization that ‘the classes of mankind will have no cessation from evils (kakôn oun ou lêxein ta anthrôpina genê) until either the class of those who are right and true philosophers attains political supremacy (prin an ê to tôn philosophountôn orthôs ge kai alêthôs genos eis archas elthê̢ tas politikas), or else the class of those who hold power in the State (ê to tôn dunasteuontôn en tais polesin) becomes, by some dispensation of Heaven, really philosophic (ek tinos moiras theias ontôs philosophêsê̢, Seventh Letter 326a7-b4, tr. R. G. Bury).’ 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

1 Rhetoric in the Phaedrus and in the Gorgias

Opening the discussion on rhetoric in the Phaedrus, Socrates says to Phaedrus ‘that unless he engages in philosophy sufficiently well (hôs ean mê hikanôs philosophêsê̢) he will never be a sufficiently good speaker either about anything (oude hikanos pote legein estai peri oudenos, 261a4-5; translation from the Phaedrus C. J. Rowe).’ In his ‘Commentary’ Rowe remarks: ‘The Gorgias too recognises the possibility of a reformed rhetoric, united with philosophy (503 a ff.)’ And he is right in this. But if he means that the ‘reformed rhetoric, united with philosophy’, briefly outlined in the Gorgias, is then further developed in the Phaedrus – which I presume to be the case because of his late dating of the latter and the early dating of the former (cf. the ‘Introduction’ to his translation and commentary of PLATO: Phaedrus, p. 13) – then he is wrong.

The Gorgias begins with Socrates’ investigation of rhetoric as Gorgias and Polus conceive of it. Face to face with these two rhetoricians Socrates defines rhetoric as a flattery: ‘I think it is a practice (Dokei toinun moi eiani ti epitêdeuma), not of a craftsman (technikon men ou), but of a guessing, brave soul (psuchês de stochastikês kai andreias), naturally clever at approaching people (kai phusei deinês prosomilein tois anthrôpois); and I call the sum of it flattery (kalô de autou egô to kephalaion kolakeian, 463a6-8, translation from the Gorgias T. Irwin).’

Socrates returns to rhetoric defined as flattery later in the dialogue, in a discussion with Callicles: ‘What about rhetoric addressed to the Athenian people (ti de hê pros ton Athênaion dêmon rêtorikê) and the other peoples of the cities (kai tous allous tous en tais polesi dêmous), the peoples composed of free men (tous tôn eleutherôn andrôn), exactly what do we find this is (ti pote hêmin hautê estin;)? Do you think that rhetors always speak with an eye on what is best (poteron soi dokousin pros to beltiston aei legein hoi rêtores), and aim to make the citizens as good as possible by their speeches (toutou stochazomenoi, hopôs hoi politai hôs beltistoi esontai dia tous hautôn logous;)? Or do they too concentrate on gratifying the citizens (ê kai houtoi pros to charizesthai tois politais hôrmêmenoi), despising the common interest for the sake of their own private interest (kai heneka tou idiou tou hautôn oligôrountes tou koinou)? Do they approach the people in the cities as children (hôsper paisi prosomilousi tois dêmois), trying to gratify them (charizesthai autois peirômenoi monon), with no concern about whether they will be better or worse from it (ei de ge beltious esontai ê cheirous dia tauta, ouden phrontizousin; 502d10-503a1)?’

In this paragraph Socrates implicitly defines ‘a reformed rhetoric, united with philosophy’ as a technê – a craft (Irwin)/a science (Rowe) – in accordance with which ‘rhetors always speak with an eye on what is best, and aim to make the citizens as good as possible by their speeches’. This implicit definition becomes explicit in Socrates’ next entry, in which he replies to Callicles’ contention that ‘there are some who care about the citizens when they say what they say (eisi men gar hoi kêdomenoi tôn politôn hoi legousin ha legousin), and others who are as you claim (eisin de kai hoious su legeis).’ – Socrates: ‘If there are really two types here (ei gar kai touto esti diploun), I presume one is flattery (to men heteron pou toutou kolakeia an eie), and shameful public oratory (kai aischra dêmêgoria), while the other is fine (to d’ heteron kalon) – trying to make the souls of the citizens as good as possible (to paraskeuazein hopôs hôs beltistai esontai tôn politôn hai psuchai), and working hard in saying what is best (kai diamachesthai legonta ta beltista), whether it is pleasant or unpleasant to the audience (eite hêdiô ê aêdestera estai tois akouousin, 503a5-9).’

In contrast, in the Phaedrus a concern for making the souls of the citizens as good as possible and working hard in saying what is best does not figure as a distinctive mark of rhetoric conceived as technê, that is as craft (using Irwin’s term) or science (using Rowe’s term). Although the concern for the moral wellbeing of the audience comes to the fore when Socrates compares rhetoric to medicine, but it does not figure there as a distinguishing mark of the scientific rhetoric; the difference between the two consists in the way they pursue this concern, scientifically or unscientifically: ‘The method of the science of medicine is, I suppose, the same (Ho autos pou tropos technês iatrikês) as that of the science of rhetoric (hôsper kai rêtorikês). In both it is necessary to determine the nature of something (En amphoterois dei dielesthai phusin), in the one the nature of body (sômatos men en tê̢ hetera̢), in the other the nature of soul (psuchês de en tê̢ hetera̢), if you are to proceed scientifically, and not merely by knack and experience (ei melleis, mê tribê̢ monon kai empeiria̢ alla technê̢), to produce health and strength in the one by applying medicines and diet to it (tô̢ men pharmaka kai trophên prospherôn hugieian kai rômên empoiêsein), and to pass on to the other whatever virtuous conviction you wish by applying words and practices in conformance with law and custom (tê̢ de logous te kai epitêdeuseis nomimous peithô hên an boulê̢ kai aretên paradôsein, 270b1-9).’

In the Phaedrus dominates the finding of the truth as a precondition for the scientifically induced persuasion: ‘the man who does this scientifically (ho technê̢ touto drôn) will make (poiêsei) the same thing appear (phanênai to auto) to the same people (tois autois) at one time just (tote men dikaion), but at any other time he wishes (hotan de boulêtai), unjust (adikon) … the same things appear at one time good (dokein ta auta tote men agatha), at another the opposite (tote d’ au enantia, 261c10-d4).’ The difference between the scientific and unscientific rhetoric as Plato views it in the Phaedrus lies in the degree of certainty the one or the other enables the rhetor to instil in the audience the persuasion he wishes them to have. The scientific rhetoric founded on dialectic enables the rhetorician to do so with certainty. Socrates opens his criticism of Lysias’ speech, which figures as an example of unscientific rhetoric, by asking Phaedrus ‘Did Lysias too (alla kai ho Lusias) compel us when beginning his speech on love to take love as some one definite thing (archomenos tou erôtikou ênankasen hêmas hupolabein ton erôta hen ti tôn ontôn), which he himself had in mind (ho autos eboulêthê̢)’

Rowe’s ‘which he himself had in mind’ for Plato’s ho autos eboulêthê̢ distorts the picture of the role that the verb boulomai ‘will’, ‘wish’, ‘want’ plays in rhetorical thinking. Socrates asks Phaedrus whether Lysias compelled ‘us’ (Socrates and Phaedrus) to take love to be what he himself wished them to take it to be, that is of which he wanted to persuade them in his speech.

