Socrates tears Alcibiades from the grip of sensual pleasure

Notes on and Excerpts from Plato's Phaedrus

"To be curious about that which is not my concern, while I am still in ignorance of my own self, would be ridiculous." Socrates

  1. Socrates: I have no leisure for such enquiries [about fables]; shall I tell you why? I must first know myself, as the Delphian inscription says; to be curious about that which is not my concern, while I am still in ignorance of my own self, would be ridiculous.

  2. Socrates: I am a lover of knowledge, and the men who dwell in the city are my teachers, and not the trees or the country.

  3. Phaedrus (reading): Lovers themselves confess that they are insane, rather than in their right mind, and that they know they are foolish, but cannot control themselves.

  4. Socrates: The book is miraculous, my friend; I am quite overcome by it. And this is due to you, Phaedrus, because as I looked at you, I saw that you were in ecstasy as you read. So, thinking that you know more than I about such matters, I followed in your train and joined you in the divine frenzy.

  5. Socrates: The author repeats himself.

  6. Socrates: I am sure that I must have heard more inspiring words about love; but at this moment I do not remember from whom; perhaps from Sappho the fair, or Anacreon the wise; or, possibly, from a prose writer. Why do I say so? Why, because I perceive that my bosom is full, and that I could make another speech as good as that of Lysias, and different. Now I am certain that this is not an invention of my own, who am well aware that I know nothing, and therefore I can only infer that I have been filled through the ears, like a pitcher, from the waters of another, though I have actually forgotten in my stupidity who was my informant.

  7. Socrates: Come, Oh ye Muses, melodious, as ye are called, whether you have received this name from the character of your strains, or because the Melians are a musical race, help, Oh help me in the tale which my good friend here desires me to rehearse, in order that his friend whom he always deemed wise may seem to him to be wiser than ever. 237b

  8. Socrates tells Phaedrus the story of a lover of a beautiful youth who had convinced the youth that he was not his lover. He enjoins the youth to enquire with him whether love brings advantage or harm.

  9. Lover: In every one of us there are two guiding and ruling principles which lead us whither they will; one is the natural desire of pleasure, the other is an acquired opinion which aspires after the best; and these two are sometimes in harmony and then again at war, and sometimes the one, sometimes the other conquers.

  10. Lover: When opinion leads through reason toward the best and is more powerful, [238a] its power is called self-restraint, but when desire irrationally drags us toward pleasures and rules within us, its rule is called excess.

  11. Lover: Irrational desire which overcomes the tendency of opinion towards right, and is led away to the enjoyment of beauty, and especially of personal beauty, by the desires which are her own kindred -- that supreme desire, I say, which by leading conquers and by the force of passion is reinforced, from this very force, receiving a name, is called erotic love [erromenos eros].

  12. Socrates: Listen to me in silence; for truly [238d] the place seems filled with a divine presence; so do not be surprised if I often seem to be in a frenzy as my discourse progresses, for I am already almost uttering dithyrambics.

  13. Socrates: Keeping the definition in view, let us now enquire what advantage or disadvantage is likely to ensue from the lover or the non-lover to him who accepts their advances.

  14. Plato: He who is ruled by desire and is a slave to pleasure will inevitably desire to make his beloved as pleasing to himself as possible. Now to one who is of unsound mind everything is pleasant which does not oppose him, but everything that is better or equal is hateful. [239a] So the lover will not, if he can help it, endure a beloved who is better than himself or his equal, but always makes him weaker and inferior; but the ignorant is inferior to the wise, the coward to the brave, the poor speaker to the eloquent, the slow of wit to the clever.

  15. Socrates: Such mental defects, and still greater than these, in the beloved will necessarily please the lover, if they are implanted by Nature, and if they are not, he must implant them or be deprived of his immediate enjoyment. [239b]

  16. Socrates: And he is of necessity jealous and will do his lover great harm by keeping him from many advantageous associations, which would most tend to make a man of him, especially from that which would do most to make him wise. This is divine philosophy, and from it the lover will certainly keep his beloved away, through fear of being despised; and he will contrive to keep him ignorant of everything else and make him look to his lover for everything, so that he will be most agreeable to him [239c] and most harmful to himself.

