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which in the Symposium mankind are described as looking forward, and which in the Phaedrus, as well as in the Phaedo, they are seeking to recover from a former state of existence. Whether by
the subject of the Dialogue is love or rhetoric, or Plato
the union of the two, or the relation of philosophy to love and to art in general, and to the human soul, will be hereafter considered. And per-Translated by Benjamin Jowett haps we may arrive at some conclusion such as the following—that the dialogue is not strictly INTRODUCTION.
confined to a single subject, but passes from one to another with the natural freedom of conver-THE PHAEDRUS IS closely connected with the Sym-sation.
posium, and may be regarded either as intro-Phaedrus has been spending the morning with ducing or following it. The two Dialogues to-Lysias, the celebrated rhetorician, and is going gether contain the whole philosophy of Plato on to refresh himself by taking a walk outside the the nature of love, which in the Republic and in wall, when he is met by Socrates, who professes the later writings of Plato is only introduced play-that he will not leave him until he has delivered fully or as a figure of speech. But in the Phaedrus up the speech with which Lysias has regaled him, and Symposium love and philosophy join hands, and which he is carrying about in his mind, or and one is an aspect of the other. The spiritual more probably in a book hidden under his cloak, and emotional part is elevated into the ideal, to 3
and is intending to study as he walks. The impu-derful being than the serpent Typho. Socrates as tation is not denied, and the two agree to direct yet does not know himself; and why should he their steps out of the public way along the stream care to know about unearthly monsters? En-of the Ilissus towards a plane-tree which is seen gaged in such conversation, they arrive at the in the distance. There, lying down amidst pleas-plane-tree; when they have found a convenient ant sounds and scents, they will read the speech resting-place, Phaedrus pulls out the speech and of Lysias. The country is a novelty to Socrates, reads:—
who never goes out of the town; and hence he is The speech consists of a foolish paradox which full of admiration for the beauties of nature, is to the effect that the non-lover ought to be which he seems to be drinking in for the first accepted rather than the lover—because he is time.
more rational, more agreeable, more enduring, As they are on their way, Phaedrus asks the less suspicious, less hurtful, less boastful, less opinion of Socrates respecting the local tradition engrossing, and because there are more of them, of Boreas and Oreithyia. Socrates, after a satiri-and for a great many other reasons which are cal allusion to the ‘rationalizers’ of his day, re-equally unmeaning. Phaedrus is captivated with plies that he has no time for these ‘nice’ inter-the beauty of the periods, and wants to make pretations of mythology, and he pities anyone Socrates say that nothing was or ever could be who has. When you once begin there is no end written better. Socrates does not think much of of them, and they spring from an uncritical phi-the matter, but then he has only attended to the losophy after all. ‘The proper study of mankind form, and in that he has detected several repeti-is man;’ and he is a far more complex and won-tions and other marks of haste. He cannot agree 4
with Phaedrus in the extreme value which he and power of love. For this is a necessary pre-sets upon this performance, because he is afraid liminary to the other question—How is the non-of doing injustice to Anacreon and Sappho and lover to be distinguished from the lover? In all other great writers, and is almost inclined to of us there are two principles—a better and a think that he himself, or rather some power re-worse—reason and desire, which are generally siding within him, could make a speech better at war with one another; and the victory of the than that of Lysias on the same theme, and also rational is called temperance, and the victory of different from his, if he may be allowed the use the irrational intemperance or excess. The lat-of a few commonplaces which all speakers must ter takes many forms and has many bad names—
gluttony, drunkenness, and the like. But of all Phaedrus is delighted at the prospect of hav-the irrational desires or excesses the greatest is ing another speech, and promises that he will that which is led away by desires of a kindred set up a golden statue of Socrates at Delphi, if nature to the enjoyment of personal beauty. And he keeps his word. Some raillery ensues, and at this is the master power of love.
length Socrates, conquered by the threat that Here Socrates fancies that he detects in him-he shall never again hear a speech of Lysias un-self an unusual flow of eloquence—this newly-less he fulfils his promise, veils his face and be-found gift he can only attribute to the inspira-gins.
tion of the place, which appears to be dedicated First, invoking the Muses and assuming ironi-to the nymphs. Starting again from the philo-cally the person of the non-lover (who is a lover sophical basis which has been laid down, he pro-all the same), he will enquire into the nature ceeds to show how many advantages the non-5
lover has over the lover. The one encourages soft-learns, after all his pains and disagreeables, that ness and effeminacy and exclusiveness; he can-
‘As wolves love lambs so lovers love their loves.’