The discussion of the concept of boulomai plays an important role in the Gorgias, where Polus claims that rhetors ‘have the greatest power in the cities’ (megiston dunantai en tais polesi, 466b4-5), for ‘Aren’t they like tyrants? Don’t they kill whoever they want to (ouch, hôsper hoi turannoi, apokteinuasin te hon an boulôntai, 466c1), and expropriate (kai aphairountai ktêmata) and expel from the cities (kai ekballousin ek tôn poleôn) whoever they think fit (hon an dokê̢ autois, 466b11-c2)? But in response to his claim Socrates maintains that in his view ‘the rhetors have the least power of anyone in the city (elachiston toinun moi dokousi tôn en tê̢ polei dunasthai hoi rêtores, 466b9-10) … for they do practically nothing that they want to (ouden gar poiein hôn boulontai), but do whatever they think is best (poiein mentoi hoti an autois doxê̢ beltiston einai, 466d8-e1). Polus cannot but agree that ‘having great power’ (to mega dunasthai) is a good to the man who has it (agathon einai tô̢ dunamenô̢, 466e6-7)’. Socrates then asks: ‘Do you think people want the thing (Poteron oun soi dokousin hoi anthrôpoi touto boulesthai) they are doing at any time (ho an prattôsin hekastote), or the thing for the sake of which they do the thing they do (ê ekeino hou heneka prattousin touth’ ho prattousin;)? For instance (hoion), do you think that those who take drugs from doctors want what they’re doing (hoi ta pharmaka pinontes para tôn iatrôn poteron soi dokousin touto boulesthai ho poiousin), to take the drug (pinein to pharmakon) and suffer pain (kai algein), or the thing (ê ekeino) – being healthy (to hugiainein) – for the sake of which they take it (hou heneka pinousin;)?’ Polus answers: ‘It’s clear they want to be healthy (Dêlon hoti to hugiainein, 467c5-d1)’. After referring to a number of examples which all show that ‘if anyone does something (ean tis ti prattê̢) for the sake of something (heneka tou), he doesn’t want the thing he does (ou touto bouletai ho prattei), but the thing (all’ ekeino) for the sake of which he does it (hou heneka prattei, 467d6-e1),’ Socrates points out that ‘we want good things (ta gar agatha boulometha), but we don’t want the neither good nor evil things (ta de mête agatha mête kaka ou boulometha), nor the evil things (oude ta kaka, 468c5-7).’ When Polus agrees, Socrates makes his point: ‘Then since we agree on this (Oukoun eiper tauta homologoumen), if someone kills a man (ei tis apokteinei tina) or expels him from the city (ê ekballei ek poleôs), or expropriates him (ê aphaireitai chrêmata), whether he is a tyrant (eite turannos ôn) or a rhetor (eite rêtôr), thinking it better for him (oiomenos ameinon einai autô̢), when in fact it is worse (tunchanei de on kakion), he presumably does (houtos dêpou poiei) what he thinks fit (ha dokei autô̢) … Then does he also do what he wants to (Ar’ oun kai ha bouletai), if the things he does are in fact bad (eiper tunchanei tauta kaka onta;)?’ – Polus: ‘No, I don’t think he does what he wants to (All’ ou moi dokei poiein ha bouletai).’ – Socrates: ‘Then is there any way (Estin oun hopôs) such a man (ho toioutos) has great power in this city (mega dunatai en tê̢ polei tautê̢), since having great power is (eiper esti to mega dunasthai) some kind of good (agathon ti), according to your agreement (kata tên sên homologian;)?’ – Polus: ‘No, there’s no way (Ouk estin).’ – Then I was saying what is true (Alêthê ara egô elegon), when I said (legôn) it is possible for someone who does what he thinks fit in a city (hoti estin anthrôpon poiounta en polei ha dokei autô̢) not to have great power (mê mega dunasthai), and not to do what he wants (mêde poiein ha bouletai).’ (468d1-e5)

On the dating which I have proposed, Socrates in the Gorgias says his ‘no’ to the way in which the term boulomai figures in the thinking of rhetoricians, and in doing so he says his ‘no’ to the way in which it figures in the Phaedrus in the outline of rhetoric founded on dialectic. For in the Phaedrus both the conventional rhetorician and the reformed one intends to achieve with his speeches whatever he bouletai (‘wants’/’wishes). In the Gorgias the term does not play any role in the ‘reformed rhetoric, united with philosophy’, for its aim is firmly prescribed. The good rhetors, the craftsmen, speak with an eye on what is best, and aim to make the citizens as good as possible by their speeches (503a7-9).

On the conventional dating Plato wrote the Phaedrus after he had written Gorgias; on that dating he wrote it as if the Gorgias had never been written. Compare the reformed rhetoric in the Phaedrus with the one outlined in the Gorgias. In the Gorgias only ‘that rhetor (ho rêtôr ekeinos)’ can be seen as ‘the craftsman, the good one’ (ho technikos te kai agathos, 504d5-6), ‘who always has his mind on this (pros touto aei ton noun echôn): to see that the souls of the citizens acquire justice (hopôs an autou tois politais dikaiosunê men en tais psuchais gignêtai) and get rid of injustice (adikia de apallattêtai), and that they acquire temperance (kai sôphrosunê men engignêtai) and get rid of intemperance (akolasia de apallattêtai) and that they acquire the rest of virtue (kai hê allê aretê engignêtai) and get rid of vice (kakia de apiê̢, 504d9-e3).’ In the Phaedrus the project of reformed rhetoric is focussed on giving the rhetorician scientifically ascertained ability to persuade his audience of whatever he wants; if he wants to deceive (apatêsein, 262a5) the audience, the scientific rhetoric gives him the power to do so with certainty (261e-262c, 272d-273e).