  17. Socrates: We must next consider how he who is forced to follow pleasure and not good will keep the body of him whose master he is, and what care he will give to it. He will plainly court a beloved who is effeminate, not virile, not brought up in the pure sunshine, but in mingled shade, unused to manly toils and the sweat of exertion, but accustomed to a delicate and [239d] unmanly mode of life, adorned with a bright complexion of artificial origin, since he has none by nature, and in general living a life such as all this indicates, which it is certainly not worth while to describe further.

  18. Socrates: A person with such a body, in war and in all important crises, gives courage to his enemies, and fills his friends, and even his lovers themselves, with fear.

  19. Socrates: Now it is clear to everyone, and especially to the lover, that he would desire above all things to have his beloved bereft of the dearest and kindest and holiest possessions; for he would wish him to be deprived of father, mother, relatives and friends, [240a] thinking that they would hinder and censure his most sweet intercourse with him. But he will also think that one who has property in money or other possessions will be less easy to catch and when caught will be less manageable; wherefore the lover must necessarily begrudge his beloved the possession of property and rejoice at its loss. Moreover the lover would wish his beloved to be as long as possible unmarried, childless, and homeless, since he wishes to enjoy as long as possible what is pleasant to himself.

  20. Socrates: The lover is not only unlike his beloved, but he forces himself upon him. For he is old and his love is young, and neither day nor night will he leave him if he can help; necessity and the sting of desire drive him on, and allure him with the pleasure which he receives from seeing, hearing, touching, perceiving him in every way. And therefore he is delighted to fasten upon him and to minister to him.

  21. Socrates: But what consolation or what pleasure can he give the beloved? Must not this protracted intercourse bring him to the uttermost disgust, as he looks at the old, unlovely face, and other things to match, which [240e] it is not pleasant even to hear about, to say nothing of being constantly compelled to come into contact with them?

  22. Socrates: And while he is in love he is harmful and disagreeable, but when his love has ceased he is thereafter false to him whom he formerly hardly induced [241a] to endure his wearisome companionship through the hope of future benefits by making promises with many prayers and oaths. But now that the time of payment has come he has a new ruler and governor within him, sense and reason in place of love and madness, and has become a different person; but of this his beloved knows nothing. He asks of him a return for former favors, reminding him of past sayings and doings, as if he were speaking to the same man; but the lover is ashamed to say that he has changed, and yet he cannot keep the oaths and promises he made [241b] when he was ruled by his former folly: now that he has regained his reason and come to his senses, lest by doing what he formerly did he become again what he was. He runs away from these things, and the former lover is compelled to become a defaulter. The shell has fallen with the other side up;5 and he changes his part and runs away; and the other is forced to run after him in anger and with imprecations, he who did not know at the start that he ought never to have accepted a lover [241c] who was necessarily without reason, but rather a reasonable non-lover; for otherwise he would have to surrender himself to one who was faithless, irritable, jealous, and disagreeable, harmful to his property, harmful to his physical condition, and most harmful by far to the cultivation of his soul, than which there neither is nor ever will be anything of higher importance in truth either in heaven or on earth.

  23. Socrates: "Just as the wolf loves the lamb, so the lover adores his beloved."

  24. Socrates: Does not your simplicity observe that I have got out of dithyrambics into heroics, when only uttering a censure on the lover? And if I am to add the praises of the non-lover what will become of me? Do you not perceive that I am already overtaken by the Nymphs to whom you have mischievously exposed me? And therefore I will only add that the non-lover has all the advantages in which the lover is accused of being deficient.

