Friday, January 6, 2017

3 Dating of the Phaedrus – doctrinal arguments (with a glance at Plato’s Sophist, Parmenides, and Meno)

Sorabji’s third argument against my dating of the Phaedrus is concise: ‘Dialectic is treated as involving division, and both are handled in the manner of the late works, Sophist, Statesman and Philebus. The treatment of dialectic in the early works does not bring in collecting, analysing and dividing.’

In the Phaedrus, dialectic is not introduced as a method with which Socrates is about to discover the nature of love; it is introduced in retrospect: ‘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, tr. from the Phaedrus are Hackforth’s)

Socrates means by the ‘two procedures’ (duoin eidoin, ‘two forms’) Collection and Division. Hackforth notes ad loc.: ‘The casual allusion’ is probably to be found at 265 A-B, where manian tina ephêsamen einai implies Collection and manias eidê duo Division.’ If this is so, then Sorabji appears to be wrong when he says that ‘the treatment of dialectic in the early works does not bring in collecting’; any dialogue of Plato in which Socrates attempts to define something comprises as much Collection as this.

Hackforth in his note goes on to say: ‘Or the reference may be to the original passages in the first and second speeches of Socrates where the two procedures first come into view, viz. 237 D ff. and 244 A ff.’ (Hackforth, op. cit. in my previous posts) But these passages only underline the fact that the kind of Collection, which can be found in Socrates’ two speeches, can be found in any dialogue of Plato.

237 D ff. refers to Socrates’ first speech, in which he defines erôs: ‘We ought to agree upon a definition of love which shows its nature and its effects (peri erôtos hoion t’ esti kai hên echei dunamin, homologia̢ themenoi horon), so that we may have it before our minds as something to refer to (eis touto apoblepontes kai anapherontes) while we discuss whether love is beneficial or injurious (tên skepsin poiômetha eite ôphelian eite blabên parechei). Well now, it is plain to everyone that love is some sort of desire (hoti men oun dê epithumia tis ho erôs, hapanti dêlon, 237c8-d4) … when desire drags us irrationally towards pleasure (epithumias de alogôs helkousês epi hêdonas), and has come to rule within us (kai arxasês en hêmîn), the name given to that rule is wantonness (tê̢ archê̢ hubris epônomasthê, 238A1-2) … When irrational desire, pursuing the enjoyment of beauty, has gained the mastery over judgment that prompts to right conduct (hê gar aneu logou doxês epi to orthon hormôsês kratêsasa epithumia pros hêdonên achtheisa kallous), and has acquired from other desires, akin to it, fresh strength to strain towards bodily beauty (kai hupo au͒ tôn heautês sungenôn epithumiôn epi sômatôn kallos errômenôs rôstheisa nikêsasa agôgê̢), that very strength provides it with its name (ap’ autês tês rômês epônumian labousa): it is the strong passion called Love (erôs eklêthê, 238b7-c4).’

244 A ff. refers to Socrates’ second speech, in which he views erôs (love) as mania (madness): ‘False is the tale (Ouk est’ etumos logos) that when a lover is at hand (hos an parontos erastou) favour ought rather to be accorded to one who does not love (tô̢ mê erônti mâllon phê̢ dein charizesthai), on the ground that the former is mad (dioti dê ho men mainetai), and the latter sound of mind (ho de sôphronei). That would be right if it were an invariable truth that madness is an evil (ei men gar ên haploun to manian kakon einai, kalôs an elegeto): but in reality, the greatest blessings come by way of madness (nûn de ta megista tôn agathôn hêmîn gignetai dia manias), indeed of madness that is heavenly sent (theia̢ mentoi dosei didomenês, 244a3-8) … We have to prove (hêmîn de apodeikteon) that this sort of madness is a gift of the gods, fraught with the highest bliss (hôs ep’ eutuchia̢ tê̢ megistê̢ para theôn hê toiautê mania didotai, 245b7-c1).