Thursday, February 1, 2018

3 Rhetoric in the Phaedrus

When Socrates finished his second speech on love, Phaedrus said: ‘I’m afraid Lysias will appear wretched to me in comparison, if he really does consent to put up another in competition with it (257c3-4).’ In the ‘Commentary’ to his translation of the dialogue Christopher Rowe remarks: ‘Phaedrus is still thinking of speeches and speaking as a matter of competition, rather than of trying to say what is true (cf. 259 e ff.)’ But in 259e Socrates speaks about ‘knowing the truth’ – not ‘trying to say what is true’. He asks: ‘Well then, for things that are going to be said well and acceptably, at least, mustn’t there be knowledge in the mind of the speaker of the truth about whatever he intends to speak about (Ar’ oun ouch huparchein dei tois eu ge kai kalôs rêthêsomenois tên tou legontos dianoian eiduian to alêthes hôn an erein peri mellê̢; 259e4-6, translations from the Phaedrus in this post are C. J. Rowe’s)?’
Phaedrus answers: ‘What I have heard about this is (Houtôsi peri toutou akêkoa) that there is no necessity for the man who intends to be an orator to understand what is really just (ouk einai anankên tô̢ mellonti rêtori esesthai ta tô̢ onti dikaia manthanein), but only what would appear to be so to the majority of those who will give judgement (alla ta doxant’ an plêthei hoiper dikasousi), and not what is really good or fine (oude ta ontôs dikaia kai kala) but whatever will appear so (all’ hosa doxei); because persuasion comes from that and not from the truth (ek gar toutôn einai to peithein all’ ouk ek tês alêtheias, 259e7-260a4).’

Socrates refutes this ‘word of the wise’ (epos hon an eipôsi sophoi, 260a5-6) by arguing that knowing the truth is essential if a man is to be able to persuade the audience of whatever he wants: ‘The man who does this scientifically (ho technê̢ touto drôn) will make the same thing appear to the same people at one time just (poiêsei phanênai to auto tois autois tote men diakion), but at any other time he wishes (hotan de boulêtai), unjust (adikon) … to the city he will make the same things appear at one time good (tê̢ polei dokein ta auta tote men agatha), at another the opposite (tote d’ au t’anantia).’ (261c10-d4) To do so scientifically, the rhetorician must have ‘a precise knowledge of the resemblance and the dissimilarity between the things that are (tên homoiotêta tôn ontôn kai anomoiotêta akribôs dieidenai, 262a6-7)’. He cannot acquire this knowledge ‘if he is ignorant of the truth of each thing (alêtheian agnoôn hekastou, 262a9): ‘Anyone who does not know the truth, but has made it his business to hunt down appearances, will give us a science of speech which is, so it seems, ridiculously unscientific (Logôn ara technên ho tên alêtheian mê eidôs, doxas de tethêreukôs, geloian tina, hôs eoike, kai atechnon parexetai, 262c1-3).’

After thus pointing out that rhetoric, if it is to be scientific, must make knowledge of the truth its primary concern, for only on that basis it may be possible to scientifically lead and mislead the audiences as one wants, Socrates outlines the domains within which this can and cannot be done: ‘When someone utters the word “iron” (Hotan tis onoma eipê̢ sidêrou), or “silver” (ê argurou), don’t we all have the same thing in mind (ar’ ou to auto pantes dienoêthêmen;)? – P.: ‘Absolutely (Kai mala).’ – S.: ‘What about the words “just” (Ti d’ hotan dikaiou) or “good” (ê agathou;)? Don’t we diverge (ouk allos allê̢ pheretai), and disagree both with each other (kai amphisbêtoumen allêlois te) and with ourselves (kai hêmin autois;)? – P.: ‘Certainly (Panu men oun).’ – S.: ‘Then we are in accord in some cases (En men ara tois sumphônoumen), not in others (en de tois ou;)?’ – P.: ‘Just so (Houtô).’ – S.: ‘So in which of the two are we easier to deceive (Poterôthi oun euapatôteroi esmen), and in which does rhetoric have the greater power (kai hê rêtorikê en poterois meizon dunatai;)? – P.: ‘Clearly in those cases where we go in different directions (Dêlon en hois planômetha).’ – S.: ‘So the man who intends to pursue a science of rhetoric (Oukoun ton mellonta technên rêtorikên metienai) must first have divided these up methodically (prôton men dei tauta hodô̢ diê̢rêsthai), and grasped some mark which distinguishes each of the two kinds (kai eilêphenai tina charaktêra hekaterou tou eidous), those in which most people are bound to tread uncertainly (en hô̢ te anankê to plêthos planâsthaito be lead astray, misled, deceived’), and those in which they are not (kai en hô̢ mê).’ (263a6-b9) … Then (Epeita ge), I think (oimai), as he comes across each thing (pros hekastô̢ gignomenon), he must not be caught unawares but look sharply to see (mê lanthanein all’ oxeôs aisthanesthai) which of the two types the thing he is going to speak about belongs to (peri hou an mellê̢ erein poterou on tunchanei tou genous).’ – P.: ‘Right (Ti mên;).’ – S.: Well then (Ti oun;), are we to say that love belongs with the disputed cases (ton erôta poteron phômen einai tôn amphisbêtêsimôn) or the undisputed ones (ê tôn mê;).’ – P.: ‘With the disputed (Tôn amphisbêtêsimôn), surely (dêpou); otherwise, do you think it would have been possible for you to say (ê oiei an soi enchôrêsai eipein ha nundê eipes) what you said about it just now (ha nundê eipes peri autou), both that it is harmful (hôs blabê te esti) to beloved (tô̢ erômenô̢) and lover (kai erônti), and then on the other hand (kai authis) that it is really the greatest of goods (hôs megiston tôn agathôn tunchanei;)?’ – S.: ‘Admirably said (Arista legeis); but tell me (all’ eipe) this too (kai tode) – for of course because of my inspired condition then, I don’t quite remember (egô gar toi dia to enthousiastikon ou panu memnêmai) – whether I defined love (ei hôrisamên erôta) when beginning my speech (archomenos tou logou).’ – P.: ‘Yes indeed you did (Nê Dia), most emphatically (amêchanôs hôs sphodra).’ (263c3-d4)

After a short but incisive criticism of Lysias’ speech Socrates turns to his two speeches: ‘They were, I think, opposites (Enantiô pou êstên): the one said that favours should be granted to the lover, the other to the non-lover (ho men gar hôs tô̢ erônti, ho d’ hôs tô̢ mê dei charizesthai, elegetên, 265a2-3) … Well then, let us take this point from it (Tode toinun autothen labômen): how the speech was able to pass over from censure to praise (hôs apo tou psegein pros to epainein eschen ho logos metabênai).’ – Phaedrus: ‘What aspect of that are you referring to, precisely (Pôs dê oun auto legeis;)?’ (265c5-7)

