Tuesday, January 31, 2017

4b1 Dating of the Phaedrus – doctrinal arguments (with references to Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Plato’s Gorgias)

Sorabji’s fourth objection against my dating of Plato’ Phaedrus: ‘There is a right way of teaching Rhetoric according to the Phaedrus, but it must be combined with Psychology. I had previously accepted the view (Jaeger’s?) that Aristotle put this into practice in his Rhetoric, of which Book II is in large part a psychological study. Both his Rhetoric and (on this view) Plato Phaedrus would then come later than the unqualified denunciation of Rhetoric in the Gorgias. Does Diogenes Laertius’s different order make equally good sense?’

Sorabji’s fourth objection points to rhetoric as a factor indicating that the Phaedrus was written after the Gorgias. In my first two responses I argued that the discussion of rhetoric in the Phaedrus points to its having been written in the days when Plato’s dominant desire was to embark on a political career as soon as possible, which was in the closing months of the Peloponnesian War, when Athens was under siege and the aristocratic revolution was on the cards. Plato prepared himself for it by studying rhetoric, which was the key to success in politics in Athens. He attempted to make it scientific, so that by mastering it one could attain the proposed political aims with certainty.

With the two entries devoted to this task, marked 4 and 4a on my blog, I thought I answered the objection without touching on Aristotle’s Rhetoric. I spent a lot of time with it in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, which left me with a feeling that Aristotle saw the Phaedrus as a failed attempt, and that he had to start anew to transform rhetoric into a scientific discipline, not like with metaphysics, where he could build on generations of philosophers who contributed to its development. I saw no point in responding to Sorabji’s objection with hazy memories of my past thoughts. And even if it could be shown that Aristotle built his Rhetoric on the foundations laid by Plato in the Phaedrus, why could he not have done so if the Phaedrus was Plato’s first dialogue?

In the end I did read several pages of Book II, to which Sorabji refers. I could not find there any correspondence with Plato’s insistence that anyone who seriously proffers a scientific rhetoric will describe the soul very precisely, and let us see whether it is single and uniform in nature or, analogously to the body, complex, and then will classify the types of discourse and the types of soul, suggesting the type of speech appropriate to each type of soul, and showing what kinds of speech can be relied on to create belief in one soul and disbelief in another, and why (cf. Phdr. 271a-b). It reinforced my intention to leave Aristotle’s Rhetoric aside. But although my reading was quick and perfunctory, it must have worked on my subconscious; I simply had to look at the first few chapters of Book I. As a result, I wrote my preceding post, and I have resolved to read Aristotle’s Rhetoric from alpha to omega. Furthermore, Aristotle’s covert references to the Gorgias in the first two chapters of his Rhetoric made me realize that I must begin with Plato’s Gorgias.

Looking for a text which might indicate why I found Book II to be miles away from Plato’s Phaedrus, I found its very first paragraph relevant. As I typed the translation available to me, I could not but note a ‘discrepancy’ between the English text and the original:

‘Since rhetoric exists to affect the giving of decisions (epei de heneka kriseôs estin hê rêtorikê) – the hearers decide between one political speaker and another (kai gar tas sumboulas krinousi), and a legal verdict is a decision (kai hê dikê krisis estin) – the orator must not only try to make the argument of his speech demonstrative and worthy of belief (anankê mê monon pros ton logon horân, hopôs apodeiktikos estai kai pistos); he must also make his own character look right and put his hearers, who are to decide, into the right frame of mind (alla kai hauton poion tina kai ton kritên kataskeuazein).’ (1377b20-23).

In my preceding post I took issue with Grimaldi’s remark that Aristotle offers ‘an explanation (56a25-30) why rhetoric does legitimately “slip into the guise of” politikê. Plato in his attack at 463e-466a would deny such legitimacy.’ Against Grimaldi, I insisted that Aristotle in the given passage indorses the view that rhetoric illegitimately “slips into the guise of” politics. As I was typing ‘the hearers decide between one political speaker and another’, a thought ran through my mind: ‘Was I wrong in what I wrote in my post, or did Aristotle change his mind?’ In fact, as the original can show, Aristotle avoids any ‘political’ connotations in what he says: people make judgements ‘concerning the advices’ (tas sumboulas) they are given. I was similarly surprised when I came across ‘mind’, for translators often use ‘mind’ where Plato speaks of ‘soul’. But again, it is the translator’s contribution to Aristotle’s text, whose ‘he must also make his own character look right and put his hearers, who are to decide, into the right frame of mind’ stands for Aristotle’s alla kai hauton poion tina kai ton kritên kataskeuazein, which means that the orator should ‘make (kataskeuazein) himself (hauton) and the judge (ton kritên) to be in a certain way (poion tina)’. Kataskeuazein means ‘to construct’, ‘to build’, ‘to furnish fully’; the orator should by his speech construct himself to be in a certain way and his audience to be in a certain way. Aristotle avoids any mentioning of human soul, its nature, and the types of human souls.

Aristotle goes on: ‘Particularly in political oratory, but also in lawsuits, it adds much to an orator’s influence that his own character should look right (polu gar diapherei pros pistin, malista men en taîs sumboulaîs, ei͒ta kai en taîs dikais to te poion tina phainesthai ton legonta) and that he should be thought to entertain the right feelings towards his hearers (kai to pros hautous hupolambanein pôs diakeîsthai auton); and also (pros de toutois) that his hearers themselves should be in just the right frame of mind (ean kai autoi diakeimenoi pôs tunchanôsi). That the orator’s own character should look right (to men ou͒n poion tina phainesthai ton legonta) is particularly important in political speaking (chrêsimôteron eis tas sumboulas estin); that the audience should be in the right frame of mind (to de diakeîsthai pôs ton akroatên), in lawsuits (eis tas dikas).’ (1377b20-31, tr. W. Rhys Roberts)

As can be seen, the same ‘discrepancy’ between the original and Roberts’ translation effects the rest of the paragraph.

And so I have decided to read the Gorgias, reading it it aloud to myself, for only thus I can get the most out of it. Consider it physiologically. Every sentence involves my eyesight, the corresponding neural pathways, and the visual brain centre; it involves my hearing with its neural pathways and auditory brain centre, and it involves the motor cortex, which receives commands from the visual centre and is controlled by the auditory centre, commanded as it is ‘to do better’ whenever I make a mistake, be it by wrongly accentuating this or that word or collocation of words, or if I feel I did not properly express the meaning of this or that sentence. – These nerve activities are mediating – not producing – my understanding of the text, which no nerve cells, no brain centres can produce, as I have pointed out in ‘Self-knowledge as an imperative’ on my website.

Socrates says to Callicles, Gorgias’ host, that he would like to talk to Gorgias: ‘For I want to learn from him (boulomai gar puthesthai par’ autou) what the power of the man’s craft is (tis hê dunamis tês technês toû andros, 447c1-2, tr. T. Irwin).’ Irwin notes: ‘”Power” (dunamis; adjective dunatos, “powerful” or “capable”) is an important term in the Gorgias. Here the question just means “What is his craft capable of?”, which amounts to asking for a definition of the craft. “Craft” (technê) is the normal term for any systematic productive skill, such as carpentry or shoemaking, but it is also applied to less obviously productive abilities, such as arithmetic or geometry, so that it is virtually interchangeable, in Plato’s early dialogues at least, with epistêmê (“knowledge”, “science”). Socrates treats a craft as something more than a tendency to perform efficiently. He associates craft-knowledge with systematic teaching and instruction, reliably successful performance, and the ability to explain the actions of the craft and their over-all point … Socrates’ first question assumes that rhetoric has some power or capacity, and that it is a craft. Both of these assumptions are soon challenged, 462b, 466b.’

I shall use Irwin’s translation in the forthcoming posts, for which his explanation of ‘craft’ is essential. But I cannot agree with him that Socrates’ question ‘what the power of the man’s craft is’ ‘just … amounts to asking for a definition of the craft’. For when Socrates asks ‘what the dunamis of the man’s technê is’, his forthcoming questioning of Gorgias is ‘present to his mind’ (there is a good German word for it: vorschweben).

Gorgias: ‘I’ll try to reveal clearly the whole power of rhetoric to you, Socrates (egô soi peirasomai, ô Sôkrates, saphôs apokalupsai tên tês rêtorikês dunamin hapasan). For you showed the way well yourself (autos gar kalôs huphêgêsô). I take it you know (oi͒stha gar dêpou) that these dockyards (hoti ta neôria taûta) and the Athenians' walls (kai ta teichê ta Athênaiôn) and the harbour equipment (kai hê tôn limenôn kataskeuê) have come from Themistocles’ advice (ek tês Themistokleous sumboulês gegonen), some from Pericles’ (ta de ek tês Perikleous), but not from craftsmen (all’ ouk ek tôn dêmiourgôn) … you see (hora̢s) that the rhetors are those (hoti hoi rêtores eisin) who give advice (hoi sumbouleuontes), and who prevail with their opinions (kai hoi nikôntes tas gnômas) about these things (peri toutôn).‘ – Socrates: ‘Yes, that’s what amazes me (Taûta kai thaumazôn), Gorgias (ô Gorgia), and that’s why I’ve been asking all this time (palai erôtô) just what the power of rhetoric is (tis pote hê dunamis estin tês rêtorikês). For it seems to be some superhumanly great power (daimonia gar tis emoige kataphainetai to megethos) when I look at it like this (houtô skopoûnti).’ – G. ‘Yes, and if only you knew the whole of it (Ei panta ge eideiês), Socrates (ô Sôkrates) – that it practically captures all powers and keeps them under its control (hoti hôs epos eipeîn hapasas tas dunameis sullaboûsa huph’ hautê̢ echei).’ (455d6-456a8)

With his palai at 456a4 Socrates points to the initial question he asked at 447c1-2. Irwin’s ‘all this time’ misses Socrates’ referring by palai to that initial question, but it renders well Socrates’ keeping it ’present to his mind’ (vorschwebend) during the whole discussion. This is an example of Socrates’ ‘bringing a dispersed plurality under a single form, seeing it all together’ (Eis mian te idean sunorônta agein ta pollachệ diesparmena, Phaedrus 265d3-4). If Irwin means that this is what Socrates’ definition means, this intensity of mental presence of this or that concept throughout any philosophic discussion he enters into, mental presence of concept defined, to be defined, or in the process of being defined, then I fully agree. But this is not what we normally regard as ‘just a definition’.

Friday, January 27, 2017

4b Dating of the Phaedrus – doctrinal arguments (with references to Aristotle’s Rhetoric, Plato’s Gorgias, and his Seventh Letter)

Sorabji’s fourth objection against my dating of Plato’ Phaedrus: ‘There is a right way of teaching Rhetoric according to the Phaedrus, but it must be combined with Psychology. I had previously accepted the view (Jaeger’s?) that Aristotle put this into practice in his Rhetoric, of which Book II is in large part a psychological study. Both his Rhetoric and (on this view) Plato Phaedrus would then come later than the unqualified denunciation of Rhetoric in the Gorgias. Does Diogenes Laertius’s different order make equally good sense?’

If Sorabji is right about Aristotle’s Rhetoric, what relevance could it have concerning the dating of the Phaedrus? If the Phaedrus was Plato’s first dialogue and Plato found his outline of rhetoric to be wrong, could not Aristotle have gone back to it to develop a viable theory of rhetoric? But what if one supposed that Plato wrote the Phaedrus in his old age and wanted to see it ‘put into practice’, as Sorabji suggests? Concerning the late dating of the Phaedrus, let me quote C. J. Rowe’s ‘Introduction’ to his edition of the dialogue: ‘The Phaedrus is certainly later than the Republic and other middle dialogues like the Phaedo and the Symposium; certainly later than the Timaeus; possibly or probably later than the Parmenides, the Theaetetus, the Sophist and the Statesman; and probably earlier than the Philebus. Some of the evidence for these suggestions will be found implied in various parts of the commentary; their net result would be to place the Phaedrus rather later than is commonly assumed, and relatively near the end of Plato’s life.’ (C. J. Rowe, Plato: Phaedrus, Aris & Philips Classical Texts, Oxbow Books, Oxford 1986, second edition 1988, p. 14)

Instead of looking for and confronting Rowe’s evidence, let me suspend judgement concerning the dating of the Phaedrus as such, and inquire whether Aristotle’s Rhetoric can help us to ascertain the relative dating of Plato’s two dialogues devoted to rhetoric, the Phaedrus and the Gorgias.

Aristotle opens his Rhetoric by stating that ‘Rhetoric is the counterpart of Dialectic’ (Hê rêtorikê estin antistrophos tê̢ dialektikê̢). On the empty left page of my Oxford text I wrote down Grimaldi’s note: ‘This appears to be an opening reply to the criticism of rhetoric in the Gorgias of Plato where it is argued that rhetoric does not submit to reason (465a).’

In Gorgias 464e2-465a6 Socrates says: ‘Well then, I call it [i.e. rhetoric] flattery (kolakeian men ou͒n auto kalô), and I say this sort of thing is shameful (kai aischron phêmi ei͒nai to toioûton), because it guesses at the pleasant (hoti toû hêdeos stochazetai) without the best (aneu toû beltistou). And I say it is not a craft (technên de autên ou phêmi ei͒nai), 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).’ (Tr. T. Irwin)

Grimaldi goes on to say: ‘Indeed the reply is made more direct by the echoing of certain Platonic phrases in the first two chapters: e.g. rhetoric is the counterpart not of cookery (antistrophos opsopoias, Gorgias 465d), but of dialectic, as we are told here [i.e. in the opening sentence of Aristotle’s Rhetoric], nor is a part of flattery (morion kolakeias, Gorg. 466a) but a morion ti tês dialektikês kai homoia (56a30-31, ‘it is a part of dialectic and similar to it’) In fact those who have written on the art have provided us with only a part of it, autês morion (54a13). At 56a27 not only is Aristotle’s use of hupoduetai [“slip into the guise of”] a reminiscence on this word in Gorg. 464c-d, but Aristotle goes on to offer an explanation (56a25-30) why rhetoric does legitimately “slip into the guise of” politikê. Plato in his attack at 463e-466a would deny such legitimacy.’

