Thursday, February 1, 2018

3 Rhetoric in the Phaedrus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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