Socrates suggests that he is going to examine his two speeches on love in order to show ‘how the speech (logos) was able to pass over from censure to praise’. But this he doesn’t do, brushing it aside with the words ‘To me it seems (Emoi men phainetai) that the rest (ta men alla) really (tô̢ onti) was playfully done, by way of amusement (paidia̢ pepaisthai); but by chance two principles of method of the following sort were expressed (toutôn de tinôn ek tuchês rêthentôn duoin eidoin), and it would be gratifying if one could grasp their significance in a scientific way (ei autoin tên dunamin technê̢ labein dunaito tis, ouk achari).’ – Phaedrus: ‘What were these (Tinôn dê;)?’ (265c8-d2)

In response to Phaedrus’ question, Socrates presents us with an outline of dialectic: ‘First, there is perceiving together and bringing into one form (Eis mian te idean sunorônta agein) items that are scattered in many places (ta pollachê̢ diesparmena), in order that one can define each thing (hina hekaston horizomenos) and make clear (dêlon poiê̢) whatever it is that one wishes to instruct one’s audience about on any occasion (peri hou an hekastote didaskein ethelê̢). Just so with the things said just now about love (hôsper ta nundê peri Erôtos), about what it is when defined (ho estin horisthen): whether it was right or wrong (eit’ eu eite kakôs elechthê), the speech was able to say what was at any rate clear and self-consistent because of that (to g’oun saphes kai to auto hautô̢ homologoumenon dia tauta eschen eipein ho logos).’ – P.: ‘And what is the second kind of principle you refer to (To d’ heteron dê eidos ti legeis;)?’ – S.: ‘Being able to cut it up again, form by form (To palin kat’eidê dunasthai diatemnein), according to its natural joints (kath’ arthra hê̢ pephuken), and not try to break any part into pieces (kai mê epicheirein katagnunai meros mêden), like an inexpert butcher (kakou mageirou tropô̢ chrômenon); as just now the two speeches (all’ hôsper arti tô logô) took the unreasoning aspect of the mind as one form together (to men aphron tês dianoias hen ti koinê̢ eidos elabetên), and just as a single body (hôsper de sômatos ex henos) naturally has its parts in pairs, with both members of each pair having the same name (dipla kai homônuma pephuke), and labelled respectively left and right (skaia, ta de dexia klêthenta), so too the two speeches regarded derangement as naturally a single form in us (houtô kai to tês paranoias hôs hen en hêmin pephukos eidos hêgêsamenô tô logô), and the one cut off the part on the left-hand side (ho men to ep’ aristera temnomenos meros), then cutting it again (palin touto temnôn), and not giving up (ouk epanêken) until it had found among the parts a love which is, as we say, “left-handed” (prin en autois epheurôn onomazomenon skaion tina erôta), and abused it with full justice (eloidorêsen mal’ en dikê̢), while the other speech led us to the parts of madness on the right-hand side (ho d’ eis ta en dexia̢ tês manias agagôn hêmas), and discovering and exhibiting a love which shares the same name as the other, but is divine (homônumon men ekeinô̢, theion d’ au tina erôta epheurôn kai proteinamenos), it praised it (epê̢nesen) as cause of our greatest goods (hôs megistôn aition hêmin agathôn) (265d3-266b1) … those who can do this (tous dunamenous auto dran, 266b7-8) … I have called them experts in dialectic (kalô de dialektikous, b8-c1) … is this that very thing (ê touto ekeino estin), the science of speaking (hê logôn technê), by means of which Thrasymachus and the rest become clever at speaking themselves (hê̢ Thrasumachos te kai hoi alloi chrômenoi sophoi men autoi legein gegonasin), and make others the same (allous te poiousin; c2-4)?’ – P.: ‘They certainly do not possess knowledge of the things you ask about (ou men dê epistêmones ge hôn erôta̢s). But you seem to me to call this kind of thing by the right name (alla touto men to eidos orthôs emoige dokeis kalein), when you call it dialectical (dialektikon kalon); the rhetorical kind (to de rêtorikon) seems to me still to elude us (dokei moi diapheugein eth’ hêmas, c6-9).’

Socrates asks: ‘What do you mean (Pôs phê̢s)? Could there be anything fine, anywhere (kalon pou ti an eiê), which is divorced from these things (ho toutôn apoleiphthen) and is nonetheless grasped in a scientific way (homôs technê̢ lambanetai;)? We must certainly not treat it without proper respect (pantôs ouk atimasteon auto), you and I (soi te kai emoi), and we must say (lekteon de) just what that part of rhetoric is which is being left out (ti mentoi esti to leipomenon tês rêtorikês, Hackforth: ‘what this residuum of rhetoric actually consists in’). – Phaedrus: ‘There are a great many things left, I think (Kai mala pou suchna): the things in the books (ta g’ en tois bibliois) which have been written on the science of speaking (tois peri logôn technês gegrammenois).’ (266d1-6)

Thus prompted, Socrates embarks on a discussion of the contemporary ‘science of speaking’: ‘A timely reminder (Kai kalôs ge hupemnêsas). First of all, I think, there’s the point that a “preamble” must be given at the beginning of a speech (prooimion men oimai prôton hôs dei tou logou legesthai en archê̢); these are the things you mean (tauta legeis), aren’t they (ê gar;) – the refinements of the science (ta kompsa tês technês;)?’ – Phaedrus: ‘Yes (Nai).’ – S.: ‘In second place (Deuteron de dê) there is to be something called an “exposition” (diêgêsin tina), with “testimonies” hard on its heels (marturias t’ ep’ autê̢); thirdly “proofs” (triton tekmêria), fourthly “probabilities” (tetarton eikota); and I think “confirmation” (kai pistôsin oimai) and “further confirmation” (kai epipistôsin) are mentioned (legein) at least by that excellent (ton ge beltiston) Byzantine artist in speeches (logodaidalon Buzantion andra). – P.: ‘You mean the worthy Theodorus (Ton chrêston legeis Theodôron;)?’ – S.: ‘Of course (Ti mên;); and he tells us we must put in a “refutation” and “further refutation” (kai elenchon ge kai epexelenchon hôs poiêteon) both when prosecuting (en katêgoria̢ te) and when defending (kai apologia̢).’(266d7-267a2)