I must take issue with the claim that ‘Aristotle goes on to offer an explanation (56a25-30) why rhetoric does legitimately “slip into the guise of” politikê’. For Aristotle in the given passage indorses Plato’s view, expressed in the Gorgias, that ‘rhetoric illegitimately “slips into the guise of” politics. To make this point clear, let me quote Aristotle’s words in their context:

‘Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word (tôn de dia toû logou porizomenôn pisteôn) there are three kinds (tria eidê estin). The first kind (hai men) depends on the personal character of the speaker (gar eisin en tô̢ êthei toû legontos); the second (hai de) on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind (en tô̢ ton akroatên diatheînai pôs); the third (hai de) on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself (en autô̢ tô̢ logô̢ dia toû deiknunai ê phainesthai deiknunai).’ (1356a1-5) … There are, then, these three means of perfecting persuasion (epei d’ hai pisteis dia toutôn eisi). The man who is to be in command of them must, it is clear, (phaneron hoti tautas esti labeîn) be able to reason logically (toû sullogisasthai dunamenou), to understand human character (kai toû theôrêsai peri ta êthê) and goodness in their various forms (kai peri tas aretas), and to understand the emotions (kai triton toû peri ta pathê) – that is to name them (ti te hekaston esti tôn pathôn) and describe them (kai poîon ti), to know their causes (kai ek poiôn gignetai) and the way in which they are excited (kai pôs).  It thus appears (hôste sumbainei) that rhetoric is an offshoot of dialectic (tên rêtorikên hoîon paraphues ti tês dialektikês ei͒nai) and also of ethical studies (kai tês peri ta êthê pragmateias). Ethical studies may fairly be called political (hên dikaion esti prosagoreuein politikên); and for this reason (dio kai) rhetoric masquerades as political science (hupoduetai hupo to schêma to tês politikês hê rêtorikê), and the professors of it as political experts (kai hoi antipoioumenoi tautês) – sometimes from want of education (ta men di’ apaideusian), sometimes from ostentation (ta de di’ alazoneian), sometimes owing to other human failings (ta de kai di’ allas aitias anthrôpikas). As a matter of fact, it is a branch of dialectic (esti gar morion ti tês dialektikês) and similar to it (kai homoiôma), as we said at the outset (kathaper kai archomenoi eipomen). Neither rhetoric nor dialectic is the scientific study of any one separate subject (peri oudenos gar hôrismenou oudetera autôn estin epistêmê pôs echei): both are faculties for providing arguments (alla dunameis tines toû porisai logous).’ (1356a20-33, tr. W. Rhys Roberts)

Roberts overinterprets when he says that ‘rhetoric masquerades as politics (hupoduetai hupo to schêma to tês politikês hê rêtorikê) sometimes owing to other human failings’. Aristotle’s ta de kai di’ allas aitias anthrôpikas simply means ‘and sometimes because of other human reasons’, and he overinterprets when he translates kai hoi antipoioumenoi tautês – ‘those exerting themselves about it’ or ‘those laying claim to it’ – as ‘the professors of it as political experts’.

And here I can’t but abandon my suspension of judgement concerning the dating of the Phaedrus, have recourse to Diogenes Laertius’ ‘There is a story that the Phaedrus was his [Plato’s] first dialogue’ (logos de prôton grapsai auton ton Phaidron, III.38), and on its basis see Aristotle’s remark with reference to Plato’s Seventh Letter: ‘In the days of my youth (Neos pote egô ôn) my experience was the same as that of many others (polloîs dê t’auton epathon). I thought (ô̢êthên) that as soon as I should become my own master (ei thâtton emautoû genoimên kurios) I would immediately enter into public life (epi ta koina tês poleôs euthus ienai). The existing constitution being generally condemned (hupo pollôn gar tês tote politeias loidoroumenês), a revolution took place (metabolê gignetai), and fifty-one men came to the front as rulers of the revolutionary government (kai tês metabolês heis kai pentêkonta tines andres proustêsan archontes) … and they at once invited me to join their administration, as something to which I had a claim (kai dê kai parekaloun euthus hôs epi prosêkonta pragmata me).’ (324b8-d3; I’ve used Bury’s and Harward’s translations.) Several months before the aristocratic revolution took place the Athens suffered a naval blockade and siege by land, the aristocratic revolution was on the cards, and the best thing Plato could do, eager as he was to enter a political career, was to prepare himself for it by studying rhetoric; Plato being Plato, he attempted to transform it from a mere ‘knack’ (Irwin’s expression) into science, at least in outline, conflating rhetoric and politics.

Socrates in the Phaedrus points out that the Athenian politicians loved nothing more than having their rhetorical pieces accepted and inscribed as Resolutions of the Council or the Assembly (258a-b), and goes on to ask: ‘When an orator (hotan hikanos genêtai rêtôr), or a king (ê basileus), succeeds in acquiring the power of a Lycurgus, a Solon or a Darius (hôste labôn tên Lukourgou ê Solônos ê Dareiou dunamin), and so winning immortality among his people as a speech-writer (athanatos genesthai logographos en polei), doesn’t he deem himself a peer of the gods (a͒r’ ouk isotheon hêgeîtai autos te hauton) while still living (eti zôn), and do not people of later ages hold the same opinion of him (kai hoi epeita gignomenoi t’auta taûta peri autoû nomizousi) when they contemplate his writings (theômenoi autoû ta sungrammata;)?’ (258b10-c5) And so he says: ‘Then the conclusion is obvious (Toûto men ara panti dêlon), that there is nothing shameful (hoti ouk aischron) in the mere writing of speeches (auto ge to graphein logous, 258d1-2) … But in speaking and writing shamefully and badly, instead of as one should, that is where shame comes in, I take it (All’ ekeîno oi͒mai aischron êdê, to mê kalôs legein te kai graphein all’ aischrôs te kai kakôs, 258d4-5).’ (Tr. Hackforth)
Let us now look at the passage in the Gorgias to which Aristotle refers in the first two chapters of his Rhetoric, as Grimaldi points out: ‘What I call rhetoric (ho d’ egô kalô tên rêtorikên) is a part of something (pragmatos tinos esti morion) not at all fine (oudenos tôn kalôn, 463a2-4) … I think it is a practice (Dokêi toinun moi ei͒nai 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 prosomileîn toîs anthrôpois); and I call the sum of it flattery (kalô de autoû egô to kephalaion kolakeian, 463a6-b1) … I say there is this sort of thing both for the body and for the soul (To toioûton legô kai en sômati ei͒nai kai en psuchê̢). It makes the body or the soul appear to be in good condition (ho poieî men dokeîn eu͒ echein to sôma kai tên psuchên), but it’s still not in better condition (echei de ouden mâllon, 464a7-b1) … For these two things (duoîn ontoin toîn 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),  but still body-care is one craft (miâs de ousês tês toû 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 (tês de politikês) corresponding to gymnastics (anti men tês gumnasikês) is legislation (tên nomothetikên), and the part corresponding to medicine (antistrophon de tê̢ iatrikê̢) is justice (tên dikaiosunên). Each member of these pairs – medicine and gymnastics, justice and legislation, shares with the other, in so far as they are both about the same thing (epikoinônousi men dê allêlais, hate peri to auto ou͒sai, hekaterai toutôn, hê te iatrikê tê̢ gumnastikê̢ kai hê dikaiosunê tê̢ nomothetikê̢); but still they differ to some extent from each other (homôs de diapherousin ti allêlôn). 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 gnoûsa legô), but it guessed (alla stochasamenê) – and divided itself into four (tetracha heautên dianeimasa) impersonating each of these parts (hupodusa hupo hekaston tôn moriôn), and pretends to be (prospoieîtai ei͒nai) what it impersonates (toûto hoper hupedu); it does not care a bit for the best (kai toû men beltistou ouden phrontizei), but lures and deceives foolishness with what is pleasantest at the moment (tô̢ de aei hêdistô̢ thêreuetai tên anoian kai exapatâ̢), making itself seem to be worth most (hôste dokeî pleistou axia ei͒nai). Cookery impersonates medicine (hupo men ou͒n tên iatrikên hê opsopoiikê hupodeduken), then, and pretends to know the best foods for the body (kai prospoieîtai ta beltista sitia tô̢ sômati eidenai); and so if a doctor or a cook had to compete among children (hôst’ ei deoi en paisi diagônizesthai opsopoion te kai iatron), or among men as foolish as children (ê en andrasin houtô anoêtois hôsper hoi paides), to decide which of them understands about worthy and base food (poteros epaïei peri tôn chrêstôn sitiôn kai ponêrôn), the doctor (ho iatros) or () the cook (ho opsopoios), then the doctor would die of starvation (limô̢ an apothaneîn ton iatron). Well then, I call it flattery (kolakeian men ou͒n auto kalô), and I say this sort of thing is shameful (kai aischron phêmi ei͒nai to toioûton), because it guesses at the pleasant (hoti toû hêdeos stochazetai) without the best (aneu toû beltistou). And I say it is not a craft (technên de autên ou phêmi ei͒nai), 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). (464b3-465a6, tr. T. Irwin).
In the Gorgias Plato distanced himself from the Phaedrus, in which the rhetoric he proposed had aspects of flattery intrinsic to its functioning in Athenian politics. Socrates in the Phaedrus ends his fictional disputation with Tisias as follows: ‘Unless the aspirant to oratory can on the one hand list the various natures amongst his prospective audiences (ean mê tis tôn te akousomenôn tas phuseis diarithmêsêtai), and on the other divide things into their individual kinds (kai kat’ eidê te diaireîsthai ta onta) and embrace each individual thing under a single form (kai mia̢ idea̢ dunatos e̢͒ kath’ hen hekaston perilambanein), he will never attain such success (ou pot’ estai technikos logôn peri) as is within the grasp of mankind (kath’ hoson dunaton anthrôpô̢). Yet he will assuredly never acquire such competence (taûta de ou mê pote ktêsêtai) without considerable diligence (aneu pollês pragmateias), which the wise man should exert not for the sake of speaking to and dealing with his fellow-men (hên ouch heneka tou legein kai prattein pros anthrôpous deî diaponeîsthai ton sôphrona), but that he may be able to speak what is pleasing to the gods (alla toû theoîs kecharismena men legein dunasthai), and in all his dealings to do their pleasure (kecharismenôs de prattein to pân) to the best of his ability (eis dunamin). For you see, Tisias, what we are told by those wiser than ourselves is true, that a man of sense ought never to study the gratification of his fellow-slaves (ou gar dê ara, ô Teisia, phasin hoi sophôterpoi hêmôn, homodoulois deî charizesthai meletân ton noûn echonta), save as a minor consideration (hoti mê parergon), but that of his most excellent masters (alla despotais agathois kai ex agathôn). So don’t be surprised that we have to make a long detour (hôst’ ei makra hê periodos, mê thaumasê̢s): it is because the goal is glorious (megalôn gar heneka periiteon), though not the goal you think of (ouch hôn su dokeîs) [Hackforth notes: ‘The goal you think of’ is to homodoulois (= tô̢ plêthei) charizesthai ‘to gratify the fellow-slaves, i.e. the many’]. Not but what those lesser objects also, if you would have them, can best be attained (so our argument assures us) as a consequence of the greater (estai mên, hôs ho logos phêsin, ean tis ethelê̢, kai taûta kallista ex ekeinôn gignomena).’ (273d8-274a5, tr. Hackforth)

Note that Plato is quite sure – ‘so our argument assures us’ – that those lesser objects (success in ‘speaking to and dealing with his fellow-men’, i.e. success in politics) will best be attained by the great effort involved in becoming able to please the gods. Plato’s Seventh Letter leaves only a short period in Plato’s life in which he could have been assured of his forthcoming success in politics by virtue of his own arguments: his early days, before the succession of disappointments prevented him from getting engaged in politics, beginning with the disastrous denouement of the aristocratic revolution of 404.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

4a Dating of the Phaedrus – doctrinal arguments (with references to Plato’s Gorgias, Republic, and Apology)

Sorabji’s fourth objection against my dating of Plato’ Phaedrus: ‘There is a right way of teaching Rhetoric according to the Phaedrus, but it must be combined with Psychology. I had previously accepted the view (Jaeger’s?) that Aristotle put this into practice in his Rhetoric, of which Book II is in large part a psychological study. Both his Rhetoric and (on this view) Plato Phaedrus would then come later than the unqualified denunciation of Rhetoric in the Gorgias.’