not endure any superiority in his beloved; he will (Compare Char.) Here is the end; the ‘other’ or train him in luxury, he will keep him out of soci-
‘non-lover’ part of the speech had better be ety, he will deprive him of parents, friends, understood, for if in the censure of the lover money, knowledge, and of every other good, that Socrates has broken out in verse, what will he he may have him all to himself. Then again his not do in his praise of the non-lover? He has said ways are not ways of pleasantness; he is mighty his say and is preparing to go away.
disagreeable; ‘crabbed age and youth cannot live Phaedrus begs him to remain, at any rate un-together.’At every hour of the night and day he til the heat of noon has passed; he would like to is intruding upon him; there is the same old with-have a little more conversation before they go.
ered face and the remainder to match—and he is Socrates, who has risen, recognizes the oracular always repeating, in season or out of season, the sign which forbids him to depart until he has praises or dispraises of his beloved, which are done penance. His conscious has been awakened, bad enough when he is sober, and published all and like Stesichorus when he had reviled the over the world when he is drunk. At length his lovely Helen he will sing a palinode for having love ceases; he is converted into an enemy, and blasphemed the majesty of love. His palinode the spectacle may be seen of the lover running takes the form of a myth.
away from the beloved, who pursues him with Socrates begins his tale with a glorification of vain reproaches, and demands his reward which madness, which he divides into four kinds: first, the other refuses to pay. Too late the beloved there is the art of divination or prophecy—this, 6
in a vein similar to that pervading the Cratylus but the mortal drops her plumes and settles upon and Io, he connects with madness by an etymo-the earth.
logical explanation (mantike, manike—compare Now the use of the wing is to rise and carry oionoistike, oionistike, ‘’tis all one reckoning, the downward element into the upper world—
save the phrase is a little variations’); secondly, there to behold beauty, wisdom, goodness, and there is the art of purification by mysteries; the other things of God by which the soul is nour-thirdly, poetry or the inspiration of the Muses ished. On a certain day Zeus the lord of heaven (compare Ion), without which no man can en-goes forth in a winged chariot; and an array of ter their temple. All this shows that madness is gods and demi-gods and of human souls in their one of heaven’s blessings, and may sometimes train, follows him. There are glorious and blessed be a great deal better than sense. There is also a sights in the interior of heaven, and he who will fourth kind of madness—that of love—which can-may freely behold them. The great vision of all not be explained without enquiring into the na-is seen at the feast of the gods, when they as-ture of the soul.
cend the heights of the empyrean—all but Hestia, All soul is immortal, for she is the source of all who is left at home to keep house. The chariots motion both in herself and in others. Her form of the gods glide readily upwards and stand upon may be described in a figure as a composite na-the outside; the revolution of the spheres carries ture made up of a charioteer and a pair of winged them round, and they have a vision of the world steeds. The steeds of the gods are immortal, but beyond. But the others labour in vain; for the ours are one mortal and the other immortal. The mortal steed, if he has not been properly trained, immortal soul soars upwards into the heavens, keeps them down and sinks them towards the 7
earth. Of the world which is beyond the heav-for ever unharmed. If, however, she drops her ens, who can tell? There is an essence formless, wings and falls to the earth, then she takes the colourless, intangible, perceived by the mind form of man, and the soul which has seen most only, dwelling in the region of true knowledge.
of the truth passes into a philosopher or lover; The divine mind in her revolution enjoys this fair that which has seen truth in the second degree, prospect, and beholds justice, temperance, and into a king or warrior; the third, into a house-knowledge in their everlasting essence. When holder or money-maker; the fourth, into a gym-fulfilled with the sight of them she returns home, nast; the fifth, into a prophet or mystic; the sixth, and the charioteer puts up the horses in their into a poet or imitator; the seventh, into a hus-stable, and gives them ambrosia to eat and nec-bandman or craftsman; the eighth, into a soph-tar to drink. This is the life of the gods; the hu-ist or demagogue; the ninth, into a tyrant. All man soul tries to reach the same heights, but these are states of probation, wherein he who hardly succeeds; and sometimes the head of the lives righteously is improved, and he who lives charioteer rises above, and sometimes sinks be-unrighteously deteriorates. After death comes low, the fair vision, and he is at last obliged, af-the judgment; the bad depart to houses of cor-ter much contention, to turn away and leave the rection under the earth, the good to places of plain of truth. But if the soul has followed in the joy in heaven. When a thousand years have train of her god and once beheld truth she is elapsed the souls meet together and choose the preserved from harm, and is carried round in lives which they will lead for another period of the next revolution of the spheres; and if always existence. The soul which three times in succes-following, and always seeing the truth, is then sion has chosen the life of a philosopher or of a 8
lover who is not without philosophy receives her yet entombed in the body. And still, like a bird wings at the close of the third millennium; the eager to quit its cage, she flutters and looks up-remainder have to complete a cycle of ten thou-wards, and is therefore deemed mad. Such a rec-sand years before their wings are restored to ollection of past days she receives through sight, them. Each time there is full liberty of choice.