  25. Socrates: That was a dreadful speech which you brought with you, and you made me utter one as bad.

  26. Socrates: It was not acknowledged that Eros is the son of Aphrodite and a god--by Lysias in his speech, nor by you in that other speech which you by a charm drew from my lips. For if Eros be, as he surely is, a divinity, he cannot be evil. Yet this was the error of both the speeches. There was also a simplicity about them which was refreshing; having no truth or honesty in them, nevertheless they pretended to be something, hoping to succeed in deceiving the manikins of earth and gain celebrity among them. Wherefore I must have a purgation. And I bethink me of an ancient purgation of mythological error which was devised, not by Homer, for he never had the wit to discover why he was blind, but by Stesichorus, who was a philosopher and knew the reason why; and therefore, when he lost his eyes, for that was the penalty which was inflicted upon him for reviling the lovely Helen, he at once purged himself and when he had completed his poem, which is called "the recantation," immediately his sight returned to him. And the purgation was a recantation, which began thus,
    "False is that word of mine -- the truth is that thou didst not embark in ships, nor ever go to the walls of Troy."

  27. Socrates: I am going to make my recantation for reviling Eros before I suffer; and this I will attempt, not as before, veiled and ashamed, but with forehead bold and bare.

  28. Socrates: Know then, fair youth, that the former discourse was the word of Phaedrus, the son of Vain Man, who dwells in the city of Myrrhina [Myrrhinusius]. And this which I am about to utter is the recantation of Stesichorus the son of Godly Man [Euphemus], who comes from the town of Desire [Himera], and is to the following effect: "I told a lie when I said that the beloved ought to accept the non-lover when he might have the lover, because the one is sane, and the other mad. It might be so if madness were simply an evil; but there is also a madness which is a divine gift, and the source of the chiefest blessings granted to men. For prophecy is a madness, and the prophetess at Delphi and the priestesses at Dodona when out of their senses have conferred great benefits on Hellas, both in public and private life, but when in their senses few or none. And I might also tell you how the Sibyl and other inspired persons have given to many an one many an intimation of the future which has saved them from falling. But it would be tedious to speak of what every one knows.

  29. Socrates: And it is worth while to adduce also the fact that those men of old who invented names thought that madness was neither shameful nor disgraceful; [244c] otherwise they would not have connected the very word mania with the noblest of arts, that which foretells the future, by calling it the manic art. No, they gave this name thinking that mania, when it comes by gift of the gods, is a noble thing, but nowadays people call prophecy the mantic art, tastelessly inserting a T in the word.

  30. Socrates: The ancients, then testify that in proportion as prophecy (mantike) is superior to augury, both in name and in fact, in the same proportion madness, which comes from god, is superior to sanity [sophrosune], which is of human origin.

  31. Socrates: Where plagues and mightiest woes have bred in certain families, owing to some ancient blood-guiltiness, there madness has entered with holy prayers and rites, and by inspired utterances found a way of deliverance for those who are in need; and he who has part in this gift, and is truly possessed and duly out of his mind, is by the use of purifications and mysteries made whole and exempt from evil, future as well as present, and has a release from the calamity which was afflicting him.

  32. Socrates: And a third kind of possession and madness comes from the Muses. This takes hold upon a gentle and pure soul, arouses it and inspires it to songs and other poetry, and thus by adorning countless deeds of the ancients educates later generations.

  33. Socrates: But he who without the divine madness comes to the doors of the Muses, confident that he will be a good poet by art, meets with no success, and the poetry of the sane man vanishes into nothingness before that of the inspired madmen. [245b]

  34. Socrates: Let no one frighten or flutter us by saying that the temperate friend is to be chosen rather than the inspired.

  35. Socrates: Love is not sent by the gods for any good to lover or beloved.

  36. Socrates: The divine madness of love [245c] is sent by the gods for our greatest happiness; and our proof will not be believed by the merely clever, but will be accepted by the truly wise.