Against Sorabji. I shall argue that the conception of Rhetoric combined with psychology outlined in the Phaedrus makes a strong case for dating it prior to the Gorgias and to the Republic. Plato’s rhetorician in the Phaedrus knows what kind of soul is affected by what kind of speech, what kind of speech he must use to persuade his audience in the way he wants to. All this knowledge he acquires by mastering the art of dialectic. This conception could not survive Plato’s disappointment with Polemarchus and with the Thirty. In the Gorgias, where Plato rejects any pretensions of rhetoric to be a science, he denies the very possibility of knowing individual souls, for in the living humans with their embodied souls the body of the perceiving soul and of the one perceived stands in the way of any such knowledge. In the Republic, constructing his ideal State, Plato had to face again the problem of knowing the souls, but he solved the problem differently from the way he attempted to do so in the Phaedrus. He tackles the matter when he discusses the appointment of judges; they must know the malefactors to pass correct judgment on them. The judge becomes fit for this task only by long experience. – As I laboriously waded through Plato’s expositions of rhetoric founded on dialectic in the Phaedrus, I suddenly realised, yesterday evening, that on doctrinal grounds the Phaedrus could not have been written after Socrates made his Defence speech at his trial. I tried to go to sleep, but in the end I gave up, re-read the text, corrected the typo’s I spotted, and now I am going to post the piece on my blog. Will anybody join me in thus wading through Plato’s Phaedrus, and in comparing it with his Apology? It is a tall order.

Socrates in the Phaedrus: ‘If we are to address people scientifically (an tô̢ tis technê̢ logous didô̢), we shall show them precisely what is the real and true nature (tên ousian deixei akribôs tês phuseôs) of that object (toutou) on which our discourse is brought to bear (pros ho tous logous prosoisei). And that object, I take it, is the soul (estai de pou psuchê touto, 270e2-5) … Hence the speaker’s whole effort is concentrated on that (Oukoun hê hamilla autô̢ tetatai pros toûto pâsa), for it is there that he is attempting to implant conviction (peithô gar en toutô̢ poieîn epicheirei, 271a1-2).’

This is Hackforth’ translation, and I will be using his translation in this post. But concerning this passage he is conflating the teacher of rhetoric, his pupil, and the pupil’s intention to learn rhetoric to implant conviction in the souls of his audience. C. J. Rowe has got 270e2-5 right: ‘If anyone teaches anyone rhetoric in a scientific way (an tô̢ tis technê̢ logous didô̢), he will reveal precisely the essential nature (tên ousian deixei akribôs tês phuseôs) of that thing (toutou) to which his pupil will apply his speeches (pros ho tous logous prosoisei); and that, I think, is soul (estai de pou psuchê toûto, 270e2-5).’

In defence of Hackforth it must be said that at 270e2-5 and 271a1-2 Plato switches attention from the teacher to the pupil without making it clear in his grammar.

Socrates: ‘Then it is plain (Dêlon ara) that Thrasymachus (hoti ho Thrasumachos te), or anyone else who seriously proffers a scientific rhetoric (kai hos an allos spoudê̢ technên rêtorikên didô̢), will, in the first place, describe the soul very precisely, and let us see (prôton pasê̢ akribeia̢ grapsei te kai poiêsei psuchên ideîn) whether it is single and uniform in nature (poteron hen kai homoion pephuken) or (), analogously to the body (kata sômatos morphên), complex (polueides); for to do that is, we maintain, to show a thing’s nature (toûto gar phamen phusin ei͒nai deiknunai) … And secondly (Deuteron de ge) he will describe what natural capacity it has to act upon what, and through what means, or by what it can be acted upon (hotô̢ ti poieîn ê patheîn hupo toû pephuken) … Thirdly (Triton de dê), he will classify the types of discourse and the types of soul (diataxamenos ta logôn te kai psuchês genê), and the various ways in which souls are affected (kai ta toutôn pathêmata), explaining the reasons in each case (dieisi pasas aitias), suggesting the type of speech appropriate to each type of soul (prosarmottôn hekaston hekastô̢), and showing (kai didaskôn) what kinds of speech can be relied on to create belief in one soul and disbelief in another, and why (hoia ou͒sa huph’ hoiôn logôn di’ hên aitian ex anankês [‘of necessity’, 271b4] hê men peithetai, hê de apeitheî).’ (271a4-b5)

Hackforth’s ‘can be relied on’ for Plato’s ex anankês (‘of necessity’) at 271b4 is too weak. C. J. Rowe is accurate: ‘and explaining (kai didaskôn) what sort of soul’s being subjected to what sort of speeches necessarily results in one being convinced and another not, giving the cause in each case.’

It is important to see Plato’s Phaedran certainties undiluted, if we are to understand the gap that separates the Phaedrus from the Gorgias and the Republic.

In the Gorgias Plato discusses the problem of knowability of human souls in the form of a myth. Socrates: ‘Now there was this rule (ên ou͒n nomos hode) about men (peri anthrôpôn) in the time of Cronus (epi Kronou), and it still remains always and until now among the gods (aei kai nûn eti estin en theoîs) – that whosoever among men had gone through life justly (tôn anthrôpôn ton men dikaiôs ton bion dielthonta) and piously (kai hosiôs), when he died (epeidan teleutêsê̢), he should depart to the Isles of the Blessed (eis makarôn nêsous apionta) and live in all happiness (oikeîn en pasê̢ eudaimonia̢), away from evils (ektos kakôn), but the man who had lived unjustly (ton de adikôs) and godlessly (kai atheôs) should go to the prison of retribution and justice, which they call Tartarus (eis to tês tiseôs te kai dikês desmôtêrion, ho dê Tartaron kaloûsin, ienai). In the time of Cronus, and early in Zeus’ reign, these men were judged while they were still living, by judges still living (toutôn de dikastai epi Kronou kai eti neôsti tou Dios tên archên echontos zôntes êsan zôntôn), judging them on the day (ekeinê̢ tê̢ hêmera̢ dikazontes) they were to die (hê̢ melloien teleutân); and so the cases were being judged badly (kakôs ou͒n hai dikai ekrinonto). And so Pluto (ho te ou͒n Ploutôn) and the overseers (kai hoi epimelêtai) from the Isles of the Blessed (hoi ek makarôn nêsôn) would come (iontes) and tell Zeus (elegon pros ton Dia) that undeserving men were arriving in both places (hoti phoitô̢en sphin anthrôpoi hekaterôse anaxioi). Then Zeus said (ei͒pen ou͒n ho Zeus), ‘Well, I’ll stop what’s happening’, he said (“All’ egô”, ephê, “pausô toûto gignomenon). ‘For now (nûn men gar) the cases are judged badly (kakôs hai dikai dikazontai). For those being judged, he said, are judged with clothes on (ampechomenoi gar,” ephê, hoi krinomenoi krinontai); for they are judged while they’re still alive (zôntes gar krinontai). And so many (polloi ou͒n”), he said (e͒ d’ hos), with base souls (“psuchas ponêras echontes) are covered (êmphiesmenoi eisi) in fine bodies (sômata te kala) and noble birth (kai genê) and riches (kai ploutous); and (kai) when their judgement comes (epeidan hê krisis ê̢), many witnesses come (erchontai autoîs polloi martures) to support them and to testify that they have lived justly (marturêsontes hôs dikaiôs bebiôkasin). And so the judges (hoi ou͒n dikastai) are impressed by all this (hupo te toutôn ekplêttontai); and at the same time they judge with clothes on (kai hama kai autoi ampechomenoi dikazousi), obstructed by eyes and ears and their whole body in front of their soul (pro tês psuchês tês hautôn ophthalmous kai o͒ta kai holon to sôma prokekalummenoi). All these things, then, are in their way (taûta dê autoîs panta epiprosthen gignetai), both their own coverings (kai ta hautôn amphiesmata) and the defendants’ (kai ta tôn krinomenôn) … they are to be judged stripped (gumnous kriteon) of all these things (hapantôn toutôn); for they should be judged when they are dead (tethneôtas gar deî krinesthai). And the judge should be stripped too (kai ton kritên deî gumnon ei͒nai), and dead (tethneôta); he should look with his soul by itself on the soul by itself (autê̢ tê̢ psuchê̢ autên tên psuchên theôrounta) of each man when he has died (exaiphnês apothanontos hekastou).’ (523a5-e4, tr. T. Irwin)

In the Phaedrus, in his outline of scientific rhetoric, Plato is not troubled by any such considerations – knowing the soul of this and this man, this and this audience, is just a matter of applying dialectics. This is particularly remarkable if we consider Socrates’ not-knowing and self-examination, to which Plato gave voice at the beginning of the dialogue.

After meeting outside the city walls, Socrates and Phaedrus decided to find a convenient place where the latter would read Lysias’ Eroticus to the former. Phaedrus: ‘You see that plane tree over there (Hora̢s ou͒n ekeinên tên hupsêlotatên platanon)? … There’s some shade (Ekei skia t’ estin), and a little breeze (kai pneuma metrion), and (kai) grass (poa) to sit down on (kathizesthai), or lie down if we like (ê an boulômetha kataklinênai) … Tell me (Eipe moi), Socrates (ô Sôkrates), isn’t it somewhere about here (ouk enthende mentoi pothen) that they say Boreas seized Oreithuia from the river (apo tou Ilisou legetai ho Boreas tên Ôreithuian harpasai;)? … Was this the actual spot (Ar’ ou͒n enthende;)?’ – Socrates: ‘No (Ouk), it was about a quarter of a mile lower down (alla katôthen hoson du’ ê tria stadia), where you cross to the sanctuary of Agra (hê̢ pros to en Agras diabainomen): there is, I believe (kai pou tis esti), an alter dedicated to Boreas close by (bômos autothi Boreou).’ – Ph. ‘I have never really noticed it (Ou panu nenoêka); but pray tell me (all’ eipe pros Dios), Socrates (ô Sôkrates), do you believe that story to be true (su toûto to muthologêma peithê̢ alêthes ei͒nai;)?’ – Soc. ‘I should be quite in the fashion if I disbelieved it, as the men of science do (All’ ei apistoiên, hôsper hoi sophoi, ouk an atopos eiên): I might proceed to give a scientific account of how the maiden, while at play with Pharmaceia, was blown by a gust of Boreas down from the rocks hard by (ei͒ta sophizomenos phaiên autên pneûma Boreou kata tôn plêsion petrôn sun Pharmakeia̢ paizousan ôsai), and having thus met her death (kai houtô dê teleutêsasan) was said (lechthênai) to have been seized by Boreas (hupo toû Boreou anarpaston gegonenai): though it may have happened on the Areopagus, according to another version of the occurrence (ê ex Areiou pagou˙ legetai gar au͒ kai houtos ho logos, hôs ekeîthen all’ ouk enthende hêrpasthê). For my part (egô de), Phaedrus (ô Phaidre), I regard such theories as no doubt attractive (allôs men ta toiaûta charienta hêgoumai), but as the invention of clever (lian de deinou), industrious people (kai epiponou) who are not exactly to be envied (kai ou panu eutuchoûs andros), for the simple reason (kat’ allo men ouden) that they must then go on (hoti d’ autô̢ anankê meta toûto) and tell us the real truth about the appearance of Centaurs (to tôn Hippokentaurôn ei͒dos epanorthoûsthai) and the Chimera (kai au͒this to tês Chimairas), not to mention a whole host of such creatures, Gorgons and Pegasuses and countless other remarkable monsters of legend flocking in on them (kai epirreî de ochlos toioutôn Gorgonôn kai Pêgasôn kai allôn amêchanôn plêthê te kai atopiai teratologôn tinôn phuseôn). If our sceptic, with his somewhat crude science, means to reduce every one of them to the standard of probability (hais ei tis apistôn prosbiba̢ kata to eikos hekaston, hate agroikô̢ tini sophia̢ chrômenos), he’ll need a deal of time for it (pollês autô̢ scholês deêsei). I myself have certainly no time for the business (emoi de pros auta oudamôs esti scholê): and I’ll tell you why, my friend (to de aition, ô phile, toutou tode): I can’t (ou dunamai) as yet (pô) “know myself”, as the inscription in Delphi enjoins (kata to Delphikon gramma gnônai emauton); and so long as that ignorance remains it seems to me ridiculous to inquire into extraneous matters (geloîon dê moi phainetai toûto eti agnooûnta ta allotria skopein). Consequently (hothen dê) I don’t bother about such things (chairein easas taûta), but accept the current beliefs about them (peithomenos de tô̢ nomizomenô̢ peri autôn), and direct my inquiries, as I have just said, rather to myself (ho nundê elegon, skopô ou taûta all’ emauton), to discover whether I really am more complex creature and more puffed up with pride than Typhon (eite ti thêrion on tunchanô Tuphônos poluplokôteron kai mâllon epitethummenon) [Hackforth notes: ‘Socrates connects the name of this hundred-headed monster with the verb tuphô, ‘to smoke’, and perhaps also with the noun tuphos, ‘vanity, humbug’.], or a simpler, gentler being (eite hêmerôteron te kai haplousteron zô̢on) whom heaven has blessed with a quiet, un-Typhonic nature (theias tinos kai atuphou moiras phusei metechon).’ (229a8-230a6)

There can be little doubt that Plato presents us here with the historical Socrates. Plutarch preserved for us a fragment from Aristotle, which says: ‘And among the inscriptions in Delphi (Kai tôn en Delphois grammatôn) the most divine (theiotaton) appeared to be (edokei) ‘know thyself’ (to gnôthi sauton), which provided for Socrates the beginning and principle of this not-knowing and this search (ho dê kai Sôkratei tês aporias kai zêtêseôs tautês archên enedôken), as Aristotle says in his Platonika (hôs Aristotelês en toîs Platônikois eirêke). (Frgm.1 in Peri Philosophias (On Philosophy), W. D. Ross, Aristotelis fragmenta selecta, Oxonii, e typographeo Clarendiano, 1955, p. 73).