Phaedrus: ‘What procedures do you mean (Tinôn dê;)?’ – Soc. ‘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); the purpose being to define so-and-so (hina hekaston horizomenos), and thus to make plain whatever may be chosen as the topic for exposition (dêlon poiệ peri hou an aei didaskein ethelệ). For example, take the definition given just now of love (hôsper ta nundê peri Erôtos, ho estin horisthen): whether it was right or wrong (eit’ eu eite kakôs elechthê), at all events it was that which enabled our discourse to achieve lucidity and consistency (to oun saphes kai to auto hautộ homologoumenon dia tauta eschen eipein ho logos).’ – Phaedrus: ‘And what is the second procedure you speak of (To d’ heteron dê eidos ti legeis), Socrates (ô Sôkrates;)?’ – Soc. ‘The reverse of the other, whereby we are enabled to divide into forms, following the objective articulation (To palin kat’ eidê dunasthai diatemnein kat’ arthra hệ pephuken); we are not to attempt to hack off parts (kai mê epicheirein katagnunai meros mêden) like a clumsy butcher (kakou mageirou tropô̢ chrômenon), but to take example from our two recent speeches (all’ hôsper arti tô logô). The single general form which they postulated was irrationality (to men aphron tês dianoias hen ti koinệ eidos elabetên); next, on the analogy of a single natural body with its pairs of like-named members (hôsper de sômatos ex henos diplâ kai homônuma pephuke), right arm or leg, as we say, and left (skaia, ta de dexia klêthenta), they conceived of madness as a single objective form existing in human beings (houtô kai to tês paranoias hôs hen en hêmîn pephukos eidos hêgêsamenô tô logô): wherefore the first speech divided off a part on the left (ho men to ep’ aristera temnomenos meros), and continued to make divisions (palin touto temnôn), never desisting (ouk epanêken) until it discovered (prin en autois epheurôn) one particular part  bearing the name of “sinister” love (onomazomenon skaion tina erôta), on which it very properly poured abuse (eloidorêsen mal’ en dikê̢). The other speech conducted us to the forms of madness which lay on the right-hand side (ho d’ eis ta en dexiâ̢ tês manias agagôn hêmas), and upon discovering a type of love that shared its name with the other but was divine (homônumon men ekeinộ, theion tina erôta epheurôn), displayed it to our view and extolled it as the source of the greatest goods that can befall us (kai proteinamenos epê̢nesen hôs megistôn aition hêmîn agathôn).’ (265c8-266b1, tr. Hackforth)

Hackforth notes: ‘There are serious difficulties in this paragraph. Socrates speaks as though the generic concept of madness (to aphron, paranoia, mania) had been common to his two speeches, and there had been a formal divisional procedure followed in both of them. Neither of these things is true. In the first speech Socrates starts by bringing erôs under the genus epithumia but this is superseded by hubris, which is declared to be polumeles kai polueides (238a); it is then shown that erôs is a species of hubris, but this is done not by successive dichotomies, but by an informal discrimination from an indefinite number of other species, of which only two are named. It is only in the second speech that Socrates starts with a clear concept of ‘madness’; but here again there is no scheme of successive divisions, whether dichotomous or other: there is merely the single use of a fourfold division.’ (Op. cit,, p. 133, n.1)

Hackforth’s remark indicates that as with collection, the kind of division and analysis that can be found in Socrates’ two speeches in the Phaedrus can be found in any dialogue of Plato. Let us see, for contrast, how Plato introduces the method of division in the Sophist.