  37. Socrates: Of the nature of the soul, though her true form be ever a theme of large and more than mortal discourse, let me speak briefly, and in a figure. And let the figure be composite -- a pair of winged horses and a charioteer. Now the winged horses and the charioteers of the gods are all of them noble and of noble descent, but those of other "kinds" are mixed; the human charioteer drives his in a pair; and one of them is noble and of noble breed, and the other is ignoble and of ignoble breed; and the driving of them of necessity gives a great deal of trouble to him.

  38. Socrates: The soul in her totality has the care of inanimate being everywhere, and traverses the whole heaven in divers forms appearing -- when perfect and fully winged she soars upward, and orders the whole world; whereas the imperfect soul, losing her wings and drooping in her flight at last settles on the solid ground -- there, finding a home, she receives an earthly frame which appears to be self-moved, but is really moved by her power; and this composition of soul and body is called a living and mortal creature.

  39. Socrates: We will now consider the reason why the soul loses its wings. It is something like this. The natural function of the wing is to soar upwards and carry that which is heavy up to the place where dwell the gods. More than any other thing that pertains to the body [246e] the wing partakes of the nature of the divine. But the divine is beauty, wisdom, goodness, and all such qualities; by these then the wings of the soul are nourished and grow, but by the opposite qualities, such as vileness and evil, they are wasted away and destroyed.

  40. Socrates: But of the heaven which is above the heavens, what earthly poet ever did or ever will sing worthily? It is such as I will describe; for I must dare to speak the truth, when truth is my theme. There abides the very being with which true knowledge is concerned; the colorless, formless, intangible essence, visible only to mind, the pilot of the soul. The divine intelligence, being nurtured upon mind and pure knowledge, and the intelligence of every soul which is capable of receiving the food proper to it, rejoices at beholding reality, and once more gazing upon truth, is replenished and made glad, until the revolution of the worlds brings her round again to the same place. In the revolution she beholds justice, and temperance, and knowledge absolute, not in the form of generation or of relation, which men call existence, but knowledge absolute in existence absolute; and beholding the other true existences in like manner, and feasting upon them, she passes down into the interior of the heavens and returns home; and there the charioteer putting up his horses at the stall, gives them ambrosia to eat and nectar to drink.

  41. Socrates: The soul which follows God best and is likest to him lifts the head of the charioteer into the outer world, and is carried round in the revolution, troubled indeed by the steeds, and with difficulty beholding true being; while another only rises and falls, and sees, and again fails to see by reason of the unruliness of the steeds.

  42. Socrates: The other souls follow after, all yearning for the upper region but unable to reach it, and are carried round beneath, [248b] trampling upon and colliding with one another, each striving to pass its neighbor. So there is the greatest confusion and sweat of rivalry, wherein many are lamed, and many wings are broken through the incompetence of the drivers; and after much toil they all go away without gaining a view of reality, and when they have gone away they feed upon opinion.

  43. Socrates: There is a law of Destiny, that the soul which attains any vision of truth in company with a god is preserved from harm until the next period, and if attaining constantly is always unharmed. But when she is unable to follow, and fails to behold the truth, and through some ill-hap sinks beneath the double load of forgetfulness and vice, and her wings fall from her and she drops to the ground, then the law ordains that this soul shall at her first birth pass, not into any other animal, but only into man; and the soul which has seen most of truth shall come to incarnation as a philosopher, or artist, or some musical and loving nature; that which has seen truth in the second degree shall be some righteous king or warrior chief; the soul which is of the third class shall be a politician, or economist, or trader; the fourth shall be a lover of gymnastic toils, or a physician; the fifth shall lead the life of a prophet or hierophant; to the sixth the character of poet or some other imitative artist will be assigned; to the seventh the life of an artisan or husbandman; to the eighth that of a sophist or demagogue; to the ninth that of a tyrant -- all these are states of probation, in which he who does righteously improves, and he who does unrighteously, deteriorates his lot.