After explaining to Phaedrus that the teacher of rhetoric must, firstly, explain with precision (akribôs) the nature of the soul (ousian tês phuseôs tês psuchês, 270e3-5), secondly, with what it does something to something or suffers something from something (hotô̢ ti poieîn ê patheîn hupo toû pephuken, 271a10-11)’, and thirdly, what type of soul (hoia ousa) is necessarily (ex anankês) persuaded (peithetai) by what kind of speeches (huph’ hoiôn logôn, 271b3-5), Socrates goes on to say that ‘until the rhetoricians speak and write in this way’ (prin an ou͒n ton tropon toûton legôsi te kai graphôsi) their compositions cannot be viewed as scientifically written (mê peithômetha autoîs technê̢ graphein).’ – Phaedrus: ‘What way is this (Tina toûton;)? (271c3-5)

The natural reference of Socrates’ ‘until the rhetoricians speak and write in this way’ is to what Socrates said concerning the three points, which any rhetorical piece must satisfy if it is to be viewed as spoken or written scientifically. This is how Hackforth takes it, translating 271c3-4 as follows: ‘So let us not accept their claim to write scientifically until they compose their speeches and writings in the way we have indicated.’ But on the margin of my text I once noted De Vries’ remark concerning Socrates’ ton tropon toûton (‘in this way’): ‘As Phaedrus’ next question shows, toûton points to what is to follow.’ But since what follows is a more elaborate presentation of the same principles of dialectic applied to rhetoric, both Hackforth and De Vries shed light on the text.

Socrates: ‘To give the actual words would be troublesome (Auta men ta rêmata eipeîn ouk eupetes ‘To say the actual words is not easy’); but I am quite ready to say how one ought to compose if he means to be as scientific as possible (hôs de deî graphein, ei mellei technikôs echein kath’ hoson endechetai, legein ethelô).’ – Phaedrus: ‘Then please do (Lege dê).’ – Soc. ‘Since the function of oratory (Epeidê logou dunamis ‘Since a power of speech’, translates C. J. Rowe) is in fact to influence men’s souls (tunchanei psuchagôgia ousa ‘is in fact a leading of the soul’, tr. C. J. Rowe), the intending orator (ton mellonta rêtorikon esesthai) must know (anankê eidenai) what types of soul there are (hosa eidê echei). Now these are of a determinate number (estin ou͒n tosa kai tosa ‘their number is so and so’, tr. C. J. Rowe), and their variety (kai toia kai toia ‘and they are of such and such kinds’, tr. C. J. Rowe) results in a variety of individuals (hothen hoi men toioide, hoi de toioide gignontai, ‘which is why some people are like this, and others like that’, tr. C. J. Rowe). To the types of soul thus discriminated (toutôn de dê houtô diê̢rêmenôn) there corresponds a determinate number of types of discourse (logôn au͒ tosa kai tosa estin eidê, toionde hekaston ‘there are again so and so many forms of speeches, each of a determinate kind’). Hence a certain type of hearer (hoi men ou͒n toioide) will be easy to persuade by a certain type of speech to take such-and-such action for such-and-such reason (hupo tôn toiônde logôn dia tênde tên aitian es ta toiade eupeitheis), while another type will be hard to persuade (hoi de toioide dia tade duspeitheîs). All this the orator must fully understand (deî dê hikanôs taûta noêsanta); and next (meta taûta) he must watch it actually occurring, exemplified in men’s conduct (theômenon auta en taîs praxesin onta te kai prattomena), and must cultivate a keenness of perception in following it (oxeôs tê̢ aisthêsei dunasthai epakoloutheîn), if he is going to get any advantage out of the previous instruction that was given in the school (ê mêden ei͒nai pô pleon autô̢ hôn tote êkouen logôn sunôn). And when he is competent to say (hotan de eipeîn te hikanôs echê̢) what type of man is susceptible to what kind of discourse (hoios huph’ hoiôn peithetai); when, further, he can, on catching sight of so-and-so (paragignomenon te dunatos ê̢ diaisthanomenos), tell himself (heautô̢ endeiknusthai hoti) “That is the man (houtos esti), that character actually before me is the one I heard about in school (kai hautê hê phusis peri hês tote êsan hoi logoi, nûn ergô̢ paroûsa hoi)), and in order to persuade him of so-and-so I have to apply these arguments in this fashion (hê̢ prosoisteon tousde hôde tous logous epi tên tônde peithô); and when, on top of all this (taûta d’ êdê panta echonti), he has further grasped the right occasions (proslabonta kairous) for speaking (toû pote lekteon) and for keeping quiet (kai epischeteon), and has come to recognise the right and the wrong time for the Brachylogy, the Pathetic Passage, the Exacerbation and all the rest of his accomplishments (brachulogias te au͒ kai eleinologias kai deinôseôs hekastôn te hosa an eidê mathê̢ logôn, toutôn tên eukairian te kai akairian diagnonti), then and not till then has he truly achieved the art (kalôs te kai teleôs estin hê technê apeirgasmenê, proteron d’ ou).’ (271c6-272a8)

In Republic III Socrates faces the task of knowing the souls of the citizens when he faces the task of having good judges in the State he constructs: ‘The honourable mind which is to form a healthy judgement should have had no experience or contamination of evil habits when young (apeiron autên [i.e. tên psuchên] kai akeraion deî kakôn êthôn nean ou͒san gegonenai, ei mellei kalê k’agathê ou͒sa krineîn hugiôs ta dikaia). And this is the reason why in youth good men often appear to be simple (dio dê kai euêtheis neoi ontes hoi epieikeîs phainontai), and are easily practised upon (kai euexapatêtoi) by the dishonest (hupo tôn adikôn), because they have no examples of what evil is in their own souls (hate ouk echontes en heautoîs paradeigmata homoiopathê toîs ponêroîs) (409a5-b2) … Therefore (Tô̢ toi) the judge should not be young (ou neon alla geronta deî ton agathon dikastên ei͒nai); he should have learned to know injustice late in life (opsimathê gegonota tês adikias hoîon estin), not from its presence in his own soul (ouk oikeian en tê̢ hautoû psuchê̢ enoûsan ê̢sthêmenon), but from long observation of its nature in others, showing him at length what sort of evil it is (all’ allotrian en allotriais memeletêkota en pollô̢ chronô̢ diaisthanesthai hoion pephuke kakon); knowledge should be his guide, not personal experience  (epistêmê̢, ouk empeiria̢ oikeia̢ kechrêmenon).’(409b4-c1)

In Republic III it is the moral status of a man that determines his ability or inability to understand human beings. An evil man is good at spotting bad intentions in others, ‘because he judges of them by himself’ (pros ta en hautô̢ paradeigmata skopôn, 409c7), but ‘he cannot recognize an honest character (agnoôn hugies êthos), because he has no pattern of honesty in himself (hate ouk echôn paradeigma toû toioutou, 409d1-2) … for vice (ponêria men gar) can never know virtue too (aretên te kai hautên oupot’ an gnoiê), but a virtuous nature (aretê de phuseôs), which improves with education, will in time acquire a knowledge both of virtue and vice  (paideuomenês chronô̢ hama hautês te kai ponêrias epistêmên lêpsetai, 409d7-e1).’(Tr. Jowett)

Knowledge of the soul of which Socrates speaks here has nothing to do with dialectic suggested in the Phaedrus as the way to attaining knowledge of human souls. But even more importantly, knowledge of the soul that Plato postulates as the foundation of scientific rhetoric in the Phaedrus has nothing to do with the moral status of the rhetorician under discussion.

Phaedrus agrees that rhetoric founded on dialectic is the only way in which rhetoric can become science, or proper art, technê, but complains: ‘still it does seem a considerable business (kaitoi ou smikron ge phainetai ergon)’. – Socrates: ‘You are right (Alêthê legeis), and that makes it necessary (toutou toi heneka chrê) thoroughly to overhaul all our arguments (pantas tous logous anô kai katô metastrephonta), and see whether there is some easier and shorter way of arriving at the art (episkopein ei tis pê̢ ra̢ôn kai brachutera phainetai ep’ autên hodos); we don’t want to waste effort in going off on a long rough road (hina mê matên pollên apiê̢ kai tracheian), when we might take a short smooth one (exon oligên kai leian, 272b7-c4) … Then would you like (Boulei ou͒n) me to tell you something (egô tin’ eipô logon) I have heard from those concerned with these matters (hon tôn peri taûta tinôn akêkoa;)? … Well, they tell us (Phasi toinun) that there is no need to make such a solemn business of it (ouden houtô taûta deîn semnunein), or fetch such a long compass on an uphill road (oud’ anagein anô makran periballomenous). As we remarked at the beginning of this discussion (ho kai kat’ archas eipomen toûde toû logou), there is, they maintain, absolutely no need for the budding orator to concern himself with the truth about what is just or good conduct, nor indeed about who are just and good men whether by nature or education (hoti ouden alêtheias metechein deoi dikaiôn ê agathôn peri pragmatôn, ê kai anthrôpôn ge toioutôn phusei ontôn ê trophê̢, ton mellonta hikanôs rêtorikon esesthai). In the lawcourts nobody cares a rap for the truth about these matters (to parapan gar ouden en toîs dikastêriois toutôn alêtheias melein oudeni), but only about what is plausible (alla toû pithanou). And that is the same as what is probable (toûto d’ ei͒nai to eikos), and is what must occupy the attention (hô̢ deî prosechein) of the would-be master of the art of speech (ton mellonta technê̢ ereîn). Even actual facts ought sometimes not to be stated (oude au͒ ta prachthenta deîn legein eniote), if they don’t tally with probability (ean mê eikotôs e̢͒ pepragmena); they should be replaced by what is probable (alla ta eikota), whether in prosecution (en te katêgoria̢) or defence (kai apologia̢); whatever you say (kai pantôs legonta), you simply must pursue this probability they talk of (to dê eikos diôkteon ei͒nai), and can say good-bye to the truth for ever (polla eiponta chairein tô̢ alêtheî). Stick to that all through your speech (toûto gar dia pantos toû logou gignomenon), and you are equipped with the art complete (tên hapasan technên porizein).’ – Phaedrus: ‘Your account, Socrates, precisely reproduces (Auta ge, o͒ Sôkrates, dielêluthas) what is said (ha legousin) by those who claim to be experts in the art of speech (hoi peri tous logous technikoi prospoioumenoi ei͒nai).’ (272c7-273a3) – Soc. ‘Very well then, take Tisias himself; you have thumbed him carefully (Alla mên ton ge Teisian auton pepatêkas akribôs), so let Tisias tell us this (eipetô toinun kai tode hêmîn ho Teisias): does he maintain that the probable is anything other (mê ti allo legei to eikos) than that which commends itself to the multitude (ê to tô̢ plêthei dokoûn)?’ – Ph. ‘How could it be anything else (Ti gar allo;)?’ – Soc. ‘Then in consequence, it would seem, of that profound scientific discovery (Touto dê, hôs eoike, sophon heurôn hama kai technikon) he laid down (egrapsen) that if a weak (hôs ean tis asthenês) but brave man (kai andrikos) is arrested for assaulting a strong but cowardly one, whom he has robbed of his cloak or some other garment (ischuron kai deilon sunkopsas, himation ê ti allo aphelomenos, eis dikastêrion agêtai), neither of them ought to state the true facts (deî dê t’alêthes mêdeteron legein); the coward should say that the brave man didn’t assault him singlehanded (alla ton men deilon mê hupo monou phanai toû andrikoû sunkekophthai), and the brave man should contend that there were only the two of them (ton de toûto men elenchein hôs monô êstên), and then have recourse to the famous plea (ekeinô̢ de katachrêsasthai tô̢) “How could a little fellow like me (Pôs d’ an egô toiosde) have attacked a big fellow like him (toiô̢de epecheirêsa;)?” … And similar ‘scientific’ rules are given for other cases of the kind (Kai peri t’a͒lla dê toiaût’ atta esti ta technê̢ legomena). Isn’t that so (ou gar), Phaedrus (ô Phaidre;)?
Let me note that Hackforth’s quotation marks concerning ‘scientific’ are slightly misleading, for viewed from Tisias’ point of view, these rules are simply ta technê̢ legomena, ‘the rules of the art’. The ‘necessity’ to translate Plato’s technê and related words technikoi, technê̢ on the one handby art and words derived from this term, and by science and words derived from it on the other, adversely affects the perception of the conceptual unity of the dialogue, and of the tension between the use of these words by Tisias & co. on the one hand, Socrates and Plato on the other.

‘Phaedrus: ‘To be sure (Ti mên).’ – Soc. ‘Bless my soul (Pheu)! It appears that he made a brilliant discovery of a buried art (deinôs g’ eoiken apokekrummenên technên aneureîn), your Tisias (ho Teisias) … But (atar), my friend (ô hetaîre), shall we or shall we not say to him (toutô̢ hêmeîs poteron legômen ê mê) – Ph. ‘Say what (To poîon;)?’ – Soc. This: “In point of fact (Hoti), Tisias (ô Teisia), we have for some time (palai hêmeîs) before you came on the scene (prin kai se pareltheîn) been saying (tunchanomen legontes) that the multitude get their notion of probability as the result of a likeness to truth (hôs ara toûto to eikos toîs polloîs di’ homoiotêta toû alêthoûs tunchanei engignomenon); and we explained just now that these likenesses (tas de homoiotêtas arti diêlthomen) can always be best discovered by one who knows the truth (hoti pantachoû ho tên alêtheian eidôs kallista epistatai heuriskein). Therefore (hôst’) if you have anything else to say about the art of speech (ei men allo ti peri technês logôn legeis), we should be glad to hear it (akouoimen an); but if not (ei de mê) we shall adhere to the point we made just now (hoîs nundê diêlthomen peisometha), namely that (hôs) unless the aspirant to oratory can on the one hand list the various natures amongst his prospective audiences (ean mê tis tôn te akousomenôn tas phuseis diarithmêsêtai), and on the other divide things into their kinds (kai kat’ eidê te diaireîsthai ta onta) and embrace each individual thing under a single form (kai mia̢ idea̢ dunatos e̢͒ kath’ hen hekaston perilambanein), he will never attain such success (ou pot’ estai technikos logôn peri ‘he will never become scientific/ good in the art of rhetoric’) as is within the grasp of mankind (kath’ hoson dunaton anthrôpô̢ ‘as far as it is humanly possible’).’

