Purposely difficult and intentionally obsessive, Platos Phaedrus is an exceedingly difficult read that defies all conventional logic as a piece of discourse. The text is extremely subjective, open to interpretation and individual creativity as to what or whom the narrative is about. Written by Plato, a close disciple of Socrates, this text is set along the Illissus river where Phaedrus and Socrates meet for a day of speech, debate, rhetoric and okayflirting. Phaedrus leads of the day and recites a speech by his close friend Lysias, who Phaedrus considers to be a top speechmaker. Socrates then, after chiding by Phaedrus unleashes two speeches of his own that overshadow and refute Lysias claim so boldly that Phaedrus is so taken by the power of Socrates, that Phaedrus I think misses the point of the entire speech. I think the main idea of the Phaedrus is that Platos purpose in writing the document, and using Phaedrus as an example of the reader of this dialogue, is to develop a mad passion to pursue wisdom because of the way Socrates hints, and later describes his definitions of madness, pursuit of wisdom, and critical thinking.
For it were a simple fact that insanity is evil, the saying would be true; but in reality the greatest blessings come to us through madness, when it is sent as a gift of the gods (465).
I think that one of the most powerful claims in the entire text is that of how madness is essential to pursue virtually everything, including Phaedrus beloved wisdom. In the quote Socrates is not suggesting or insinuating an aspect of his lesson; he is not merely attempting to get Phaedrus to think, as he so often does in this text, but right here in this quote Socrates declares his love for the ability to be mad. The ability to want something so bad, so vehemently, is what Socrates flat out told Phaedrus, is nothing short of god-like. Socrates said this after his first speech when I believe Phaedrus is just starting to fall under the spell that Socrates is attempting to blind him with. Speak without fear (465) Phaedrus says to Socrates just a moment before Socrates, I my opinion gives a little more information than he wants to, so early in the text. The quote on page 465 was also very strong because it was unexpected by I think both Socrates and Phaedrus.
Socrates is very adamant about madness, and how it is necessary. Necessary for all aspects of life, not just academic, rhetorical or philosophical but for something as fundamental as happiness.
We, on our part, must prove that such madness is given by the gods for our greatest happiness; and our proof will not be accepted by the merely clever, but will accepted by the truly wise (469).
It is my intention with this quote to show the crucial relationship between madness and the evolution of higher thought. I argue very plainly for this correlation linking the truly wise and madness because it demonstrates Socrates attempt to dangle an idea in front of Phaedrus, who after Socrates 1st speech was expecting a philosophical, structured way of defining the soul and now left to wonder what madness has to do with anything. The quote defends the claim that madness is an essential part of Socrates attempt to persuade Phaedus (the reader) that madness is not something bad; the way Lysias outlined it in his speech, but an obligatory element in developing a passion for something.
My discourse has shown that this is, of all inspirations, the best and of the highest origin to him who has it or who shares in this madness, is called a lover (483).
Taken from Socrates 2nd speech, Socrates is using madness now on a different level, this time as tool to describe inspiration to be a lover. Socrates literally cites his entire speech to explain how madness leads to love; to passion, not just an evolution of thinking, but also a pursuit of how it manifests itself through madness. It is the madness that I consider to be what the Phaedrus needs to understand. It is in the film Meet Joe Black that was shown in class that Bill Parish (Socrates) explains to his daughter Susan (Phaedrus)
Love is passion, obsession, something you cant live withoutforget your head and listen to your heart.
I liken Bill Parish to Socrates and Susan to Phaedrus because Bill is giving a speech of heart, not head something in direct contrast to the encounters that Susan has had in her life so far; a pursuit of passion to a captive audience that just like Phaedres has never experienced being made mad by something. It is that madness, that irrationality that has to be present to have the passion to pursue something. I think that the love that Socrates is detailing on page 483 is not a platonic love of respect and sanity, but a passion that at certain times can have no logical reason. It is in this quote is where Socrates is foreshadowing his main idea of that madness is the pursuit of wisdom.
The main idea is the madness that drives you to, for example have the courage to see your beloved, to be daring, a daring that is driven by pursuit
but springs wildly foreword, causing all possible trouble to his mate and to the charioteer, and forcing them to approach the beloved and propose all the joys of love (495).
It is the second half of the main idea that I think Socrates is featuring resides in a pursuit of wisdom, fueled by the irrational passion. It is not the definition itself, but how and why Phaedrus/ the reader should arrive at the conclusions. The chase is what Socrates sees as the justifiable act of madness.
for loftiness of mind and effectiveness in all directions seems somehow to come from these pursuits (547).
Socrates is channeling his proof, and mine, through the value and effectiveness coming from the pursuit, not the simple acquisition of such thought through simple questions and answers. The loftiness is a chase that will only make what Phaedrus is attempting to attain somehow better, stronger and truer. I consider the above-mentioned quote to be one of the most comprehensive sentences of the entire text due to the broad nature of the claim. Effectiveness in all directions reinforces how I think Socrates feels about the pursuit of wisdom. To Phaedrus and the reader the quote is an open admission that by simply listening to a days worth of Socrates speeches or reading the text once, is a brutal underestimation of the of the critical thinking, that along with the madness is needed to pursue the desired wisdom.