The Stranger from Elea says to Theaetetus: ‘What now concerns us both is our joint enquiry (koinê̢ de met’ emou soi suskepteon). We had better, I think, begin by studying the Sophist (archomenô̢ prôton, hôs emoi phainetai, nûn apo tou sophistou) and try to bring his nature to light in a clear formula (zêtounti kai emphanizonti logô̢ ti pot’ esti). At present, you see, all that you and I possess in common is the name (nun gar dê su te k’agô toutou peri t’ounoma monon echomen koinê̢). The thing to which each of us gives that name we may perhaps have privately before our minds (to de ergon eph’ hô̢ kaloumen hekateros tach’ an idia̢ par’ hêmîn autois echoimen); but it is always desirable to have reached an agreement about the thing itself by means of explicit statements, rather than be content to use the same word without formulating what it means (dei de aei pantos peri to prâgma auto mâllon dia logôn ê t’ounoma monon sunômologêsthai aneu logou). It is not so easy to comprehend this group we intend to examine or to say what it means to be a sophist (to de phûlon ho nun epinooumen zêtein ou pantôn râ̢ston sullabein ti pot’ estin, ho sophistês). However, when some great task is to be properly carried through (hosa d’ au͒ tôn megalôn dei diaponeisthai kalôs), everyone has long since found it a good rule (peri tôn toioutôn dedoktai pâsin kai palai) to take something comparatively small and easy and practice on that, before attempting the big thing itself (to proteron en smikrois kai ra̢osin auta deîn meletân, prin en autoîs toîs megistois). That is the course I recommend to us now, Theaetetus (nûn ou͒n, ô Theaitête, egôge kai nô̢n houtô sumbouleuô). Judging the Sophist to be a very troublesome sort of creature to hunt down (chalepon kai dusthêreuton hêgêsamenois einai to tou sophistou genos), let us first practise the method of tracking him on some easier quarry (proteron en allô̢ ra̢oni tên methodon autou promeletân). (218b6-d5)

Translation is F. M. Cornford’s, who goes on to say: ‘The Stranger now proceeds to illustrate by a trivial example the method to be used in defining the Sophist … Although the classification of the Angler is the first long and formal Division in Plato, no preliminary account of the method is given and no rules are laid down. The only earlier description of the method (Phaedrus 265 D) tells us that a Division should be preceded by a Collection (sunagôgê) or survey of the ‘widely scattered’ terms (species) which are to be brought under a single (generic) Form … Here, however, there is no systematic Collection.’ (Plato’s Theory of Knowledge, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 1935, third impression 1949, pp. 170-171)

Later on in the Sophist Plato speaks of dialectic as a science that points out which Kinds (genê) can mix (summeignusthai) and which can’t mix with which (253b8-c3). The greatest of these Kinds are (megista tôn genôn) Being (to on, Cornford’s ‘Existence’), Rest (stasis) and Motion (kinêsis) – Being mixes (meikton, 254d10) or unites (kekoinôkenai, 254c1) with both (amphoin, 254d10), Motion and Rest can’t mix with each other (ameiktô pros allêlô, 254d7-8) – to which must be added Sameness (t’auton) and Difference (thateron), for these are different from each other and from each of the preceding three Kinds, yet each of these two mixes with each of the preceding three (254d-255e). These five greatest Kinds are found and determined neither by Collection nor by Division, but by discerning and observing them within the context of discussion and comparing each with each. Here dia-lectic means the science that pursues its investigations ‘through-speaking’.