As can be seen, when Plato wrote the Phaedrus, he was convinced that rhetoric founded on dialectic, which he proposed, was possible. And it is worth noting that rhetoric founded on dialectic, as he proposed it, is not preoccupied with morality. Thus, when Teisias maintains that all the rhetorician is to be concerned with is pursuing the probability, saying good-bye to the truth (272e), Socrates does not reject his position on moral grounds, but because the Teisian rhetorician can’t attain the probability as well as the one who knows the truth – the truth about the matter of which he wants to persuade his audience, and about the types of souls that constitute his audience.

Contrast Socrates’ Defence speech in Plato’s Apology: ‘I am certain (eu gar iste), O men of Athens (o͒ andres Athênaioi), that if I had engaged in politics (ei egô palai epecheirêsa prattein ta politika pragmata), I should have perished long ago (palai an apolôlê), and done no good either to you (kai out’ an humas ôphelêkê ouden) or to myself (out’ an emauton). And do not be offended at my telling you the truth (kai moi mê achthesthe legonti t’alêthê): for the truth is, that no man who sets himself firmly against you or any other multitude, honestly striving to keep the state from many lawless and unrighteous deeds, will save his life (ou gar estin hostis anthrôpôn sôthêsetai oute humîn oute allô̢ plêthei oudeni gnêsiôs enantioumenos kai diakôluôn polla adika kai paranoma en tê̢ polei gignesthai); he who will fight for the right, if he would live even for a brief space, must have a private station and not a public one (all’ anankaîon esti ton tô̢ onti machoumenon huper tou dikaiou, kai ei mellei oligon chronon sôthêsesthai, idiôteuein alla mê dêmosieuein).’ (31d6-32a3, tr. Jowett)

Jowett translates only the second ‘long ago’, i.e. the palai in line 31d8, omitting the preceding palai in line 31d7. In doing so he seriously misrepresents Socrates. For Socrates’ ‘had I palai engaged in politics’ indicates that Socrates in his Defence speech knowingly engaged in politics, ‘fighting for the right’ (machoumenos huper tou dikaiou) face to face with the people of Athens presented in the court.

The ‘morally indifferent’ conception of rhetoric proposed in the Phaedrus could not survive Socrates’ Defence speech. Thus, on doctrinal grounds, the Phaedrus must have been written prior to Socrates’ trial and death.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

4 Dating of the Phaedrus – doctrinal arguments (with references to Plato’s Seventh Letter, Charmides and Gorgias, and to Xenophon’s Hellenica)

Sorabji’s fourth objection against my dating of Plato’ Phaedrus: ‘There is a right way of teaching Rhetoric according to the Phaedrus, but it must be combined with Psychology. I had previously accepted the view (Jaeger’s?) that Aristotle put this into practice in his Rhetoric, of which Book II is in large part a psychological study. Both his Rhetoric and (on this view) Plato Phaedrus would then come later than the unqualified denunciation of Rhetoric in the Gorgias. Does Diogenes Laertius’s different order make equally good sense?’

Plato’s Seventh Letter offers a different scenario. In Athens, the mastery of oratorical skills was the key to success in public life. In the Seventh Letter Plato informs us about his early interest in politics. This is the time of his life when he wrote the Phaedrus, on my dating of the dialogue.

In the Letter Plato says: ‘In the days of my youth (Neos pote egô ôn) my experience was the same as that of many others (polloîs dê t’auton epathon). I thought (ô̢êthên) that as soon as I should become my own master (ei thâtton emautoû genoimên kurios) I would immediately enter into public life (epi ta koina tês poleôs euthus ienai). And I found myself confronted with the following occurrences in the public affairs of my own city (Kai moi tuchai tines tôn tês poleôs pragmatôn toiaide parepeson). The existing constitution being generally condemned (hupo pollôn gar tês tote politeias loidoroumenês), a revolution took place (metabolê gignetai), and fifty-one men came to the front as rulers of the revolutionary government (kai tês metabolês heis kai pentêkonta tines andres proustêsan archontes), of whom eleven were in the City (hendeka men en astei) and ten in Piraeus (deka d’ en Peiraiei) – each of these sections dealing with the market (peri te agoran hekateroi toutôn) and with all municipal matters requiring management (hosa t’ en toîs astesi dioikeîn edei) – while thirty were appointed rulers with full powers over public affairs as a whole (triakonta de pantôn archontes katestêsan autokratores). Some of these (toutôn dê tines) were relatives and acquaintances of mine (oikeîoi te ontes kai gnôrimoi etunchanon emoi), and they at once invited me to join their administration, as something to which I had a claim (kai dê kai parekaloun euthus hôs epi prosêkonta pragmata me) [Bury notes ad loc.: ‘Plato’s uncle Charmides and his cousin Critias were among the leaders of “the Thirty”.’] The effect on me was not surprising in the case of a young man (kai egô thaumaston ouden epathon hupo neotêtos). For I imagined (ô̢êthên gar) that they (autous) would so manage the State as to bring men out of a bad way of life into a good one (ek tinos adikou biou epi dikaion tropon agontas dioikêsein dê tên polin). So I watched them very closely to see (hôste autoîs sphodra proseîchon ton noûn) what they would do (ti praxoien).’ (324b8-d6; in rendering the English I’ve used freely Bury’s and Harward’s translations.)

In the light of Diogenes Laertius’ ‘there is a story that the Phaedrus was his first dialogue’ (logos de prôton auton grapsai ton Phaidron, III. 38), the Phaedrus with its new conception of rhetoric entitled Plato to join his ‘relatives and acquaintances’ in running the country.

In a series of my previous posts – beginning with my post on ‘The dating of Plato’s Phaedrus with a reference to Herodotus’, posted on November 27, 2016, and ending with ‘3 Polemarchus in Plato’s Phaedrus and Republic I’ posted on December 16, 2016 – I argued that the dialogue was written prior to Polemarchus’ death in the hands of the Thirty. This dating can be specified even further with the help of Plato’s Seventh Letter and his Charmides.

After speaking of his early desire to be involved in politics, Plato in the Seventh Letter goes on to say: ‘And seeing (Kai horôn), as I did (dêpou), that in quite a short time they made the former government seem by comparison something precious as gold (tous andras en chronô̢ oligô̢ chruson apodeixantas tên emprosthen politeian) – for among other things (ta te alla) they tried to send a friend of mine, the aged Socrates, whom I should not scruple to describe as the most upright man of that day, with some other persons to carry off one of the citizens by force to execution (kai philon andra emoi presbuteron Sôkratê, hon egô schedon ouk an aischunoimên eipôn dikaiotaton einai tôn tote, epi tina tôn politôn meth’ heterôn epempon, bia̢ axonta hôs apothanoumenon), in order that, whether he wished or not, he might share the guilt of their conduct (hina dê metechoi tôn pragmatôn autoîs, eite bouloito eite mê); but he would not obey them (ho d’ ouk epeitheto), risking all consequences (pân de parekinduneusen patheîn) in preference to becoming a partner in their iniquitous deeds (prin anosiôn autoîs ergôn genesthai koinônos) – seeing all these things (ha dê panta kathorôn) and others of the same kind on a considerable scale (kai ei tin’ alla ou smikra), I disapproved of their proceedings (eduscherana te), and withdrew (kai emauton epanêgagon) from any connection with the abuses of the time (apo tôn tote kakôn).’ (324d6-325a5, tr. Harward)

In my view, Plato could not write the Charmides after this incident; for it ends with the young Charmides telling Socrates that he wishes to be charmed by his philosophic discussions every day (to g’ emon ouden kôluei epa̢desthai hupo sou hosai hêmerai): ‘until you say (heôs an phê̢s su) I’ve had enough (hikanôs echein)’, with Critias admonishing him ‘Don’t cease following Socrates in anything either great or small (mê apoleipêI toutou mête mega mête smikron, 176b2-8),’ and with Socrates expressing his obedience to their wishes.

Charmides assures Critias: ‘You may depend on my following (Hôs akolouthêsontos) and not deserting him (kai mê apoleipomenou). I’d be behaving terribly (deina an poioiên) if I didn’t obey you, my guardian (ei mê peithoimên soi tô̢ epitropô̢), and didn’t do what you command me (kai mê poioiên ha su keleueis).’ – Critias: ‘And I do command you to do so (Alla mên keleuô egôge).’ – Charm. ‘I’ll do it (Poiêsô) then (toinun), starting today (apo tautês tês hêmeras arxamenos).’ – Socrates: ‘You two (Houtoi), what are you considering to do (ti bouleuesthon poieîn;)?’ – Charm. ‘Nothing (Ouden), we’ve done our considering (alla bebouleumetha).’ – Soc. ‘So you will force me (Biasê̢ ara), without even giving me a preliminary hearing (kai oud’ anakrisin moi dôseis)? – Charm. ‘Consider me as resorting to force (Hôs biasomenou), since (epeidêper) he [i.e. Critias] orders me (hode ge epitattei). – Soc. ‘But then there is nothing left to consider (All’ oudemia leipetai boulê). For when you’re intent on doing anything (soi gar epicheirounti prattein hotioun) and resorting to force (kai biazomenô̢), no man will be able to resist you (oudeis hoios t’ estai enantiousthai anthrôpôn). – Charm. ‘Well then (Mê toinun), don’t you resist either (mêde su enantiou).’ – Soc. ‘I won’t resist then (Ou toinun enantiôsomai).’ (176b9-d5)

In Plato’s Apology Socrates says: ‘When the oligarchy of the Thirty was in power (epeidê de oligarchia egeneto), they sent for me and four others into the rotunda (hoi triakonta au͒ metapempsamenoi me pempton auton eis tên tholon) and bade us bring Leon the Salaminian from Salamis (prosetaxan agageîn ek Salamînos Leonta ton Salaminion), as they wanted to put him to death (hina apothanoi). This was a specimen of the sort of commands which they were always giving (hoia dê kai allois ekeînoi polloîs polla prosetatton) with the view of implicating as many as possible in their crimes (boulomenoi hôs pleistous anaplêsai aitiôn); and then I showed again, not in word only but in deed (tote mentoi egô ou logô̢ all’ ergô̢ au͒ enedeixamên), that (hoti), if I may be allowed to use such an expression, I care not a straw for death (emoi thanatou men melei, ei mê agroikoteron e͒n eipeîn, oud’ hotioun), and that my great and only care is lest I should do an unrighteous and unholy thing (tou de mêden adikon mêd’ anosion ergazesthai, toutou de to pân melei). For the strong arm of that oppressive power did not frighten me (eme gar ekeinê hê archê ouk exeplêxen, houtôs ischura ou͒sa) into doing wrong (hôste adikon ti ergazesthai); and when we came out of the rotunda (all’ epeidê ek tês tholou exêlthomen) the other four went to Salamis (hoi men tettares ô̢chonto eis Salamîna) and fetched Leon (kai êgagon Leonta), but I went quietly home (egô de ô̢chomên apiôn oikade). For which I might have lost my life (kai isôs an dia taûta apethanon), had not the power of the Thirty shortly afterwards come to an end (ei mê hê archê dia tacheôn kateluthê). And many will witness to my words (kai toutôn humîn esontai polloi martures).’ (32c4-e1, tr. Jowett)

The incident happened towards the end of 404; since the Charmides was written prior to it, Plato wrote the Phaedrus in 405/404, during the siege of Athens. He must have nevertheless finished it after the capitulation of Athens, for Socrates in the Phaedrus quite casually mentions Simmias from Thebes (242b3), who could come to Athens only after the war ended (it ended in April 404, as The Oxford Classical Dictionary informs me).

