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.

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