The Stranger says that dialectic ‘is needed as a guide on the voyage of discourse (met epistêmês tinos [i.e. tês dialektikês] anankaion dia tôn logôn poreuesthai), if one is to succeed in pointing out (ton orthôs mellonta deixein) which Kinds are consonant (poia poiois sumphônei tôn genôn), and which are incompatible with one another (kai poia allêla ou dechetai); also (kai dê kai), whether there are certain Kinds that pervade them all and connect them (dia pantôn ei sunechont’ att’ aut’ estin) so that they can blend (hôste summeignusthai dunata einai), and again (kai palin), where there are divisions (separations) (en tais diairesesin), whether there are certain others that traverse wholes and are responsible for the division (ei di’ holôn hetera tês diaireseôs aitia), 253b89-c3).’ He asks: ‘Dividing according to Kinds (Ta kata genê diaireisthai), not taking the same Form for a different one (kai mête t’auton eidos heteron hêgêsasthai) or a different one for the same (mête heteron on t’auton) – is not that the business of the science of Dialectic (môn ou tês dialektikês phêsomen epistêmês einai;)?’ – Theaetetus: ‘Yes (Nai, phêsomen).’ – Stranger: ‘And the man who can do that (Oukoun ho ge touto dunatos drân) discerns clearly one Form everywhere extended throughout many, where each one lies apart (mian idean dia pollôn, henos hekastou keimenou chôris, pante̢ diatetamenên hikanôs diaisthanetai), and many Forms, different from one another (kai pollas heteras allêlôn), embraced from without by one Form (hupo mias exôthen periechomenas); and again one Form connected in a unity through many wholes (kai mian au͒ di’ holôn pollôn en heni sunêmmenên), and many Forms, entirely marked off apart (kai pollas chôris pantê̢ diôrismenas). That means (touto d’ estin) knowing how to distinguish, Kind by Kind, in what ways the several Kinds can or can not combine (hê̢ te koinônein hekasta dunatai kai hopê̢ mê, diakrinein kata genos epistasthai).’ – Th. ‘Most certainly (Pantapasi men oun).’ – Str. ‘And the only person, I imagine, to whom you would allow this mastery of Dialectic (Alla mên to ge dialektikon ouk allô̢ dôseis, hôs ego̢͒mai) is the pure and rightful lover of wisdom (plên tô̢ katharôs te kai dikaiôs philosophounti).’ – Th. ‘To whom else could it be allowed (Pôs gar an allô̢ doiê tis;)?’ (253c1-e6, tr. Cornford)

Cornford remarks: ‘The expert in Dialectic will guide and control the course of philosophic discussion by his knowledge of how to ‘divide by Kinds’, not confusing one Form with another. He will discern clearly the hierarchy of Forms which constitutes reality and make out its articulate structure, with which the texture of philosophic discourse must correspond, if it is to express truth. The method is that method of Collection and Division which was announced in the Phaedrus and has been illustrated in the Sophist.’ (pp. 263-4)

This claim, that Dialectic here conceived by Plato is the method ‘of Collection and Division which was announced in the Phaedrus and has been illustrated in the Sophist’ chimes oddly with Cornford’s earlier observation that ‘here, however, there is no systematic Collection’. I cannot find a single example, a single passage in the Sophist that could be viewed in terms of the Phaedran Collection, ‘in which we bring a dispersed plurality under a single form, seeing it all together’ (Eis mian te idean sunorônta agein ta pollachệ diesparmena, Phdr. 265d3-4). Cornford just pays the lip service to – or is mesmerized by – the generally accepted late dating of the Phaedrus, that’s all. The Phaedran Collection cannot be found in the Sophist just as it cannot be found in ‘Socrates’ two speeches in the Phaedrus itself. These speeches are Plato’s, and the method of Collection was Socrates’ method, which he used in his philosophic discussions, aiming at definitions of moral terms. It comes to the view in the Parmenides where Parmenides makes a conjecture concerning the theory of Forms of the young Socrates: ‘I think (Oimai) that you were led to think that there is one idea for each kind by the following (se ek tou toioude hen hekaston eidos oiesthai einai): When you see a number of objects, each of which appears to you to be large (hotan poll’ atta megala soi doxê̢ einai), presumably there seems to you to be one and the same Form (mia tis isôs dokei idea hê autê einai) as you look at them all (epi panta idonti); hence (hothen) you conceive of the large as one (hen to mega hêgê̢ einai, Parm. 132a1-4).’ Since on this very basis Parmenides raised his main objections against Socrates’ theory – ‘And what about the large itself (Ti d’ auto to mega) and the other large things (kai ta͒lla ta megala), when in the same way you look on them all with your soul (ean hôsautôs tê̢ psuchê̢ epi panta idê̢s), won’t there again appear another large (ouchi hen ti au͒ mega phaneîtai), by which all these will appear large (hô̢ taûta panta megala estai; 132a10-b1)?’, and thus ad infinitum – Socrates could never subscribe to the theory of Forms as ontologically valid, yet since Parmenides warned him that the man, who would reject the Forms because of such objections, would thus destroy the very power of discourse (houtôs tên tou dialegesthai dunamin pantapasi diaphtherei, 135c1-2), Socrates only too willingly – ‘of this you seem to me to be only too well aware (tou toioutou men oun moi dokeis kai mâllon ê̢sthêsthai, 135c2-3’, Parmenides remarks  – adhered to the Forms as guide-lights in his philosophic discussions.