Athens during the siege

Xenophon says in his Hellenica that in 405 the Spartan general Lysander ‘after laying waste to Salamis (dê̢ôsas Salamîna), anchored at Piraeus (hôrmisato pros ton Peiraiâ) with one hundred and fifty ships (nausi pentêkonta kai hekaton) and closed the entrance to the harbour against all merchantmen (kai ta ploîa ei͒rge toû eisplou). Now the Athenians (Hoi d’ Athênaioi), being thus besieged (poliorkoumenoi) by land (kata gên) and by sea (kai kata thalattan), knew not what to do (êporoun ti chrê poieîn), since they had neither ships nor allies nor provisions (oute neôn oute summachôn autoîs ontôn oute sitou); and they thought that there was no way out (enomizon de oudemian einai sôtêrian), save only to suffer the pains (ei mê pathein) which they had themselves inflicted, not in retaliation (ha ou timôroumenoi epoiêsan), but in wantonness (alla dia tên hubrin) and unjustly upon the people of small states (êdikoun anthrôpous mikropolitas), for no other single reason (oud’ epi mia̢ aitia̢ hetera̢) than () because (hoti) they were in alliance with the Lacedaemonians (ekeinois sunemachoun). On this account (dia tauta) they restored to the disenfranchised their political rights (tous atimous epitimous poiêsantes) and held out steadfastly (ekarteroun), refusing to make overtures for peace even though many were dying in the city from starvation (kai apothnê̢skontôn en tê̢ polei limô̢ pollôn ou dielegonto peri diallagês). When (epei), however (de), their provisions had entirely given out (pantelôs êdê ho sîtos epeleloipei), they sent (epempsan) ambassadors (presbeis) to Agis (par’ Agin) [the king of Sparta who led the siege of Athens by land] declaring their wish (boulomenoi) to become allies (summachoi ei͒nai) of the Lacedaemonians (tois Lakedaimoniois) while still keeping their walls (echontes ta teichê) and Piraeus (kai ton Peiraiâ), and on these terms (kai epi toutois) to conclude a treaty (sunthêkas poieîsthai). But Agis bade them to go to Lacedaemon (ho de autous eis Lakedaimona ekeleuen ienai), saying that he himself had no authority (ou gar ei͒nai kurios autos). And when the ambassadors reported to the Athenians this reply (epei d’ apêngeilan hoi presbeis taûta toîs Athênaiois), they sent them (epempsan autous) to Lacedaemon (eis Lakedaimona). But when they were (hoi d’ epei êsan) at Sellasia (en Sellasia̢), near (plêsion) Laconia (tês Lakônikês), and the ephors learned from them what proposals they were bringing (kai eputhonto hoi ephoroi autôn ha elegon) … they directed them to go back again without coming a step farther (autothen autous ekeleuon apienai) and (kai), if they really had any desire for peace (ei ti deontai eirênês), to take better counsel before they returned (kallion hêkein bouleusamenous). (II. ii. 9-13) … This being the condition of affairs in Athens (Toioutôn de ontôn), Theramenes said (Thêramenês ei͒pen) in the Assembly (en ekklêsia̢) that (hoti) if they were willing (ei boulontai) to send him (auton pempsai) to Lysander (para Lusandron), he would find out before he came back (eidôs hêxei) whether the Lacedaemonians were insistent in the matter of the walls because they wished to reduce the city to slavery (Lakedaimonious poteron exandrapodisasthai tên polin boulomenoi antechousi peri tôn teichôn), or in order to obtain a guarantee of good faith (ê pisteôs heneka). Upon being sent (pemphtheis), however (de), he stayed (dietribe) with Lysander (para Lusandrô̢) three months (treis mênas) and more (kai pleiô), waiting (epitêrôn) for the time when (hopote), on account of failure of provisions, the Athenians would agree to anything and everything which might be proposed (Athênaioi emellon dia to epileloipenai ton sîton hapanta ho ti tis legoi homologêsein) … After this (meta taûta) Theramenes was chosen (hê̢rethê) ambassador (presbeutês) to Lacedaemon (eis Lakedaimona) with full power (autokratôr), being at the head of an embassy of ten (dekatos autos). (16-17) … The Lacedaemonians (Lakedaimonioi) … offered to make peace (epoioûnto eirênên) on these conditions (eph’ hô̢): that the Athenians should destroy the long walls and the walls of Piraeus (ta te makra teichê kai ton Peiraiâ kathelontas), surrender all their ships except twelve (kai tas naus plên dôdeka paradontas), allow their exiles to return (kai tous phugadas kathentas), count the same people friends and enemies as the Lacedaemonians did (ton auton echthron kai philon nomizontas Lakedaimoniois), and follow the Lacedaemonians both by land (hepesthai kai kata gên) and by sea (kai kata thalattan) wherever they should lead the way (hopoi an hêgôntai). So Theramenes (Thêramenês de) and his fellow-ambassadors (kai hoi sun autô̢ presbeis) brought back this word (epanepheron taûta) to Athens (eis tas Athênas). And as they were entering the city (eisiontas d’ autous), a great crowd gathered around them (ochlos periecheîto polus), fearful (phoboumenoi) that they had returned unsuccessful (mê apraktoi hêkoien); for it was no longer possible to delay (ou gar eti enechôrei mellein), on account of the number (dia to plêthos) who were dying (tôn apollumenôn) of the famine (tô̢ limô̢) (20-22) … After this (meta de taûta) Lysander sailed (Lusandros te kateplei) into Piraeus (eis ton Peiraiâ), the exiles (kai hoi phugades) returned (katê̢san), and the Peloponnesians with great enthusiasm began to tear down the walls to the music of flute girls (kai ta teichê kateskapton hup aulêtridôn pollê̢ prothumia̢), thinking that that day was the beginning of freedom for Greece (nomizontes ekeinên tên hêmeran tê̢ Helladi archein tês eleutherias).’ (23, tr. Carleton L. Brownson)

Confined to the besieged city, Plato imagines his two protagonists taking a walk outside the city walls. Socrates: ‘Where do you come from, Phaedrus my friend, and where are you going (Ô phile Phaidre, poî dê kai pothen;)?’ – Phaedrus: ‘I’ve been with Lysias (Para Lusiou), Socrates (ô Sôkrates), the son of Cephalus (tou Kephalou), and I’m off for a walk (poreuomai de pros peripaton) outside the wall (exô teichous), after a long morning’s sitting there (suchnon gar ekeî dietripsa chronon kathêmenos ex heôthinou). On the instructions of our common friend (tô̢ de sô̢ kai emô̢ hetairô̢ peithomenos) Acumenus (Akoumenô̢) I take my walks on the open roads (kata tas hodous poioumai tas peripatous); he tells me it is more invigorating than walking in the colonnades (phêsi gar akopôterous ei͒nai tôn en toîs dromois).’ (227a1-b1, tr. Hackforth, as will be the other forthcoming passages from the Phaedrus in this post)

Phaedrus asks Socrates where they should go to sit down and read Lysias’ speech on love. Socrates: ‘Let us turn off here (Deur’ ektrapomenoi) and walk along the Ilissus (kata ton Ilisson iômen): then (ei͒ta) we can sit down in any quiet spot you choose (hopou an doxê̢ en hêsuchia̢ kathizêsometha).’ – Phaedr. ‘It’s convenient (Eis kairon), isn’t it (hôs eoiken), that I chance to be bare-footed (anupodêtos ôn etuchon): you of course always are so (su men gar dê aei). There will be no trouble in wading in the stream (ra̢ston ou͒n hêmîn kata to hudation brechousi tous podas ienai), which is especially delightful (kai ouk aêdes) in this hour of summer’s day (allôs te kai tênde tên hôran toû etous te kai tês hêmeras) … You see (Hora̢s ou͒n) that (ekeinên) tall plane-tree over there (tên hupsêlotatên platanon)? … There’s some shade (Ekeî skia t’ estin), and a little breeze (kai pneuma metrion), and grass (kai poa) to sit down on (kathizesthai), or lie down if we like (ê an boulômetha kataklinênai).’ (229a1-b2) … - Soc. ‘Upon my word (Nê tên Hêran), a delightful resting-place (kalê ge hê katagôgê), with this tall, spreading plane (hê te gar platanos hautê mal’ amphilaphês te kai hupsêlê), and a lovely shade from the high branches of the agnus (tou te agnou to hupsos kai to suskion pankalon); now that it’s in full flower (kai hôs akmên echei tês anthês), it will make the place ever so fragrant (hôs an euôdestaton parechoi ton topon). And what a lovely stream (hê te au͒ pêgê chariestatê) under the plane-tree (hupo tês platanou reî), and how cool to the feet (mala psuchrou hudatos, hôste ge tô̢ podi tekmêrasthai)! Judging by the statuettes and images I should say it’s consecrated to Achelous and some of the Nymphs (Numphôn te tinôn kai Achelô̢ou hieron apo tôn korôn te kai agalmatôn eoiken ei͒nai). And then too (ei d’ au͒ boulei), isn’t the freshness of the air most welcome and pleasant (to eupnoun tou topou hôs agapêton kai sphodra hêdu): and the shrill summery music of the cicada-choir (therinon te kai liguron hupêcheî tô̢ tôn tettigôn chorôi)! And as crowning delight the grass (pantôn de kompsotaton to tês poas), thick enough on a gentle slope to rest your head on most comfortably (hoti en êrema prosantei hikanê pephuke kataklinenti tên kephalên pankalôs echein).’ (230b2-c5)

In 415, Phaedrus was accused of profaning the Eleusinian mysteries and fled into exile. Choosing him as Socrates’ partner, Plato looks into the past – the beginning of the disastrous second part of the Peloponnesian war was connected with the profaning of the Eleusinian mysteries, in which Alcibiades, the main sponsor of the Sicilian expedition that wrecked the peace, was implicated – and he looks into the future, for allowing the exiles to return was on the cards if any decent political solution was to be found after the inevitable final defeat of Athens.

Phaedrus opens the second part of the dialogue with his admiration of Socrates’ Palinode on love, and thus triggers the ensuing discussion on rhetoric: ‘I have this long while been filled with admiration for your speech (ton logon sou palai thaumasas echô) as a far finer achievement than the one you made before (hosô̢ kalliô tou proterou apêrgasô). It makes me afraid (hôste oknô) that I shall find Lysias cutting a poor figure (mê moi ho Lusias tapeinos phanê̢), if he proves to be willing (ean ara kai ethelêsêi) to compete with another speech of his own (pros auton allon antiparateînai). The fact is that only the other day, my dear good sir, one of our politicians (kai gar tis auton, ô thaumasie, enangchos tôn politikôn) was railing at him and reproaching him on this very score (tout’ auto loidorôn ôneidize), constantly dubbing him a ‘speech-writer’ (kai dia pasês tês loidorias ekalei logographon); so possibly we shall find him desisting from further composition to preserve his reputation (tach’ ou͒n an hupo philotimias epischoi hêmîn an tou graphein) (257c1-7) … you know as well as I do (kai sunoistha pou kai autos) that the men of greatest influence (hoti hoi megiston dunamenoi te) and dignity (kai semnotatoi) in political life (en taîs polesin) are reluctant to write speeches (aischunontai logous te graphein) and bequeath to posterity compositions of their own (kai kataleipein sungrammata heautôn), for fear of the verdict of later ages (doxan phoboumenoi tou epeita chronou), which might pronounce them Sophists (mê sophistai kalôntai).’(257d4-8)

Eager to enter the political life, during the long months of the siege Plato prepared himself for the tasks ahead by studying the art of rhetoric and by perfecting it. Paradoxically, this way of preparing himself for his political career had to be defended; as an aspiring politician he had to justify the very activity of writing. He did so by finding the art of writing situated in the very centre of the Athenian politics.

Soc. ‘You are unaware (lanthanei se) that the proudest of politicians (hoti hoi megiston phronoûntes tôn politikôn) have the strongest desire to write speeches (malista erôsi logographias te) and bequeath compositions (kai kataleipseôs sungrammatôn); why, whenever they write a speech (hoi ge kai epeidan tina graphôsi logon), they are so pleased to have admirers (houtôs agapôsi tous epainetas) that they put in a special clause at the beginning with the names of the persons (hôste prosparagraphousi prôtous) who admire the speech in question (hoi an hekastachoû epainôsin autous) … “Resolved by the Council” (“Edoxe” pou phêsin “tê̢ boulê̢”) or “by the People” (ê “tô̢ dêmô̢”) or by both (ê amphoterois): and then “Proposed by so-and-so” (kai “hos ei͒pen”) – a pompous piece of self-advertisement on the part of the author (ton hauton dê legôn mala semnôs kai enkômiazôn ho sungrapheus); after which he proceeds with what he has to say (epeita legei dê meta touto), showing off his wisdom to his admirers (epideiknumenos toîs epainetais tên heautou sophian), sometimes in a very lengthy composition (eniote panu makron poiêsamenos sungramma) (257e2-258a8) … Then the conclusion is obvious (Touto men ara panti dêlon), that there is nothing shameful (hoti ouk aischron) in the mere writing of speeches (auto ge to graphein logous) … But in speaking and writing shamefully and badly, instead of as one should, that is where the shame comes in (All’ ekeino oimai aischron êdê, to mê kalôs legein te kai graphein all’ aischrôs te kai kakôs) … Then what is the nature of good writing and bad (Tis ou͒n ho tropos tou kalôs te kai mê graphein;)? Is it incumbent on us (deometha ti), Phaedrus (ô Phaidre), to examine Lysias on this point (Lusian te peri toutôn exetasai), and all such as have written or mean to write anything at all (kai allon hostis pôpote ti gegraphen ê grapsei), whether in the field of public affairs (eite politikon sungramma) or private (eite idiôtikon), whether in the verse of the poet (en metrô̢ hôs poiêtês) or the plain speech of prose (ê aneu metrou hôs idiôtês)?’ – Phaedr. ‘Is it incumbent (Erôtas ei deometha;)! Why, life itself would hardly be worth living save for pleasures like this (tinos men ou͒n heneka k’an tis hôs eipeîn zô̢ê, all’ ê tôn toioutôn hêdonôn heneka;).’ (258d1-e2)

The direction that Plato’s perfection of the art of rhetoric is to take is indicated in Socrates’ novel definition of the art: it must be founded on dialectic.