  44. Socrates: Ten thousand years must elapse before the soul of each one can return to the place from whence she came, for she cannot grow her wings in less; only the soul of a philosopher, guileless and true, or the soul of a lover, who is not devoid of philosophy, may acquire wings in the third of the recurring periods of a thousand years; he is distinguished from the ordinary good man who gains wings in three thousand years: -- and they who choose this life three times in succession have wings given them, and go away at the end of three thousand years. But the others [The philosopher alone is not subject to judgment (krisis), for he has never lost the vision of truth.] receive judgment when they have completed their first life, and after the judgment they go, some of them to the houses of correction which are under the earth, and are punished; others to some place in heaven whither they are lightly borne by justice, and there they live in a manner worthy of the life which they led here when in the form of men.

  45. Socrates: And at the end of the first thousand years the good souls and also the evil souls both come to draw lots and choose their second life, and they may take any which they please. The soul of a man may pass into the life of a beast, or from the beast return again into the man. But the soul which has never seen the truth will not pass into the human form. For a man must have intelligence of universals, and be able to proceed from the many particulars of sense to one conception of reason; -- this is the recollection of those things which our soul once saw while following God -- when regardless of that which we now call being she raised her head up towards the true being.

  46. Socrates: And therefore it is just that the mind of the philosopher only has wings, for he is always, so far as he is able, in communion through memory with those things the communion with which causes God to be divine. Now a man who employs such memories rightly is always being initiated into perfect mysteries and he alone becomes truly perfect; [249d] but since he separates himself from human interests and turns his attention toward the divine, he is rebuked by the vulgar, who consider him mad and do not know that he is inspired.

  47. Socrates: All my discourse so far has been about the fourth kind of madness, which causes him to be regarded as mad, who, when he sees the beauty on earth, remembering the true beauty, feels his wings growing and longs to stretch them for an upward flight, but cannot do so, and, like a bird, gazes upward and neglects the things below. [249e]

  48. Socrates: I have shown this of all inspirations to be the noblest and highest and the offspring of the highest to him who has or shares in it, and that he who loves the beautiful is called a lover because he partakes of it. For, as has been already said, every soul of man has in the way of nature beheld true being; this was the condition of her passing into the form of man. But all souls do not easily recall the things of the other world; they may have seen them for a short time only, or they may have been unfortunate in their earthly lot, and, having had their hearts turned to unrighteousness through some corrupting influence, they may have lost the memory of the holy things which once they saw. Few only retain an adequate remembrance of them; and they, when they behold here any image of that other world, are rapt in amazement; but they are ignorant of what this rapture means, because they do not clearly perceive. For there is no light of justice or temperance or any of the higher ideas which are precious to souls in the earthly copies of them: they are seen through a glass dimly; and there are few who, going to the images, behold in them the realities, and these only with difficulty. There was a time when with the rest of the happy band they saw beauty shining in brightness, -- we philosophers following in the train of Zeus, others in company with other gods; and then we beheld the beatific vision and were initiated into a mystery which may be truly called most blessed, celebrated by us in our state of innocence, before we had any experience of evils to come, when we were admitted to the sight of apparitions innocent and simple and calm and happy, which we beheld shining in pure light, pure ourselves and not yet enshrined in that living tomb which we carry about, now that we are imprisoned in the body, like an oyster in his shell. Let me linger over the memory of scenes which have passed away.

  49. Socrates: But of beauty, I repeat again that we saw her there shining in company with the celestial forms; and coming to earth we find her here too, shining in clearness through the clearest aperture of sense. For sight is the most piercing of our bodily senses; though not by that is wisdom seen; her loveliness would have been transporting if there had been a visible image of her, and the other ideas, if they had visible counterparts, would be equally lovely. But this is the privilege of beauty, that being the loveliest she is also the most palpable to sight.

  50. Socrates: Now he who is not newly initiated or who has become corrupted, does not easily rise out of this world to the sight of true beauty in the other; he looks only at her earthly namesake, and instead of being awed at the sight of her, he is given over to pleasure, and like a brutish beast he rushes on to enjoy and beget; he consorts with wantonness, and is not afraid or ashamed of pursuing pleasure in violation of nature.