It appears that Socrates’ interlocutors did not find it difficult to perceive and to point to ‘a dispersed plurality’ (ta pollachệ diesparmena, Phdr. 265d3-4); what they found difficult was to collect them in one Form. Let me give as an example Socrates’ discussion with Meno, on virtue. Sokrates: ‘What you say virtue is (ti phê̢s aretên einai;)?’ – Meno: ‘There will be no difficulty (All’ ou chalepon), Socrates (o͒ Sôkratês), in answering your question (eipein). Let us take first the virtue of man (prôton men, ei boulei andros aretên, ra̢dion, hoti hautê estin andros aretê) – he should know how to administer the state (hikanon ei͒nai ta tês poleôs prattein), and in the administration of it (kai prattonta) to benefit his friends (tous philous eu poiein) and harm his enemies (tous d’ echthrous kakôs); and he must also be careful (kai auton eulabeisthai) not to suffer harm himself (mêden toiouton pathein). A woman’s virtue, if you wish to know about that (ei de boulei gunaikos aretên), may also be easily described (ou chalepon dielthein): her duty is to order her house (hoti dei autên tên oikian eu͒ oikeîn), and keep what is indoors (sô̢zousan te ta endon), and obey her husband (kai katêkoon ou͒san tou andros). Every age, every condition of life, young or old, male or female, bond or free, has a different virtue: there are virtues numberless, and no lack of definitions of them; for virtue is relative to actions and ages of each of us in all that we do (kai allê estin paidos aretê, kai thêleias kai arrenos, kai presbuterou andros, ei men boulei, eleutherou, ei de boulei, doulou. kai allai pampollai aretai eisin, hôste ouk aporia eipein aretês peri hoti estinˑ kath’ hekastên gar tôn praxeôn kai tôn hêlikiôn pros hekaston ergon hekastô̢ hêmôn hê aretê estin). And the same may be said of vice, Socrates (hôsautôs de oi͒mai, o͒ Sôkrates, kai hê kakia).’ – Soc. ‘How fortunate I am (Pollê̢ ge tini eutuchia̢ eoika kechrêsthai), Meno (o͒ Menôn)! When I ask you for one virtue (ei mian zêtôn aretên), you present me with a swarm of them, which are in your keeping (smênos ti anêurêka aretôn para soi keimenon). Suppose that I carry on the figure of the swarm (atar, o͒ Menôn, kata tautên tên eikona tên peri ta smênê), and ask you (ei mou eromenou), What is the nature of the bee (melittês peri ousias hoti pot’ estin)? And you answer that there are many kinds of bees (pollas kai pantodapas eleges autas ei͒nai), and I reply (ti an apekrinô moi, ei se êromên): But do bees differ as bees, because there are many and different kinds of them (Ara toutô̢ phê̢s pollas kai pantodapas ei͒nai kai diapherousas allêlôn, tô̢ melittas ei͒nai;); or are they not rather to be distinguished by some other quality, as for example beauty, size, or shape (ê toutô̢ men ouden diapherousin, allô̢ de tô̢, hoion ê kallei ê megethei ê allô̢ tô̢ tôn toioutôn;)? How would you answer me (eipe, ti an apekrinô houtôs erôtêtheis;)?’ – Men. ‘I should answer that bees do not differ from one another, as bees (Toût’ egôge, hoti ouden diapherousin, hê̢ melittai eisin, hê hetera tês heteras).’ – Soc. ‘And if I went on to say (Ei oun ei͒pon meta taûta): That is what I desire to know (Toûto toinun moi auto eipe), Meno (o͒ Menôn); tell me what is the quality in which they do not differ, but are all alike (hô̢ ouden diapherousin alla t’auton eisin hapasai, ti touto phê̢s ei͒nai;); – would you be able to answer (ei͒ches dêpou an ti moi eipeîn;)?’ – Men. ‘I should (Egôge).’ – Soc. ‘And so of the virtues (Houtô dê kai peri tôn aretôn), however many and different they may be (k’an ei pollai kai pantodapai eisin), they have all a common nature (hen ge ti ei͒dos t’auton hapasai echousin) which makes them virtues (di’ ho eisin aretai); and on this he who would answer the question, “What is virtue?” would do well to have his eye fixed (eis ho kalôs pou echei apoblepsanta ton apokrinomenon tô̢ erôtêsanti ekeîno dêlôsai, ho tunchanei ou͒sa aretê).’ (71d5-72d1, tr. Jowett)