the keenest of our senses, because beauty, alone The soul of a man may descend into a beast, and of the ideas, has any representation on earth: return again into the form of man. But the form wisdom is invisible to mortal eyes. But the cor-of man will only be taken by the soul which has rupted nature, blindly excited by this vision of once seen truth and acquired some conception beauty, rushes on to enjoy, and would fain wal-of the universal:—this is the recollection of the low like a brute beast in sensual pleasures.
knowledge which she attained when in the com-Whereas the true mystic, who has seen the many pany of the Gods. And men in general recall only sights of bliss, when he beholds a god-like form with difficulty the things of another world, but or face is amazed with delight, and if he were the mind of the philosopher has a better remem-not afraid of being thought mad he would fall brance of them. For when he beholds the visible down and worship. Then the stiffened wing be-beauty of earth his enraptured soul passes in gins to relax and grow again; desire which has thought to those glorious sights of justice and been imprisoned pours over the soul of the lover; wisdom and temperance and truth which she the germ of the wing unfolds, and stings, and once gazed upon in heaven. Then she celebrated pangs of birth, like the cutting of teeth, are ev-holy mysteries and beheld blessed apparitions erywhere felt. (Compare Symp.) Father and shining in pure light, herself pure, and not as mother, and goods and laws and proprieties are 9
nothing to him; his beloved is his physician, who Together all three, who are a figure of the soul, can alone cure his pain. An apocryphal sacred approach the vision of love. And now a fierce writer says that the power which thus works in conflict begins. The ill-conditioned steed rushes him is by mortals called love, but the immortals on to enjoy, but the charioteer, who beholds the call him dove, or the winged one, in order to rep-beloved with awe, falls back in adoration, and resent the force of his wings—such at any rate is forces both the steeds on their haunches; again his nature. Now the characters of lovers depend the evil steed rushes forwards and pulls shame-upon the god whom they followed in the other lessly. The conflict grows more and more severe; world; and they choose their loves in this world and at last the charioteer, throwing himself back-accordingly. The followers of Ares are fierce and wards, forces the bit out of the clenched teeth of violent; those of Zeus seek out some philosophi-the brute, and pulling harder than ever at the cal and imperial nature; the attendants of Here reins, covers his tongue and jaws with blood, and find a royal love; and in like manner the follow-forces him to rest his legs and haunches with ers of every god seek a love who is like their god; pain upon the ground. When this has happened and to him they communicate the nature which several times, the villain is tamed and humbled, they have received from their god. The manner and from that time forward the soul of the lover in which they take their love is as follows:—
follows the beloved in modesty and holy fear. And I told you about the charioteer and his two now their bliss is consummated; the same im-steeds, the one a noble animal who is guided by age of love dwells in the breast of either, and if word and admonition only, the other an ill-look-they have self-control, they pass their lives in ing villain who will hardly yield to blow or spur.
the greatest happiness which is attainable by 10
man—they continue masters of themselves, and have been deriding him. Socrates is of opinion that conquer in one of the three heavenly victories.
there is small danger of this; the politicians are them-But if they choose the lower life of ambition they selves the great rhetoricians of the age, who desire may still have a happy destiny, though inferior, to attain immortality by the authorship of laws. And because they have not the approval of the whole therefore there is nothing with which they can re-soul. At last they leave the body and proceed on proach Lysias in being a writer; but there may be their pilgrim’s progress, and those who have disgrace in being a bad one.
once begun can never go back. When the time And what is good or bad writing or speaking?
comes they receive their wings and fly away, and While the sun is hot in the sky above us, let us the lovers have the same wings.
ask that question: since by rational conversation Socrates concludes:—
man lives, and not by the indulgence of bodily These are the blessings of love, and thus have pleasures. And the grasshoppers who are chir-I made my recantation in finer language than ruping around may carry our words to the Muses, before: I did so in order to please Phaedrus. If I who are their patronesses; for the grasshoppers said what was wrong at first, please to attribute were human beings themselves in a world be-my error to Lysias, who ought to study philoso-fore the Muses, and when the Muses came they phy instead of rhetoric, and then he will not died of hunger for the love of song. And they mislead his disciple Phaedrus.
carry to them in heaven the report of those who Phaedrus is afraid that he will lose conceit of Lysias, honour them on earth.