Socrates goes on to enumerate the inventions of Evenus, Tisias, Gorgias, Prodicus, Hippias, Protagoras and the Chalcedonian (Thrasymachus), ending his enumeration with a point on which they all agree: ‘As for the ending of speeches (to de dê telos tôn logôn), everyone seems to be in complete agreement (koinê̢ pasin eoike sundedogmenon einai); some call it “recapitulation”, while others call it by other names (hô̢ tines men epanodon, alloi d’ allo tithentai onoma).’ – Phaedrus: ‘You mean summarizing the points at the end, and so reminding the audience of what has been said (To en kephalaiô̢ hekasta legeis hupomnêsai epi teleutês tous akouontas peri tôn eirêmenôn;)?’ – S.: ‘That’s what I mean (Tauta legô) – and anything else you can add on the subject of speaking scientifically (kai ei ti su allo echeis eipein logôn technês peri).’ – P.: ‘Only small things (Smikra ge), and not worth mentioning (kai ouk axia legein).’ (267d3-9)

***
Socrates’ survey of the inventions of contemporary rhetoric is comprehensive; he does not reject these inventions as useless, but classifies them as mere preliminaries. After depriving the contemporary rhetoric of its claim to scientificity, Socrates explains ‘how one should write (hôs de dei graphein), if it is to be as scientific (ei mellei technikôs echein) as it is possible to be (kath’ hoson endechetai)’: ‘Since the power of speech (Epeidê logou dunamis) is in fact a leading of the soul (tunchanei psuchagôgia ousa), the man who is going to be an expert in rhetoric (ton mellonta rêtorikon esesthai) must know (anankê eidenai) how many forms soul has (psuchê hosa eidê echei). Their number si so and so (estin oun tosa kai tosa), and they are of such and such kinds (kai toia kai toia), which is why some people are like this, and others like that (hothen hoi men toioide, hoi de toioide gignontai); and since these have been distinguished in this way (toutôn de dê houtô diêrêmenôn) then again there are so many forms of speeches (logôn au tosa kai tosa estin eidê), each one of such and such a kind (toionde hekaston). So people of one kind (hoi men oun toioide) are easily persuaded for this reason by one kind of speech to hold one kind of opinion (hupo tôn toiônde logôn dia tênde tên aitian es ta toiade eupeitheis), while people of another kind are for these reasons difficult to persuade (hoi de toioide dia tade duspeitheis) (271c6-d7) … in whichever of these things someone is lacking (hoti an autôn tis elleipê̢) when he speaks (legôn) or teaches (ê disaskôn) or writes (ê graphôn), and says that he speaks scientifically (phê̢ de technê̢ legein), the person who disbelieves him (ho mê peithomenos) is in the stronger position (kratei, 272a8-b2).’

Asked by Socrates whether ‘science of speaking could be stated in some other way (mê allôs pôs apodekteon legomenês logôn technês;)’, Phaedrus replies: ‘It’s impossible, I think, to accept any other description (Adunaton pou allôs); yet it seems no light business (kaitoi ou smikron ge phainetai ergon).’ – Socrates: ‘You’ right (Alêthê legeis). It is just for this reason (toutou toi heneka) that we must turn all our arguments upside down (chrê pantas tous logous anô kai katô metastrephonta) and look to see (episkopein) whether any easier and shorter route to it appears anywhere (ei tis pê̢ ra̢ôn kai brachutera phainetai ep’ autên hodos) (272b3-c1) … would you like me to say something (boulei oun egô tin’ eipô logon) I’ve heard from some of those who make these things their business (hon tôn peri tauta tinôn akêkoa; c7-8)? … they say (phasi toinun) that there is no need to treat these things so portentously (ouden houtô tauta dein semnunein), or carry them back to general principles (oud’ anagein anô), going the long way round (makran periballomenous); for it’s just what we said at the very beginning of this discussion (pantapasi gar, ho kai kat’ archas eipomen toude tou logou) – that the man who is going to be competent at rhetoric need have nothing to do with the truth about just or good things (hoti ouden alêtheias metechein deoi dikaiôn ê agathôn peri pragmatôn), or indeed about people who are such by nature or upbringing (ê kai anthrôpôn ge toioutôn phusei ontôn ê trophê̢). For they say that in the law-courts no one cares in the slightest for the truth about these things (to parapan gar ouden en tois dikastêriois toutôn alêtheias melein oudeni), but only for what is convincing (alla tou pithanou); and this is what is probable (touto d’einai to eikos), which is what the man who is to speak scientifically must pay attention to (hô̢ dein prosechein ton mellonta technê̢ erein). For they go on to say that sometimes one should not even say what was actually done (oude gar au ta prachthenta dein legein eniote), if it is improbable (ean mê eikotôs ê̢ pepragmena), but rather what is probable (alla ta eikota), both when accusing (en te katêgoria̢) and when defending (kai apologia̢), and whatever one’s purpose when speaking (kai pantôs legonta), the probable is what must be pursued (to dê eikos diôkteon einai), which means frequently saying goodbye to the truth (polla eiponta chairein tô̢ alêthei, Hackforth: ‘say good-bye to the truth for ever’); for when this happens throughout one’s speech (touto gar dia pantos tou logou gignomenon), it gives us the entire science (tên hapasan technên porizein).’ (272d2-273a1)

Concerning this pursuit of the probable, Socrates points to Tisias: ‘He wrote to the effect (egrapsen) that if a week (hôs ean tis asthenês) but brave man (kai andrikos) beats up a strong coward (ischuron kai deilon sunkopsas) and steals his cloak or something else of his (himation ê ti allo aphelomenos), and is taken to court for it (eis dikastêrion agêtai), then neither party should speak the truth (dei dê t’alêthes mêdeteron legein); the coward should say (alla ton men deilon) that he wasn’t beaten up by the brave man single-handed (mê hupo monou phanai tou andrikou sunkekophthai), while the other man should establish that they were on their own together (ton de touto men elenchein hôs monô êstên), and should resort to the well known argument (ekeinô̢ de katachrêsasthai tô̢), “how could a man like me (Pôs d’an egô toiosde) have assaulted a man like him (toiô̢de epecheirêsa;)?” The coward will certainly not admit his cowardice (ho d’ ouk erei dê tên heautou kakên), but will try to invent some other lie (alla ti allo pseudesthai epicheirôn) and so perhaps offer an opening for his opponent to refute him (tach’ an elenchon pê̢ paradoiê tô̢ antidikô̢). And in all other cases too (kai peri t’alla dê) the way to speak ‘scientifically’ will be something like this (toiaut’ atta esti ta technê̢ legomena).’ (273b4-c5)