Let me repeat the formulation of Collection, the first of the two procedures of dialectic, as it stands in the Phaedrus: ‘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); the purpose being to define so-and-so (hina hekaston horizomenos), and thus to make plain whatever may be chosen as the topic for exposition (dêlon poiệ peri hou an aei didaskein ethelệ).’ In the Meno we find this procedure brought into action. But as has been seen, Socrates’ two speeches on love in the Phaedrus, to which Plato in the dialogue points as examples in which this procedure has been put into action, do not work as such; they are Plato’s, and I have reasons to believe that Plato himself never used this method in his own philosophizing; he displayed it in his dialogues where he gave voice to Socrates, whose philosophizing was based on it.

What are my reasons for maintaining that Plato himself never used this method in his own philosophizing? Plato conceived the Forms very differently from the way in which Socrates conceived them. He did not perceive ‘the numerously dispersed things’ (ta pollachệ diesparmena), observing that these and these things had this and this characteristic in common, the Form they all shared. Aristotle informs us that Plato in his youth was a Heraclitean, believing ‘that all sensible things (hôs hapantôn tôn aisthêtôn) are ever in a state of flux (aei reontôn) and there is no knowledge about them (kai epistêmês peri autôn ouk ousês, Aristotle, Metaphysics 987a34-5, tr. W. D. Ross)’. With this Heraclitean view about the world of our senses he encountered Socrates who fixed his thought (epistêsantos tên dianoian ‘brought his mind to rest’) on definitions of moral terms, and he realised ‘that this was happening in relation to different entities (hôs peri heterôn touto gignomenon) and not in relation to things of our senses (kai ou tôn aisthêtôn, 987b5-6)’, and so ‘he called this kind of entities Forms (ta men toiauta tôn ontôn ideas prosêgoreuse), and he viewed all sensible things as expressed and named apart from these and after these by virtue of their relation to these (ta d’ aisthêta para taûta kai kata taûta legesthai panta, 987b7-9).’ Plato saw the Forms, and the world of our senses he saw as related to them.

With this in view, let us return to Plato’s assertion that dialectic ‘is needed as a guide on the voyage of discourse (met epistêmês tinos [i.e. tês dialektikês] anankaion dia tôn logôn poreuesthai, 253b9-10)’: Armed with the view of the Forms, Plato embarked on his voyage through discourse.


Let me end by observing that the Phaedrus entitles us to presume that initially Plato saw the Forms only intermittently, on occasions of philosophic contemplation. His philosopher-lover’s memory is brought to the sight of the Form of Beauty when struck by the earthly beauty of his beloved, but the moment he loses his beloved from his sight, his memory loses the sight of the Form of Beauty Phdr. 253c7-255a1). Even the best of the human souls, prior to its ‘loss of wings’ and its incarnation, is capable of seeing the Forms only with difficulty: ‘being confounded by her steeds she has much ado to discern the things that are (thoruboumenê hupo tôn hippôn kai mogis kathorôsa ta onta, 248a4-5, tr. Hackforth)’. In the Republic it is the steady, perfect vision of the Forms, which enables the philosopher to frame laws about beauty, goodness, and justice, and entitles him to be the ruler in the State. 

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