23
Jul
08

Plato’s Phaedrus

Plato, Phaedrus
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
Intro
• Distinction between knowledge and belief
• The superior soul is slow to develop by the need to conform to the opinions of the immature/inferior soul
• Persuasion-to-belief: bad rhetoric
o Like the lust of the non-lover: exploits object of lost at eh same time it destroys the one who lusts
• Persuasion-to-knowledge: good rhetoric
o Like love, seeks to make the beloved a better person
• To influence the soul, the rhetor must know the truth: analyze and synthesize
• Dialogue is superior to writing because it can lead to truth
Phaedrus
• He who is ruled by desire will make his beloved as pleasing to himself as possible
o The lover will find someone weaker/inferior
• “Just as the wolf loves the lamb, so the lover adores his beloved”
• The lover is insane, the other is sane
• He who loves the beautiful, partaking in this madness, is called a lover
From an earlier post on a different blog
Most clearly in Plato’s Phaedrus, the descriptions of Eros and the motives of lovers/non-lovers, illustrates that sophistry truly is wildly, intelligent trickery. With “judgment weakened by passion,” Phaedrus notes that, “lovers consider how by reason of their love they have neglected their own concerns and rendered service to others” (4). By “neglecting their own concerns,” the lover selfishly seeks out pleasure rather than true friendship seen by the non-lovers. The lover, then, is constantly vying for attention, making oneself attractive to a variety of others Making oneself attractive to others is like updating one’s CV for different jobs—one displays what one needs (or, lacks) at this specific moment, and why that person/school would be the perfect match. Crudely speaking, Mr. Right Now. Lovers and sophists alike fit themselves into different situations by recognizing their own need, and finding someone to fill it. This moment of recognizing the personal need is what I find so brilliant about the sophists. As Jaeger notes,

“Now, if we assume that the purpose of rhetoric is to deceive the audience—to lead them to false conclusions by resemblances alone—that makes it imperative for the orator to have exact knowledge of the dialectic method of classification, for that is the only way to understand the varying degrees of resemblance between things” (189, emphasis mine).

If lovers and (as?) sophists both deceive their audiences, flattery and trickery are not done out of foolishness or accident, but rather though complete and precise knowledge of their subjects.

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