Socrates ends the discussion of rhetoric with a reply to Tisias: ‘We have for some time been saying, before you came along (palai hêmeis, prin kai se parelthein, tunchanomen legontes), that this “probability” (hôs ara touto to eikos) comes about in the minds of ordinary people because of a resemblance to the truth (tois pollois di’ homoiotêta tou alêthous tunchanei engignomenon); and we showed only a few moments ago that in every case it is the man who knows the truth who knows best how to discover these resemblances (tas de homiotêtas arti diêlthomen hoti pantachou ho tên alêtheian eidôs kallista epistatai heuriskein). So if you have anything else to say on the subject of a science of speaking (hôst’ ei men allo ti peri technês logôn legeis), we’ll gladly hear it (akouoimen an); if not (ei de mê), we’ll believe what we showed just now (hois nundê diêlthomen peisometha), that unless someone counts up the various natures of those who are going to listen to him (hôs ean mê tis tôn te akousomenôn tas phuseis diarithmêsêtai), and is capable of dividing up the things that are according to their forms and embrace each thing one by one under one kind (kai kat’ eidê diaireisthai ta onta kai mia̢ idea̢ dunatos ê̢ kath’ hen hekaston perilambanein), he will never be an expert in the science of speaking (ou pot’ estai technikos logôn peri) to the degree possible for mankind (kath’ hoson dunaton anthrôpô̢).’ (273d2-e4)

Socrates introduced the Forms in his second speech on love with the words: ‘we must be bold to speak what is true (tolmêteon oun to ge alêthes eipein), above all when our discourse is upon truth (allôs te kai peri alêtheias legonta, 247c4-6)’; the Forms are the truth, and reaching the truth is the ultimate end of an enlightened human endeavour. In contrast, in the discussion of rhetoric the task of reaching the truth is of cardinal importance, but only as the necessary means of scientifically persuading the audience of whatever one wants to. In the Athenian democracy to conceive and teach rhetoric as a discipline concerned with persuasively telling the truth made no sense; one wonted an art that would teach one ‘to make the same thing appear to the same people at one time just, but at any other time he wishes, unjust, the same things appear at one time good, at another the opposite’ (261c-d). It was within the framework of rhetoric as it was conceived, taught, and practiced in Athens, central as it was to all open political activities in democracy, that Plato proposed the science of rhetoric founded on dialectic.

It was in the Athenian democracy that the young Plato was most eager to take part in the political life of his city, in 405 B. C. The old regime of Athenian democracy was at its death throes; the new beginning was imminent.  With this in mind Plato wrote his outline of rhetoric in the Phaedrus. This outline testifies to it that he saw the new beginning in terms of a renewed and rejuvenated democracy, in which he intended to take part. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