Come here, then, noble creatures, and persuade the fair young Phaedrus that unless he pay proper attention to philosophy he will never be able to speak properly about anything (517).
I feel that Socrates at this point, after his 2nd speech is royally pissed at Phaedrus for telling the arrogant Socrates that speechmaking is an art according to Laconian. Socrates sees that the critical thinking that philosophy brings is an essential weapon in the pursuit that Phaedrus is after; and no matter how passionate you are about your pursuit, there is only one right way to pursue wisdom. I think that this quote is the beginning of some frustration that Socrates is feeling toward Phaedrus for not getting it. Frustration that could be characterized as passion or even madness that the reader of this discourse could develop; but without the critical thinking argues Socrates, it is futile.
The pursuit of wisdom is ultimate goal of Phaedrus/ the reader. That is the end result that is what being mad, is all about. By denouncing speechmaking, writing, and even his beloved rhetoric, Socrates demonstrates my point a quote about the nature of the mad pursuit.
If he has composed his writings with knowledge of the truth, and is able to support them with discussion of that which he has written, and has the power to show by his own speech that the written words are of little worth, such a man ought not to derive his title from such writings, but the serious pursuit that underlies them (575).
It is this proof, this evidence that states in clear, unambiguous language that Socrates is telling Phaedrus and the reader the main idea of the lesson. This quote comes at the very end of the lesson giving credence to the serious pursuit as being of a higher power than all other forms of communication that are rational, logical and are done without any heart. Passion and madness are both two serious things I believe, both Socrates and Bill Parish seem to agree with me too. Truth, support, discussion are important Socrates argues, but a man who could speak about knowledge and truth, obtains his title from the pursuit of such things; a pursuit that is without a doubt the central idea of the lesson.
The Phaedrus is a document that takes readers on a journey literally, a virtual instruction manual of what it means to be one that possesses soul. The main idea being that the soul is what drives a person, here on earth and in the after-life. The gospel according to Socrates demonstrates soul as immortal, all- knowing and infinite.
Concerning the immortality of the soul this is enough (471).
Soul is the trump card that presides over all aspects of life. The proof is in Socrates own definition of soul that transcends all living and non-living things in both the human life and the afterlife. I believe that Socrates uses direct, obvious dialogue about the nature of soul to be as perfectly clear as possible to in turn be straightforward as to the main idea of the text.
Every soul is immortal. For which is ever moving is immortal; but that which moves something else or is moved by something else, when it ceases to move, ceases to liveand since it is ungenerated, it must also be indestructible (469-71).
Socrates in this piece of evidence from the text deliberately outlines how the soul is the basis for all he speaks about; the essential lesson which all his speeches are based on. The soul, something that is unbreakable, immortal and that generates all human action. I think Socrates use of the soul, not as a metaphor, but as the id, or drive for all that the soul wants, is, and can do on earth and in the afterlife.
It is complete nonsense that the soul is the main idea of the Phaedrus. Absolute and complete nonsense, and Ill tell you why. The soul is nothing more than a thought; a blind spirit or a means to help is story along; nothing more. I believe the soul is nothing more than a by-product of something else, something grander and more encompassing. I am of course, talking about the true main idea of the Phaedrus: The mad pursuit of wisdom. I consider the soul to be just an instrument of the pursuit itself, because in the very nature of the pursuit, Socrates explains in using all interments of a human body — heart, mind and soul. It would be ridiculous to say the soul is the main idea when I plainly argue for the true main idea as a broader, relentless pursuit that uses the aspect of human soul in the pursuit of wisdom. Therefore I can conclude that the feeble argument made for the soul as the main idea of the Phaedrus is wrong by virtue my belief that soul is a mere instrument that Socrates uses to explain the mad pursuit of wisdom.
In a discourse this long, and lets face it complicated text, many arguments could be made. My paper is evidence that my main point is an accurate statement that is backed up proof in the form of textual evidence. The main idea of the Phaedrus is that Platos purpose for writing the document, and using Phaedrus as an example of a reader of the dialogue, is to develop a mad passion to pursue wisdom because of the way Socrates hints and later describes his definitions of madness, the pursuit of wisdom the critical thought that is needed. I proved this main idea through a series of proofs Socrates designed to light a fire in Phaedrus/the reader as to make them passionate about something. I also demonstrated through proofs that I thought Socrates later detailed how to pursue wisdom, fueled by this mad passion that I feel Socrates felt had to illogical. I made the comparison of Bill Parish and Socrates because I felt that the same way the old, wise Socrates was teaching Phaedrus that it was the mad pursuit that makes life worth living; Bill Parish was doing the exact same thing to his daughter Susan. It was another movie though that drove me to the point of madness, even irrational thought; one that Plato wrote, Socrates directed, and Phaedrus acted in, that in the end proved my own main idea.
—- On a personal note, I would like to personally thank you for turning me on to classic Greek literature. Especially all the encouragement you have given me in making this paper my own, and becoming literally addicted, passionate even, about the Phaedrus. I get the feeling though, that I can read and re-read this for 10 years and still not fully get everything that I could or should. But I guess that is the purpose of a text of this magnitude. I really hope enjoyed reading my thoughts on this, because I can honestly say I have had a great time writing it.
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