and that Lysias will be out of conceit with himself, The first rule of good speaking is to know and and leave off making speeches, for the politicians speak the truth; as a Spartan proverb says, ‘true 11
art is truth’; whereas rhetoric is an art of enable class there ought to be a definition of all chantment, which makes things appear good and disputed matters. But there was no such defini-evil, like and unlike, as the speaker pleases. Its tion in the speech of Lysias; nor is there any or-use is not confined, as people commonly suppose, der or connection in his words any more than in to arguments in the law courts and speeches in a nursery rhyme. With this he compares the regu-the assembly; it is rather a part of the art of dis-lar divisions of the other speech, which was his putation, under which are included both the rules own (and yet not his own, for the local deities of Gorgias and the eristic of Zeno. But it is not must have inspired him). Although only a play-wholly devoid of truth. Superior knowledge en-ful composition, it will be found to embody two ables us to deceive another by the help of re-principles: first, that of synthesis or the compre-semblances, and to escape from such a decep-hension of parts in a whole; secondly, analysis, tion when employed against ourselves. We see or the resolution of the whole into parts. These therefore that even in rhetoric an element of are the processes of division and generalization truth is required. For if we do not know the truth, which are so dear to the dialectician, that king we can neither make the gradual departures of men. They are effected by dialectic, and not from truth by which men are most easily de-by rhetoric, of which the remains are but scanty ceived, nor guard ourselves against deception.
after order and arrangement have been sub-Socrates then proposes that they shall use the tracted. There is nothing left but a heap of two speeches as illustrations of the art of rheto-
‘ologies’ and other technical terms invented by ric; first distinguishing between the debatable Polus, Theodorus, Evenus, Tisias, Gorgias, and and undisputed class of subjects. In the debat-others, who have rules for everything, and who 12
teach how to be short or long at pleasure.
ers the natures of their bodies. Such and such Prodicus showed his good sense when he said persons are to be affected in this way, such and that there was a better thing than either to be such others in that; and he must know the times short or long, which was to be of convenient and the seasons for saying this or that. This is length.
not an easy task, and this, if there be such an Still, notwithstanding the absurdities of Polus art, is the art of rhetoric.
and others, rhetoric has great power in public I know that there are some professors of the assemblies. This power, however, is not given by art who maintain probability to be stronger than any technical rules, but is the gift of genius. The truth. But we maintain that probability is en-real art is always being confused by rhetoricians gendered by likeness of the truth which can only with the preliminaries of the art. The perfection be attained by the knowledge of it, and that the of oratory is like the perfection of anything else; aim of the good man should not be to please or natural power must be aided by art. But the art persuade his fellow-servants, but to please his is not that which is taught in the schools of rheto-good masters who are the gods. Rhetoric has a ric; it is nearer akin to philosophy. Pericles, for fair beginning in this.
instance, who was the most accomplished of all Enough of the art of speaking; let us now pro-speakers, derived his eloquence not from rheto-ceed to consider the true use of writing. There is ric but from the philosophy of nature which he an old Egyptian tale of Theuth, the inventor of learnt of Anaxagoras. True rhetoric is like medi-writing, showing his invention to the god cine, and the rhetorician has to consider the Thamus, who told him that he would only spoil natures of men’s souls as the physician consid-men’s memories and take away their under-13
standings. From this tale, of which young Athens men, he cannot be a good orator; also, that the will probably make fun, may be gathered the les-living is better than the written word, and that son that writing is inferior to speech. For it is like the principles of justice and truth when deliv-a picture, which can give no answer to a ques-ered by word of mouth are the legitimate off-tion, and has only a deceitful likeness of a living spring of a man’s own bosom, and their lawful creature. It has no power of adaptation, but uses descendants take up their abode in others. Such the same words for all. It is not a legitimate son an orator as he is who is possessed of them, you of knowledge, but a bastard, and when an attack and I would fain become. And to all composers is made upon this bastard neither parent nor any-in the world, poets, orators, legislators, we one else is there to defend it. The husbandman hereby announce that if their compositions are will not seriously incline to sow his seed in such a based upon these principles, then they are not hot-bed or garden of Adonis; he will rather sow in only poets, orators, legislators, but philosophers.
the natural soil of the human soul which has depth All others are mere flatterers and putters to-of earth; and he will anticipate the inner growth gether of words. This is the message which of the mind, by writing only, if at all, as a remedy Phaedrus undertakes to carry to Lysias from the against old age. The natural process will be far local deities, and Socrates himself will carry a nobler, and will bring forth fruit in the minds of similar message to his favourite Isocrates, whose others as well as in his own.
future distinction as a great rhetorician he proph-The conclusion of the whole matter is just this,—
esies. The heat of the day has passed, and after that until a man knows the truth, and the man-offering up a prayer to Pan and the nymphs, ner of adapting the truth to the natures of other Socrates and Phaedrus depart.