2 Rhetoric in the Phaedrus

I ended my previous post by observing that the inseparability of politics from rhetoric dominates Plato’s thoughts on rhetoric in the Phaedrus, and that this aspect of the dialogue reflects the political life in the Athenian democracy. Let me now point to the passage that prompted me to make this observation in the first place; I skipped it in my preceding post.
When Socrates ended his second discourse on love, Phaedrus said: ‘For some time I have been amazed at how much finer you managed to make your speech than the one before (ton logon de sou palai thaumasas echô, hosô̢ kalliô tou proterou apêrgasô); so that I’m afraid (hôste oknô) Lysias will appear wretched to me in comparison (mê moi ho Lusias tapeinos phanê̢), if he really does consent to put up another in competition with it (ean ara kai ethelêsê̢ pros auton allon antiparateinai). Indeed, just recently one of the politicians (kai gar tis auton enanchos tôn politikôn) was abusing him with this very charge (tout’ auto loidorôn ôneidize), and throughout all his abuse kept calling him a “speech-writer” (kai dia pasês tês loidorias ekalei logographon); so perhaps we shall find him refraining from writing out of concern for his reputation (tach’ oun an hupo philotimias epischoi hêmin an tou graphein).’ – Socrates: ‘An absurd idea, young man (Geloion g’, ô neania, to dogma legeis); you much mistakes your friend (kai tou hetairou suchnon diamartaneis), if you think him so frightened of mere noise (ei auton houtôs hêgê̢ tina psophodea). But perhaps you really think that the man who was abusing him meant what he said (isôs de kai ton loidoroumenon autô̢ oiei oneidizonta legein ha elegen).’ – Phaedrus: ‘He seemed to (Ephaineto gar); and I think you know yourself (kai sunoistha pou kai autos) that the men with the most power and dignity (hoti hoi megiston dunamenoi te kai semnotatoi) in our cities (en tais polesin) are ashamed (aischunontai) to write speeches (logous te graphein) and leave compositions of theirs behind them (kai kataleipein sungrammata heautôn), for fear of what posterity will think of them (doxan phoboumenoi tou epeita chronou) – they’re afraid they’ll be called sophists (mê sophistai kalôntai).’ – S.: ‘You’re missing the point (lanthanei se) that the politicians who have the highest opinion of themselves (hoti hoi megiston phronountes tôn politikôn) are most in love with speech-writing (malista erôsi logographias te) and with leaving compositions behind them (kai kataleipseôs sungrammatôn), to judge at any rate from the fact that whenever they write a speech (hoi ge kai epeidan tina graphôsi logon), they are so pleased with those who commend it (houtôs agapôsi tous epainetas) that they add in at the beginning the names of those (hôste prosparagraphousi prôtous) who commend them on each occasion (hoi an hekastachou epainôsin autous).’ – P.: ‘What do you mean by that (Pôs legeis touto;)? I don’t understand (ou gar manthanô).’ – S.: ‘You don’t understand (Ou manthaneis) that at the beginning (hoti en archê̢) of a politician’s composition (andros politikou sungrammatos) the commender’s name is written first (prôtos ho epainetês gegraptai)?’ – P.: ‘How so (Pôs;)?’ – S.: ‘The writer says perhaps “it was resolved by the council”, or “by the people”, or both (“Edoxe” pou phêsin “tê̢ boulê̢” ê “tô̢ dêmô̢” ê amphoterois), and “so-and-so said” (kai “hos kai hos eipen”), referring to his own dear self with great pomposity and self-eulogy (ton hauton dê legôn mala semnôs kai enkômiazôn ho sungrapheus); then he proceeds with what he has to say (epeita legei dê meta touto), demonstrating his own wisdom to those commending him (epideiknumenos tois epainetais tên heautou sophian), sometimes making a very long composition of it (eniote panu makron poiêsamenos sungramma); or does such a thing seem to you to differ from a written speech (ê soi allo ti phainetai to toiouton ê logos sungegrammenas;)?’ – P.: ‘Not to me (Ouk emoige).’ – S.: ‘So if it stays written down (Oukoun ean men houtos emmenê̢), the author leaves the theatre delighted (gegêthôs aperchetai ek tou theatrou ho poiêtês); but if it is rubbed out (ean de exaleiphthê̢) and he loses his chance of being a speech-writer (kai amoiros genêtai logographias te) and of being recognized as a writer (kai tou axios einai sungraphein), he and his friends go into morning (penthei autos te kai hoi hetairoi).” – P.: ‘Quite right (Kai mala ‘And very much so’).’ – S.: ‘Clearly (Dêlon ge), not because they despise the profession (hoti ouch hôs huperphronountes tou epitêdeumatos), but because they regard it with admiration (all’ hôs tethaumakotes).’ – P.: ‘Yes indeed (Panu men oun).’ – S.: ‘Well then (Ti de;) – when he becomes an orator or king capable of acquiring the power of a Lycurgus, a Solon or a Darius (hotan hikanos genêtai rêtôr ê basileus, hôste labôn tên Lukourgou ê Solônos  ê Dareiou dunamin), and achieving immortality as a speech-writer in a city (athanatos genesthai logographos en polei), doesn’t he think himself equal to the gods even while he is alive (ar’ ouk isotheon hêgeitai autos te hauton eti zôn), and don’t those who come later (kai hoi epeita gignomenoi) think the same of him (t’auta tauta peri autou nomizousi), when they observe his compositions (theômenoi autou ta sungrammata;)?’ – P.: ‘Indeed so (Kai mala).’ – S.: ‘So do you think that anyone of that kind (Oiei tina oun tôn toioutôn), whoever he is and however ill-disposed towards Lysias (hostis kai hopôstioun dusnous Lysia̢), reproaches him on this account (oneideizein auto touto) – that he is a writer (hoti sungraphei)?’ – P.: ‘It is not very likely (Oukoun eikos ge), from what you say (ex hôn su legeis); if he did, it seems he would be reproaching what he himself desires (kai gar tê̢ heautou epithumia̢, hôs eoiken, oneidizoi).’ – S.: ‘This much (Touto men), then (ara), is clear to everyone (panti dêlon), that in itself, at least, writing speeches is not something shameful (hoti ouk aischron auto ge to graphein logous).’ (257c1-258d2, tr. C. J. Rowe)
R. Hackforth devotes to this passage the section XVII in his translation of the Phaedrus under the title ‘Preliminary consideration of speech-writing’: ‘The main purpose of this section is to pave the way for an examination of rhetoric in its most general sense, a sense indeed which goes considerably beyond that commonly recognized, namely any form of address, spoken or written, on any subject, in which a man seeks to commend his proposals or opinions to his audience. The statesman drafting a law is, argues Socrates, engaged in essentially the same business as the epideictic orator to whom Phaedrus had been listening; the one is ‘showing off (epideiknumenos, 258a7) his wisdom to his fellow-citizens in Council or Assembly just as the other to his circle of admirers; the successful political speaker becomes through his “compositions” (sungrammata), namely his measures permanently inscribed in the statute-book, an immortal speech-writer’ (p. 115)
I cannot agree with Hackforth that ‘the main purpose of this section is to pave the way for an examination of rhetoric’. The main purpose of this passage, as I read it, is to defend writing as an activity that does not stand in the way of one’s political ambitions, against those who were engaged in politics and on that account looked down upon writing as an activity that stigmatized one as a Sophist. For this is how Phaedrus introduced the matter, claiming that ‘just recently one of the politicians was abusing Lysias with this very charge,’ expressing a fear, that Lysias might therefore refrain from further writing ‘out of concern for his reputation’.
Rowe’s ‘out of concern for his reputation’ stands for Plato’s hupo philotimias (Hackforth translated similarly: ‘to preserve his reputation’). But this is wrong. Philotimia means, as the word itself suggests, ‘love of honour’ or ‘love of distinction’, or ‘ambition’ as LSJ suggests. In the given context Lysias’ philotimia was to become a politician. Since this was Plato’s own ambition, I cannot help thinking that in this passage Plato defends his writing of the Phaedrus.
Think of what Plato says in his Seventh Letter about his own ambition in those days – i.e. in 405-404 when on the dating I propose he wrote the dialogue: ‘In the days of my youth my experience was the same as that of many others. I thought that as soon as I should become my own master I would immediately enter into public life. But as it happened, I found, that the following changes occurred in the political situation. In the government then existing, reviled as it was by many, a revolution took place … and Thirty were established as responsible rulers of all … they invited me at once to join their administration, thinking it would be congenial … I imagined that they would administer the State by leading it out of an unjust way of life into a just way, and consequently I gave my mind to them very diligently, to see what they would do.’ (SL 324b8-d6, tr. R. G. Bury) In other words, when the Thirty took over, he hesitated to join them, waiting ‘to see what they would do ‘Clearly, Plato’s political ambitions were most acute prior to the revolution in which the Thirty took power.