  51. Socrates: But he whose initiation is recent, and who has been the spectator of many glories in the other world, is amazed when he sees any one having a godlike face or form, which is the expression of divine beauty; and at first a shudder runs through him, and again the old awe steals over him; then looking upon the face of his beloved as of a god he reverences him, and if he were not afraid of being thought a downright madman, he would sacrifice to his beloved as to the image of a god; then while he gazes on him there is a sort of reaction, and the shudder passes into an unusual heat and perspiration; for, as he receives the effluence of beauty through the eyes, the wing moistens and he warms. And as he warms, the parts out of which the wing grew, and which had been hitherto closed and rigid, and had prevented the wing from shooting forth, are melted, and as nourishment streams upon him, the lower end of the wing begins to swell and grow from the root upwards; and the growth extends under the whole soul -- for once the whole was winged.

  52. Socrates: During this process the whole soul is all in a state of ebullition and effervescence, -- which may be compared to the irritation and uneasiness in the gums at the time of cutting teeth, -- bubbles up, and has a feeling of uneasiness and tickling; but when in like manner the soul is beginning to grow wings, the beauty of the beloved meets her eye and she receives the sensible warm motion of particles which flow towards her, therefore called emotion [imeros], and is refreshed and warmed by them, and then she ceases from her pain with joy. But when she is parted from her beloved and her moisture fails, then the orifices of the passage out of which the wing shoots dry up and close, and intercept the germ of the wing; which, being shut up with the emotion, throbbing as with the pulsations of an artery, pricks the aperture which is nearest, until at length the entire soul is pierced and maddened and pained, and at the recollection of beauty is again delighted. And from both of them together the soul is oppressed at the strangeness of her condition, and is in a great strait and excitement, and in her madness can neither sleep by night nor abide in her place by day. And wherever she thinks that she will behold the beautiful one, thither in her desire she runs. And when she has seen him, and bathed herself in the waters of beauty, her constraint is loosened, and she is refreshed, and has no more pangs and pains; and this is the sweetest of all pleasures at the time, and is the reason why the soul of the lover will never forsake his beautiful one, whom he esteems above all; he has forgotten mother and brethren and companions, and he thinks nothing of the neglect and loss of his property; the rules and proprieties of life, on which he formerly prided himself, he now despises, and is ready to sleep like a servant, wherever he is allowed, as near as he can to his desired one, who is the object of his worship, and the physician who can alone assuage the greatness of his pain.

  53. Socrates: And so it is with the follower of each of the other gods; he lives, so far as he is able, honoring and imitating that god, so long as he is uncorrupted, and is living his first life on earth, and in that way he behaves and conducts himself toward his beloved and toward all others. Now each one chooses his love from the ranks of the beautiful according to his character, and he fashions him and adorns him [252e] like a statue, as though he were his god, to honor and worship him. 252e

  54. Socrates: The followers of Zeus desire that their beloved should have a soul like him; and therefore they seek out some one of a philosophical and imperial nature, and when they have found him and loved him, they do all they can to confirm such a nature in him, and if they have no experience of such a disposition hitherto, they learn of any one who can teach them, and themselves follow in the same way.

  55. Socrates: And they have the less difficulty in finding the nature of their own god in themselves, because they have been compelled to gaze intensely on him; their recollection clings to him, and they become possessed of him, and receive from him their character and disposition, so far as man can participate in God. 253a

  56. Socrates: And in like manner the followers of Apollo, and of every other god walking in the ways of their god, seek a love who is to be made like him whom they serve, and when they have found him, they themselves imitate their god, and persuade their love to do the same, and educate him into the manner and nature of the god as far as they each can; for no feelings of envy or jealousy are entertained by them towards their beloved, but they do their utmost to create in him the greatest likeness of themselves and of the god whom they honor.