Socrates asks Phaedrus: ‘Must not the art of rhetoric, taken as whole (Ar’ ou͒n ou to men holon hê rêtorikê an eiê technê), be a kind of influencing the mind (psuchagôgia tis) by means of words (dia logôn), not only in courts of law (ou monon en dikastêriois) and other public gatherings (kai hosoi alloi dêmosioi sullogoi), but in private places also (alla kai en idiois)? And must it not be the same art that is concerned with great issues and small (hê autê smikrôn te kai megalôn peri), its right employment commanding no more respect when dealing with important matters than with unimportant (kai ouden entimoteron to ge orthon peri spoudaîa ê peri phaula gignomenon;)? Is that what you have been told about it (ê pôs su taut’ akêkoas;)?’ – Phaedrus: ‘No indeed (Ou ma ton Di’), not exactly that (ou pantapasin houtôs): it is principally (alla malista men), I should say (pôs), to lawsuits (peri tas dikas) that an art of speaking and writing is applied (legetai te kai graphetai technê̢) – and of course to public harangues also (legetai de kai peri dêmêgorias). I know of no wider application (epi pleon de ouk akêkoa).’ (261a7-b5)

Follows a playful interlude in which Plato displays his expert knowledge of the subject. Socrates: ‘What (All’ ê)? Are you acquainted only with the “Arts” or manuals of oratory by Nestor and Odysseus (tas Nestoros kai Odusseôs technas monon peri logôn akêkoas), which they composed in their leisure hours at Troy (has en Iliô̢ scholazontes sunegrapsatên)? Have you never heard of the work of Palamedes (tôn de Palamêdous anêkoos gegonas;)?’ – Ph. ‘No, upon my word, nor of Nestor either (Kai nai ma Di’ egôge tôn Nestoros); unless you are casting Gorgias for the role of Nestor (ei mê Gorgian Nestora tina kataskeuazeis), with Odysseus played by Thrasymachus, or maybe Theodorus (ê tina Thrasumachon te kai Theodôron Odussea).’ (261b6-c3)

Hackforth notes: ‘Gorgias is cast for the part of Nestor both on account of his eloquence and because he lived to a great age (though the date of his death is not known). Thrasymachus of Chalcedon, who came to reside at Athens and of whom more will be heard at 267C, is evidently at the height of his fame as a teacher of rhetoric at the dramatic date of our dialogue (circ. 410 B.C. [Hackforth is wrong about the dramatic date; Phaedrus was in exile in 410.]). Only a single fragment of his work is extant, but he is familiar to us as a character in the Republic. Little of interest is recorded of his contemporary Theodorus of Byzantium, who is described at 266E as “the master of rhetorical artifice”.’

Socrates: ‘Perhaps I am (Isôs). But anyway we may let them be (alla gar toutous eômen), and do you tell me (su de eipe), what is it that the contending parties in lawcourts do (en dikastêriois hoi antidikoi ti drôsin;)? Do they not in fact contend with words (ouk antilegousi mentoi), or how else should we put it (ê ti phêsomen)? … About what is just and unjust (Peri tou dikaiou te kai adikou;)? … And he who possesses the art of doing this (Oukoûn ho technê̢ toûto drôn) can make (poiêsei) the same thing appear (phanênai to auto) to the same people (toîs autoîs) now just (tote men dikaion), now unjust, at will (hotan de boulêtai, adikon;)? … And in public harangues (kai en dêmêgoria̢), no doubt (dê), he can make the same things seem to the community now good (tê̢ polei dokeîn ta auta tote men agatha), and now the reverse of good (tote d’ au͒ t’anantia;)? … Then can we fail to see that the Palamedes of Elea has an art of speaking (Ton ou͒n Eleatikon Palamêdên legonta ouk ismen technê̢), such that he can make the same things appear to his audience like and unlike (hôste phainesthai toîs akouousi ta auta homoia kai anomoia), or one and many (kai hen kai polla), or again at rest and in motion (menonta te au͒ kai pheromena;)?’ [i.e. Zeno, cf. my posts on Plato’s Parmenides, and ‘Plato’s defence of Forms in the Parmenides’ on my website]. (261c4-d8)

Bringing in Zeno as his example, Socrates can conclude: ‘So contending with words is a practice found not only in lawsuits (Ouk ara monon peri dikastêria te estin hê antilogikê) and public harangues (kai peri dêmêgorian) but (all’), it seems (hôs eoike), whenever men speak (peri panta ta legomena) we find this single art, if indeed it is an art (mia tis technê, eiper estin, h’autê an eiê), which enables people (hê̢ tis hoîos t’ estai) to make out everything to be like everything else (pân panti homoioûn), within the limits of possible comparison (tôn dunatôn kai hois dunaton), and to expose the corresponding attempts of others who disguise what they are doing (kai allou homoiountos kai apokruptomenou eis phôs agein, 261d10-e4).’

Socrates’ proviso ‘if indeed it is an art’ (eiper estin at 261e2) concerning the ‘art of contending with words’, the antilogikê, is important, as De Vries notes (in the remark on the margin of my Oxford text, the book is in the Bodlian Library where I read it long time ago),  but it is even more important to realize that the theme of dialectic as the foundation of the art of rhetoric is introduced and developed on the basis of antilogikê aspiring to be technê (‘art’). To be able to ‘mislead another (apatêsein men allon), without being misled himself’ (auton de mê apatêsesthai, 262a5-6) was the most important accomplishment the teachers of rhetoric proclaimed to teach.

The Athenian democracy formed the political horizon within which Plato thought about rhetoric in the Phaedrus.

Socrates insists that to be able to ‘mislead another without being misled himself’ technê̢ (‘scientifically’, ‘by art’), one must know the truth (alêtheian) about each thing (hekastou, 262a5-9)’, and that ‘the art of speech (logôn ara technên) displayed by one who has gone chasing after beliefs, instead of knowing the truth, will be a comical sort of art, in fact no art at all (ho tên alêtheian mê eidôs, doxas de tethêreukôs, geloian tina, hôs eoike, kai atechnon parexetai).’ Phaedrus agrees, and Socrates asks: ‘Then would you like (Boulei ou͒n) to observe some instances of what I call the presence and absence of art in that speech of Lysias which you are carrying, and in those which I have delivered (en tô̢ Lusiou logô̢ hon phereis, kai en hoîs hêmeîs eipomen ideîn ti hôn ephamen atechnôn te kai entechnôn ei͒nai;)?’ – Phaedrus: ‘Yes, by all means (Pantôn ge pou malista): at present (hôs nûn ge) our discussion is somewhat abstract (psilôs pôs legomen), for want of adequate illustrations (ouk echontes hikana paradeigmata).’ – Socrates: ‘Why, as to that (Kai mên) it seems a stroke of luck (kata tuchên ge tina, hôs eoiken) that in the two speeches we have a sort of illustration (errêthêtên tô logô echonte ti paradeigma) of the way in which one who knows the truth (hôs an ho eidôs to alêthes) can mislead his audience by playing an oratorical joke on them (prospaizôn en logois paragoi tous akouontas).’ (262c1-d2)

Socrates asks: ‘Did Lysias at the beginning of his discourse on love compel us (ho Lusias archomenos tou erôtikou logou ênankasen hêmas) to conceive of it (hupolabein ton Erôta) as a certain definite entity (hen ti tôn ontôn), with a meaning he had himself decided upon (ho autos eboulêthê;)? And did he proceed to bring all his subsequent remarks, from first to last, into line with that meaning (kai pros touto êdê suntaxamenos panta ton husteron logon dieperanato; 263d7-e2)?’

In these two questions (one question in the original) Plato expressed in a nutshell his view concerning a well-constructed speech, and thus his view on the proper function of rhetoric.

Socrates wants to hear the beginning of Lysias’ speech: ‘so that I can listen to the author himself (hina akousô autoû ekeinouI)’. Phaedrus reads: ‘You know how I am situated (Peri men tôn emôn pragmatôn epistasai), and I have told you that I think it to our advantage that the thing should be done (kai hôs nomizô sumpherein hêmîn toutôn genomenôn, akêkoas). Now I claim that I should not be refused what I ask simply because I am not your lover (axiô de mê dia touto atuchêsai hôn deomai, hoti ouk erastês ôn sou tunchanô). Lovers, when their craving is at an end, repent of such benefits as they have been conferred (hôs ekeinois men tote metamelei hôn an eu poiêsôsin, epeidan tês epithumias pausôntai.’ – Socrates: ‘No: he doesn’t seem to get anywhere near what we are looking for (E͒ polloû deîn eoike poieîn hode ge ho zêtoumen): he goes about it like a man swimming on his back, in reverse, and starts from the end instead of the beginning (hos oude ap’ archês all’ apo teleutês ex huptias anapalin dianeîn epicheireî ton logon); his opening words are (kai archetai) what the lover would naturally say to his boy only when he had finished (aph’ hôn pepaumenos an êdê ho erastês legoi pros ta paidika) ... And to pass to other points (Ti de t’alla;): doesn’t his matter strike you as thrown out at haphazard (ou chudên dokeî beblêstahi ta tou logou;)? Do you find any cogent reason for his next remark (ê phainetai to deuteron eirêmenon ek tinos anankês deuteron deîn tethênai), or indeed any of his remarks, occupying the place it does (ê ti allo tôn rêthentôn;)?’ (263e5-264b5)

On the basis of his criticism of Lysias’ speech Socrates formulates an important principle: ‘Any discourse ought to be constructed like a living creature (deîn panta logon hôsper zô̢on sunestanai), with its own body, as it were (sôma ti echonta auton hautoû); it must not lack either head (hôste mête akephalon onta) or feet (mête apoun); it must have a middle (alla mesa te echein) and extremities (kai akra) so composed as to suit each other and the whole work (preponta allêlois kai tô̢ holô̢ gegrammena, 264c2-5).’ Then he turns his attention to his own two speeches: ‘For they, I think, presented a certain feature (ên gar ti en autoîs, hôs dokô) which everyone desirous of examining oratory would do well to observe (prosêkon ideîn toîs boulomenois peri logôn skopeîn, 264e7-8) … They were of opposite purport (Enantiô pou êstên), one maintaining that the lover should be favoured, the other the non-lover (ho men gar hôs tô̢ erônti, ho d’ hôs tô̢ mê deî charizesthai, elegetên, 265a2-3) … Then let us take one feature of it (Tode toinun autothen labômen), the way in which the discourse contrived to pass from censure to encomium (hôs apo tou psegein pros to epainein eschen ho logos metabênai, 265c5-6).’

The task of finding out how ‘the discourse contrived to pass from censure to encomium’ is strongly expressed, but set aside at this point: ‘For the most part I think (Emoi men phainetai ta men alla) our festal hymn has really been just a festive entertainment (tộ onti paidiậ pepaisthai); but we did casually allude to a certain pair of procedures (toutôn de tinôn ek tuchês rêthentôn duoin eidoin), and it would be very agreeable if we could seize their significance in a scientific fashion (ei autoin tên dunamin technệ labein dunaito tis, uk achari, 265c8-d1). The ‘two procedures’ that Socrates goes on to outline is the method of Collection and Division: ‘The first is that in which we bring a dispersed plurality under a single form, seeing it all together (Eis mian te idean sunorônta agein ta pollachệ diesparmena, 265d3-4)’; the second is its reverse: ‘whereby we are enabled to divide into forms, following the objective articulation of the given subject (To palin kat’ eidê dunasthai diatemnein kat’ arthra hệ pephuken, 265e1-2).’

Socrates avers: ‘I am myself a lover of these divisions and collections (Toutôn dê egôge autos te erastês, tôn diaireseôn kai sunagôgôn), that I may gain the power to speak and think (hina hoios te o͒ legein te kai phronein, 266b3-5)’, and remarks that he calls those who master these two procedures dialecticians (dialektikous, 266c1). Then he asks whether this is the art of oratory (ê touto ekeîno estin hê logôn technê, 266c2-3) that Thrasymachus and other rhetoricians are teaching. Phaedrus answers that they do not possess the kind of knowledge to which Socrates refers: ‘I think you are right in calling the procedure that you have described dialectical (touto men to ei͒dos orthôs emoige dokeîs kaleîn, dialektikon kalôn); but we still seem to be in the dark about rhetoric (to de rêtorikon dokeî moi diapheugein et’ hêmâs).’ – Socrates: ‘What (Pôs phê̢s;)? Can there really be anything of value that admits of scientific acquisition despite the lack of that procedure (kalon ti pou ti an eiê, ho toutôn apoleiphthen homôs technê̢ lambanetai;)? If so, you and I should certainly not disdain it (pantôs d’ ouk atimasteon auto soi te kai emoi), but should explain (lekteon de) what this residuum of rhetoric actually consists in (ti mentoi kai esti to leipomenon tês rêtorikês).’ – Phaedrus: ‘Well, Socrates, of course there is plenty of matter in the rhetorical manuals (Kai mala pou suchna, o͒ Sôkrates, ta g’ en toîs bibliois toîs peri logôn technês gegrammenois).’ – Socrates: ‘Thank you for the reminder (Kai kalôs ge hupemnêsas). The first point, I suppose, is that a speech must begin with a Preamble (prooimion men oi͒mai prôton hôs deî toû logou legesthai en archê̢). You are referring (taûta legeis), are you not (e͒ gar;), to such niceties of the art (ta kompsa tês technês;)?’ – Phaedrus: ‘Yes (Nai).’

