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 (ê), 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.