  57. Socrates: When the unruly horse has been disciplined several times and the villain has ceased from his wanton way, he is tamed and humbled, and follows the will of the charioteer, and when he sees the beautiful one he is ready to die of fear. And from that time forward the soul of the lover follows the beloved in modesty and holy fear. 254e

  58. Socrates: For fate which has ordained that there shall be no friendship among the evil has also ordained that there shall ever be friendship among the good.

  59. Socrates: And the beloved when he has received him into communion and intimacy, is quite amazed at the good-will of the lover; he recognizes that the inspired friend is worth all other friends or kinsmen; they have nothing of friendship in them worthy to be compared with his.

  60. Socrates: The stream of beauty, passing through the eyes which are the windows of the soul, comes back to the beautiful one; there arriving and quickening the passages of the wings, watering them and inclining them to grow, and filling the soul of the beloved also with love.

  61. Socrates: For those who have once begun the heavenward pilgrimage may not go down again to darkness and the journey beneath the earth, but they live in light always; happy companions in their pilgrimage, and when the time comes at which they receive their wings they have the same plumage because of their love.

  62. Socrates: In good speaking the mind of the speaker should know the truth of the matter about which he is going to speak. 259e

  63. Phaedrus: I have heard that one who is to be an orator does not need to know what is really just, but what would seem just to the multitude who are to pass judgment, and not what is really good or noble, but what will seem to be so; for they say that persuasion comes from what seems to be true, not from the truth.

  64. Socrates: When the orator who does not know what good and evil are undertakes to persuade a state which is equally ignorant, not by praising the "shadow of an ass" under the name of a horse, but by praising evil under the name of good, and having studied the opinions of the multitude persuades them to do evil instead of good, what harvest do you suppose his oratory will reap thereafter [260d] from the seed he has sown?

  65. Socrates: 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.

  66. Socrates: He who is to deceive another, and is not to be deceived himself, must know accurately the similarity and dissimilarity of things.

  67. Socrates: He who would be a master of the art must understand the real nature of everything; or he will never know either how to make the gradual departure from truth into the opposite of truth which is effected by the help of resemblances, or how to avoid it

  68. Socrates: I am myself a great lover of these processes of division and generalization; they help me to speak and to think. And if I find any man who is able to see "a One and Many" in nature, him I follow, and "walk in his footsteps as if he were a god." And those who have this art, I have hitherto been in the habit of calling dialecticians; but God knows whether the name is right or not.

  69. Socrates: Would they not treat him as a musician a man who thinks that he is a harmonist because he knows how to pitch the highest and lowest note; happening to meet such an one he would not say to him savagely, "Fool, you are mad!" But like a musician, in a gentle and harmonious tone of voice, he would answer: "My good friend, he who would be a harmonist must certainly know this, and yet he may understand nothing of harmony if he has not got beyond your stage of knowledge, for you only know the preliminaries of harmony and not harmony itself."

  70. Socrates: "Have a little patience, Phaedrus and Socrates, they would say; you should not be in such a passion with those who from some want of dialectical skill are unable to define the nature of rhetoric, and consequently suppose that they have found the art in the preliminary conditions of it, and when these have been taught by them to others, fancy that the whole art of rhetoric has been taught by them; but as to using the several instruments of the art effectively, or making the composition a whole, -- an application of it such as this is they regard as an easy thing which their disciples may make for themselves."

  71. Socrates: Oratory is the art of enchanting the soul, and therefore he who would be an orator has to learn the differences of human souls -- they are so many and of such a nature, and from them come the differences between man and man. Having proceeded thus far in his analysis, he will next divide speeches into their different classes: -- "Such and such persons," he will say, are affected by this or that kind of speech in this or that way, and he will tell you why. The pupil must have a good theoretical notion of them first, and then he must have experience of them in actual life, and be able to follow them with all his senses about him, or he will never get beyond the precepts of his masters. But when he understands what persons are persuaded by what arguments, and sees the person about whom he was speaking in the abstract actually before him, and knows that it is he, and can say to himself, "This is the man or this is the character who ought to have a certain argument applied to him in order to convince him of a certain opinion;" -- he who knows all this, and knows also when he should speak and when he should refrain, and when he should use pithy sayings, pathetic appeals, sensational effects, and all the other modes of speech which he has learned; -- when, I say, he knows the times and seasons of all these things, then, and not till then, he is a perfect master of his art.