Follows a catalogue of prominent teachers of rhetoric with their inventions, presented by way of a playful discussion. Socrates: ‘And next comes Exposition (Deuteron de dê diêgêsin tina) accompanied by Direct Evidence (marturias t’ ep’ autê̢); thirdly Indirect Evidence (triton tekmêria), fourthly Probabilities (tetarton eikota); besides which there are the Proof (kai pistôsin oi͒mai) and Supplementary Proof (kai epipistôsin) mentioned by the Byzantine master of rhetorical artifice (legein ton ge beltiston logodaidalon Buzantion andra).’ – Phaedrus: ‘You mean the worthy Theodorus (Ton chrêston legeis Theodôron;)?’ – Socrates: ‘Of course (Ti mên;); and we are to have a Refutation (kai elenchon ge) and Supplementary Refutation (kai epexelenchon) … And can we leave the admirable Evenus of Paros out of the Picture (ton de kalliston Parion Euênon es meson ouk agomen) … But we won’t disturb the rest of Tisias and Gorgias (Teisian de Gorgian te easomen heudein), who realised that probability deserves more respect than truth (hoi pro tôn alêthôn ta eikota ei͒don timêtea mâllon) … Are we forgetting Hippias (Hippian de ou legomen;) … And then Polus (Ta de Pôlou) …’ – Phaedrus: ‘But didn’t Protagoras in point of fact produce some such works, Socrates (Prôtagoreia de, o͒ Sôkrates, ouk e͒n mentoi toiaût’ atta;)?’ – Soc. ’Yes, my young friend: there is his Correct Diction (Orthoepeia ge tis, o͒ pai), and many other excellent works (kai alla polla kai kala) (266e2-267c7) … on the way to conclude a speech (to de dê telos tôn logôn) there seems to be general agreement (koinê̢ pâsin eoike sundedogmenon ei͒nai), though some call it Recapitulation and others by some other name (hô̢ tines men epanodon, alloi d’allo tithentai onoma).’ – Ph. ‘You mean the practice of reminding the audience towards the end of speech of its main points (To en kephalaiô̢ hekasta legeis hupomnêsai epi teleutês tous akouontas peri tôn eirêmenôn;)?’ – Soc. ‘Yes (Taûta legô). And now if you have anything further to add about the art of rhetoric (kai ei ti su allo echeis eipeîn logôn technês peri).‘ – Ph. ‘Only a few unimportant points (Smikra ge kai ouk axia legein).’ – Soc. ‘If they are unimportant, we may pass them over (Eômen dê ta ge smikra). But let us look at what we have got in a clearer light (taûta de hup’ augas mâllon idômen), to see what power the art possesses and when (tina kai pot’ echei tên tês technês dunamin).’ – Ph. ‘A very substantial power (Kai malla errômenên), Socrates (o͒ Sôkrates), at all events in large assemblies (en ge dê plêthous sunodois).' – Soc. ‘Yes indeed (Echei gar). But have a look at it, my good sir, and see (all’, o͒ daimonie, ide kai su) whether you discern some holes in the fabric (ei ara kai soi phainetai diestêkos autôn to êtrion), as I do (hôsper emoi).’ (267d3-268a6)

When Phaedrus maintains that the art of rhetoric has a very substantial power (dunamin, 268a2), he expresses the view held by Polus, the disciple of Gorgias, in the Gorgias. Socrates in the Phaedrus agrees: ‘Yes indeed (Echei gar 268a5)’. In the Gorgias we Socrates expresses a very different view. Polus asks him: ‘Don’t they [the rhetors] have the greatest power in the cities (ou megiston dunantai en tais polesin)?’ – Socrates: ‘No (Ouk) – not if you say that having power (ei to dunasthai ge legeis) is a good (agathon ti einai) to the man with the power (tȏ̢ dunamenȏ̢).’ – Pol. ‘Well (Alla mȇn), I do say so (legȏ ge).’ – Soc. ‘Then I think the rhetors have the least power of anyone in the city (Elachiston toinun moi dokousi tȏn en tȇ̢ polei dunasthai hoi rȇtores).’ – Pol. ‘What (Ti de;)? Aren’t they like tyrants (ouch, hȏsper hoi turannoi)? Don’t they kill whoever they want to (apokteinuasin te hon an boulȏntai), and expropriate (kai aphairountai chrȇmata) and expel from the cities (kai ekballousin ek tȏn poleȏn) whoever they think fit (hon an dokȇ̢ autois;)?’ … – S. ‘Then are you asking me two questions at once (epeita duo hama me erȏta̢s;)?’ – P. How are they two questions (Pȏs duo;)?’ – S. ‘Weren’t you just now saying something like this (Ouk arti houtȏ pȏs eleges); “Don’t rhetors kill whoever they want to (Ê ouchi apokteinuasin hoi rȇtores hous an boulȏntai), like tyrants (hȏsper hoi turannoi), and expropriate (kai chrȇmata aphairountai) and expel from the cities (kai exelaunousin ek tȏn poleȏn) whoever they think fit (hon an dokȇ̢ autois)?”?’ – P. ‘Yes, I said so (Egȏge).’ – S. ‘Then I say (Legȏ toinun soi) that these are two questions here (hoti duo taut’ estin ta erȏtȇmata), and I’ll answer you (kai apokrinoumai ge soi) both of them (pros amphotera). For I say, Polus, (phȇmi gar, ȏ Pȏle, egȏ) that both the rhetors and the tyrants (kai tous rȇtoras kai tous turannous) have least power in the cities (dunasthai men en tais polesin smikrotaton), as I was saying just now (hȏsper nundȇ elegon); for they do practically nothing, I say, that they want to (ouden gar poieîn hȏn boulontai, hȏs epos eipeîn), but do (poieîn mentoi) whatever they think is best (hoti an autois doxȇ̢ beltiston ei͒nai).’ – P. And isn’t this having great power (Okoûn toûto estin to mega dunasthai)?’ – S. ‘No (Ouch) – at least Polus doesn’t agree (hȏs ge phȇsin Pȏlos).’ – P. ‘I don’t agree (Egȏ ou phȇmi;)? Of course I agree (phȇmi men oun egȏge)’ – S. ‘No, by the (Ma ton) … Indeed you don’t (ou su ge). For you said that having great power (epei to mega dunasthai ephȇs) is a good to the man who has it (agathon ei͒nai tȏ̢ dunamenȏ̢).’ – P. ‘Yes, I still say so (Phȇmi gar oun).’ – S. Then do you think it is a good (Agathon ou͒n oiei ei͒nai) if someone does (ean tis poiȇ̢ taûta) whatever seems best to him (ha an dokȇ̢ autȏ̢ beltista enai), when he has no intelligence (noûn mȇ echȏn;)? Do you call even this having great power (kai toûto kaleîs su mega dunasthai;)? – P. ‘No, I don’t (Ouk egȏge).’ – S. ‘Then won’t you show that rhetors have intelligence (Oukoûn apodeixeis tous rȇtoras noûn echontas) and that rhetoric is a craft (kai technȇn tȇn rȇtorikȇn), not flattery (alla mȇ kolakeian), by refuting me (eme exelenxas;)? If you leave me unrefuted (ei de me easeis anelenkton), the rhetors (hoi rȇtores) who do what they think fit in the cities (hoi poioûntes en taîs polesin ha dokeî autoîs) and the tyrants (kai hoi turannoi) will have gained no good by it (ouden agathon touto kektȇsontai); but power (hȇ de dunamis), you say is a good (estin, hȏs su phȇ̢s, agathon), and you also agree that doing what we think fit without intelligence is an evil (to de poieîn aneu noû ha dokeî kai su homologeîs kakon ei͒nai), don’t you (ȇ ou;)?’ – P. ‘Yes, I do (Egȏge).’ – S. Then how are the rhetors or the tyrants to have great power in the cities (Pȏs an oun hoi rȇtores mega dunantai ȇ hoi turannoi), unless Socrates is refuted by Polus and convinced (ean mȇ Sȏkratȇs exelenchthȇ̢ hupo Pȏlou) that they do what they want to (hoti poioûsin ha boulontai)?’ (466b4-467a10, tr. Terence Irwin)

On Sorabji’s view, and of all those who date the Phaedrus after the Gorgias, the challenge that Socrates directed at Polus in the Gorgias – ‘Then won’t you show (Oukoun apodeixeis) that rhetoric is a craft (technȇn tȇn rȇtorikȇn, Gorg. 466e12467a1)’ – is the challenge he undertook to face in the Phaedrus. But Plato’s autobiographical sketch in the Seventh Letter, in my view, precludes this.

As has been seen, Plato says in the Seventh Letter that when the aristocratic regime of the Thirty turned into abject tyranny, he ‘withdrew from any connection with the abuses of the time’ (kai emauton epanêgagon apo tôn tote kakôn, 325a5). Then he goes on to say: ‘But in no long time (chronô̢ de ou pollô̢) the power of the Thirty was overthrown (metepese ta tôn triakonta te) together with the whole of the government which then existed (kai pâsa hê tote politeia). Then once again (palin de) I was really, though less urgently, impelled (braduteron men, heîlke de me homôs) with a desire to take part in public and political affairs (hê peri to prattein ta koina kai politika epithumia). Many deplorable events, however, were still happening in those times, troublesome as they were (e͒n ou͒n kai en ekeinois, hate tetaragmenois, polla gignomena ha tis an duscheraneie), and it was not surprising (kai ouden ti thaumaston e͒n) that in some instances, during these revolutions, men were avenging themselves on their foes too fiercely (timôrias echthrôn gignesthai tinôn tisi meizous en metabolais); yet, notwithstanding (kai toi), the exiles who then returned exercised no little moderation (pollê̢ ge echrêsanto hoi tote katelthontes epieikeia̢). But, as ill-luck would have it (kata de tina tuchên au͒), certain men of authority summoned our comrade Socrates before the law-courts (ton hetairon hêmôn Sôkratê toûton dunasteuontes tines eisagousin eis dikastêrion), laying a charge against him which was most unholy (anosiôtatên aitian epiballontes), and which Socrates of all men least deserved (kai pantôn hêkista Sôkratei prosêkousan); for it was on the charge of impiety that those men summoned him (hôs asebê gar hoi men eisêgagon) and the rest condemned him (hoi de katepsêphisanto) and slew him (kai apekteinan) – the very man who on the former occasion (ton tote), when they themselves had the misfortune to be in exile, had refused to take part in the unholy arrest of one of the friends of the men then exiled (tês anosiou agôgês ouk ethelêsanta metascheîn peri hena tôn tote pheugontôn philôn, hote pheugontes edustuchoun autoi). When, therefore. I considered all this (Skopoûnti dê moi taûta te), and the type of men (kai tous anthrôpous) who were administering the affairs of State (tous prattontas ta politika), with their laws too (kai tous nomous ge) and their customs (kai êthê), the more I considered them (hosô̢ mâllon dieskopoun) and the more I advanced in years myself (hêlikias te eis to prosthe prou’bainon), the more difficult (tosoutô̢ chalepôteron) appeared to me the task of managing affairs of state rightly (ephaineto orthôs ei͒nai moi ta politika dioikeîn). For it was impossible to take actions without friends and trusty companions (oute gar aneu philôn andrôn kai hetairôn pistôn hoion t’ ei͒nai prattein); and these it was not easy to find ready to hand (hous outh’ huparchontas e͒n heurein eupetes), since our State was no longer managed according to the principles and institutions of our forefathers (ou gar eti en toîs tôn paterôn êthesi kai epitêdeumasin hê polis hêmôn diô̢keîto); while to acquire new friends with any facility was a thing impossible (kainous te allous adunaton e͒n ktâsthai meta tinos ra̢stônês). Moreover, both the written laws (ta te tôn nomôn grammata) and the customs (kai êthê) were being corrupted (diephtheireto), and that with surprising rapidity (kai epedidou thaumaston hoson). Consequently, although at first I was filled with an ardent desire to engage in public affairs  (hôste me, to prôton meston onta hormês epi to prattein ta koina), when I considered all this (bleponta eis taûta) and saw how things were shifting about anyhow in all directions (kai pheromena horônta pantê̢ pantôs), I finally became dizzy (teleutônta ilingiân); and although I continued to consider (kai toû men skopeîn mê apostênai) by what means (pê̢ pote) some betterment could be brought about (ameinon an gignoito) not only in these matters (peri te auta taûta) but also in the government as a whole (kai dê kai peri tên pâsan politeian), yet as regards political action I kept constantly waiting for an opportune moment (toû de prattein au͒ perimenein aei kairous); until, finally (teleutônta de), looking at all States which now exist, I perceived (noêsai peri pasôn tôn nûn poleôn) that one and all they are badly governed (hoti kakôs xumpasai politeuontai); for the state of their laws (ta gar tôn nomôn autaîs) is such as to be almost incurable (schedon aniatôs echonta estin) without some marvellous overhauling (aneu paraskeuês thaumastês tinos) and good luck to boot (meta tuchês). So in my praise of the right philosophy I was compelled to declare (legein te ênankasthên, epainôn tên orthên philosophian) that by it (hôs ek tautês) one is enabled to discern all forms of justice both political and individual (esti ta te politika dikaia kai ta tôn idiôtôn panta katideîn). Wherefore the classes of mankind will have no cessation from evils (kakôn ou͒n ou lêxein ta anthrôpina genê) until either the class of those who are right and true philosophers (prin an ê to tôn philosophountôn orthôs ge kai alêthôs genos) attain political supremacy (eis archas elthê̢ tas politikas), or else the class of those who hold power in the States (ê to tôn dunasteuontôn en tai polesin) becomes, by some dispensation of heaven, really philosophic (ek tinos moiras theias ontôs philosophêsê̢).’ (325a5-326b4, tr. Bury)

In this autobiographic sketch Plato delineates his path from the Phaedrus to the Republic. The Gorgias reflects the penultimate stage on this road.