Plato does not say on what grounds his ‘connexions and acquaintances’ (oikeioi te kai gnôrimoi, 324d1-2) thought that his joining them ‘would be congenial’ (prosêkonta pragmata, 324d3), i.e. something with which he was concerned, something appropriate for him. In fact he does not say anything about any of his writings in the Seventh Letter, but on the proposed dating of the Phaedrus Plato not only succeeded in it to defend writing as something that does not stand in the way of one’s political ambitions, but in writing it he showed himself worthy of participating in the government that aimed at ‘administering the State by leading it out of an unjust way of life into a just way’, which the Thirty initially, under the leadership of Theramenes, aimed at.
But this was short-lived. For when Critias took over the Thirty, rhetoric ceased to have any function in the affairs of Athens, and he did all he could to prevent rhetoric from playing any role in politics in the future. Xenophon informs us that ‘when he was one of the Thirty (hote tôn triakonta ôn) and was drafting laws with Charicles (nomothetês meta Charikleous egeneto) he inserted a clause (kai en tois nomois egrapse) which made it illegal “to teach the art of words” (logôn technên mê didaskein).’ (Memorabilia, I.ii.31. Marchant’s ‘the art of words’ stands for Xenophon’s logôn technên, which Hackforth translates in the Phaedrus as ‘the art of speech’ and Rowe as ‘the science of speaking’.) Xenophon further informs us that Critias and Charicles used this law to forbid Socrates ‘to hold any converse whatever with the young (tois neois holôs mê dialegesthai)’ When Socrates asked them ‘to fix the age limit below which a man is to be counted young (horisate moi mechri posôn etôn dei nomizein neous einai tous anthrôpous)’, Charicles replied ‘So long as he is not permitted to sit in the Council (Hosouper chronou bouleuein ouk exesti), because as yet he lacks wisdom (hôs oupô phronimois ousi). You shall not converse with anyone who is under thirty (mêde su dialegou neôterois triakonta etôn).’ (Mem. I.ii.35, tr. E. C. Marchant) Critias and Charicles thus in fact forbade Socrates to converse with Plato, who was at the time in his mid-twenties. Undoubtedly, Critias and Charicles had every reason to be unhappy about Plato’s Phaedrus with its project of philosophic rhetoric viewed as the basis for beneficial politics – in democracy.
Incidentally, I believe that the ancient tradition according to which there was ‘something immature’ in the Phaedrus – ‘that the Phaedrus was Plato’s first dialogue (logos de prôton grapsai ton Phaidron), and that indeed the subject has about it something adolescent’ (kai gar echein meirakiôdes ti to problêma, Diog. Laert. III. 38) – goes back to this incident. In my view, Socrates used its being well known to distance himself from the Phaedrus in his defence speech: ‘It certainly would not be suitable (oude gar an dêpou prepoi) for my age (tê̢de tê̢ hêlikia̢) to be appearing before you fabricating speeches like an adolescent (hôsper meirakiô̢ plattonti logous eis humas eisienai, Plato, Apology, 17c4-5)’.
It was just as important for Socrates to distance himself in his Defence from the Phaedrus as ‘an adolescent fabrication’, for in it, in ‘his’ second speech on love, ‘he’ did introduce the Forms as new deities – ‘to which a god’s nearness makes him truly god’ (pros hoisper theos ôn theios estin, 249c6) … ‘the driver’s memory (hê tou hêniochou mnêmê) goes back to that form of Beauty (pros tên tou kallous phusin ênechthê), and he sees her once again (kai palin eiden autên) enthroned by the side of Temperance upon her holy seat (meta sôphrosunês en hagnô̢ basthrô̢ bebôsan, 254b5-7, tr. Hackforth) – and thus was liable to the charge of impiety if he was holding and propagating the view ‘he’ pronounced in that speech, as it was essential for Plato to do so in the Apology after Socrates had been found guilty of impiety and sentenced to death, for as a writer of the Phaedrus he could not be charged with impiety thanks to the general amnesty issued by the democrats after their victory over the Thirty.
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But let me now turn to the main purpose of this post: pointing to those aspects in the given passage that prompted me to observe that the inseparability of politics from rhetoric dominates Plato’s thoughts on rhetoric in the Phaedrus, thus reflecting the political life in the Athenian democracy.
Phaedrus refers to a politician that reproached Lysias with his being a ‘speech-writer when he contemplates asking Lysias to write a speech competing with Socrates’ second speech on love. Socrates’ second speech is thus – ‘incidentally’ – affected by the same charge.
Socrates vehemently rebuts the charge by pointing to activities that characterised political life in Athenian democracy: ‘the politicians who have the highest opinion of themselves are most in love with speech-writing and with leaving compositions behind them … whenever they write a speech, they are so pleased with those who commend it that they add in at the beginning the names of those who commend them on each occasion … The writer says perhaps “it was resolved by the council”, or “by the people”, or both, and “so-and-so said” … then he proceeds with what he has to say … sometimes making a very long composition of it … So if it stays written down, the author leaves the theatre delighted; but if it is rubbed out and he loses his chance of being a speech-writer and of being recognized as a writer, he and his friends go into morning.’
When Plato’s Socrates goes on to enlarge the picture including in it ‘Lycurgus, a Solon or a Darius’, Plato’s mind is still focused on the unnamed politician that spoke abusively about the art of writing, as if it relegated the writer into the rank of Sophists, thus standing in the way of fulfilling his ambition of becoming a politician. Socrates contemplates the self-same politician – to whom Lysias had referred in the first place – when he says: ‘Well then– when he becomes an orator or king capable of acquiring the power of a Lycurgus, a Solon or a Darius, and achieving immortality as a speech-writer in a city (en polei), doesn’t he think himself equal to the gods even while he is alive, and don’t those who come later think the same of him, when they observe his compositions?’ In speaking of him thus, Socrates does not think of him as a politician who ‘becomes an orator’, as if the two were distinct professions; he thinks of him all the time as an orator, but now he imagines him as capable, through his oratorical skills, of acquiring the power of a Lycurgus, a Solon or a Darius.
Particularly telling is Plato’s imagining how the unnamed politician would prize his achieving immortality as a speech-writer in a city (en polei), after referring to Darius as an example. Although he spoke of Darius, the king of Persia, his eyes were fixed on the city of Athens.
Concerning Plato’s mentioning of Darius, Hackforth and Rowe refer to Plato’s Seventh Letter 332b. The Seventh Letter was written when Plato was in his late seventies; viewed simply as such it might chime with their late dating of the Phaedrus. But if we follow the reference, we will find little affinity between the mentioning of Darius in the Phaedrus and in the Seventh Letter.
To make sense of the reference, we must begin at 331e, where Plato speaks of Dionysius the elder ‘who had recovered many great cities which had been laid waste by the barbarians (hos paralabôn Sikelias pollas kai megalas poleis hupo tôn barbarôn peporthêmenas), was unable (ouch hoios t’ ên), when he settled them (katoikisas), to establish in each a loyal government composed of true comrades (politeias en hekastais katastêsasthai pistas hetairôn andrôn, 331e2-5)’ and then compares him with Darius ‘who trusted men who neither were his brothers (hos ouk adelphois pisteusas) nor reared up by himself (oud’ huph’ hautou trapheisi) but merely colleagues (koinônous de monon) who had helped him to crush the Mede and the Eunuch (tês tou Mêdou te kai eunouchou cheirôseôs); and he divided amongst them seven provinces, each greater than the whole Sicily (dieneime te merê meizô hekasta Sikelias pasês hepta); and these colleagues he found loyal (kai pistois echrêsato tois koinônois), neither did they make any attack either on himself or on one another (kai ouk epitithemenois oute autô̢ oute allêlois). And thus he left an example (edeixen te paradeigma) of the character which should belong to the good lawgiver and king (hoion chrê ton nomothetên kai basilea ton agathon gignesthai); for by the laws he framed (nomous gar kataskeuasas) he has preserved the empire of the Persians even until this day (eti kai nun diasesôken tên Persôn archên).’ (332a6-b6, tr. R. G. Bury)

The lesson that Socrates draws in the Phaedrus from imagining the unnamed politician obtaining the power of ‘a Darius’ is as follows: ‘So do you think that anyone of that kind, whoever he is and however ill-disposed towards Lysias, reproaches him on this account – that he is a writer?’ – Phaedrus answers: ‘It is not very likely, from what you say; if he did, it seems he would be reproaching what he himself desires.’ – Socrates: ‘This much, then, is clear to everyone, that in itself, at least, writing speeches is not something shameful.’