  72. Socrates: And this skill he will not attain without a great deal of trouble, which a good man ought to undergo, not for the sake of speaking and acting before men, but in order that he may be able to say what is acceptable to God and always to act acceptably to Him as far as in him lies; for there is a saying of wiser men than ourselves, that a man of sense should not try to please his fellow-servants (at least this should not be his first object) but his good and noble masters.

  73. Socrates: There is another kind of word or speech far better than this, and having far greater power: an intelligent word graven in the soul of the learner, which can defend itself, and knows when to speak and when to be silent.

  74. Phaedrus: You mean the living word of knowledge which has a soul, and of which the written word is properly no more than an image? Socrates: Yes

  75. Socrates: But nobler far is the serious pursuit of the dialectician, who, finding a congenial soul, by the help of science sows and plants therein words which are able to help themselves and him who planted them, and are not unfruitful, but have in them a seed which others brought up in different soils render immortal, making the possessors of it happy to the utmost extent of human happiness.

  76. Socrates: Until a man knows the truth of the several particulars of which he is writing or speaking, and is able to define them as they are, and having defined them again to divide them until they can be no longer divided, and until in like manner he is able to discern the nature of the soul, and discover the different modes of discourse which are adapted to different natures, and to arrange and dispose them in such a way that the simple form of speech may be addressed to the simpler nature, and the complex and composite to the more complex nature -- until he has accomplished all this, he will be unable to handle arguments according to rules of art, as far as their nature allows them to be subjected to art, either for the purpose of teaching or persuading; -- such is the view which is implied in the whole preceding argument.

  77. Socrates: For not to know the nature of justice and injustice, and good and evil, and not to be able to distinguish the dream from the reality, cannot in truth be otherwise than disgraceful to him, even though he have the applause of the whole world.

  78. Socrates: But he who thinks that in the written word there is necessarily much which is not serious, and that neither poetry nor prose, spoken or written, is of any great value, if, like the compositions of the rhapsodes, they are only recited in order to be believed, and not with any view to criticism or instruction; and who thinks that even the best of writings are but a reminiscence of what we know, and that only in principles of justice and goodness and nobility taught and communicated orally for the sake of instruction and graven in the soul, which is the true way of writing, is there clearness and perfection and seriousness, and that such principles are a man's own and his legitimate offspring; -- being, in the first place, the word which he finds in his own bosom; secondly, the brethren and descendants and relations of his idea which have been duly implanted by him in the souls of others; -- and who cares for them and no others -- this is the right sort of man; and you and I, Phaedrus, would pray that we may become like him.

  79. Socrates: Go and tell Lysias that to the fountain and school of the Nymphs we went down, and were bidden by them to convey a message to him and to other composers of speeches -- to Homer and other writers of poems, whether set to music or not; and to Solon and others who have composed writings in the form of political discourses which they would term laws -- to all of them we are to say that if their compositions are based on knowledge of the truth, and they can defend or prove them, when they are put to the test, by spoken arguments, which leave their writings poor in comparison of them, then they are to be called, not only poets, orators, legislators, but are worthy of a higher name, befitting the serious pursuit of their life.

  80. Socrates: Wise, I may not call them; for that is a great name which belongs to God alone, -- lovers of wisdom or philosophers is their modest and befitting title.

  81. Socrates: Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who haunt this place, give me beauty in the inward soul; and may the outward and inward man be at one. May I reckon the wise to be the wealthy, and may I have such a quantity of gold as a temperate man and he only can bear and carry. -- Anything more? The prayer, I think, is enough for me.