Phaedrus

by

Plato

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Phaedrus: 241e-243e Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Socrates explains that there’s no need for a lengthy speech lauding the opposite characteristics from those he’s already criticized. Anyway, the riverbank is the home of nymphs, and they might possess Socrates if he doesn’t leave now. Phaedrus begs him to stay and further discuss these subjects. Socrates remarks that Phaedrus has a divine capacity for speeches.
Socrates says that enough has already been said on this topic, and given that they’re sitting in the midst of a supernatural habitat, who knows what he might say next? This could be a sarcastic jab at the notion that good rhetoric owes more to divine inspiration than to wisdom. At this point, Phaedrus seems to have more of an appetite for speechmaking than for wisdom.
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Socrates then tells Phaedrus he will have to make another speech. He explains that as he was about to cross the Ilissus (the river by which they are talking), he had a “supernatural experience”—a sign urging him to atone for having offended the gods. He says that something troubled him as he was making the previous speech, and now he realizes that both Lysias’s speech and his own were “dreadful,” “foolish,” and “impious.”
Occasionally throughout Plato’s works, as here, Socrates mentions receiving divine nudges of this sort. However, recall that when he started his speech, Socrates covered his head in shame—he had misgivings from the start.
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Related Quotes
Phaedrus asks in surprise what offense Socrates could have committed, and Socrates reminds him that Love is a god, the son of Aphrodite. That being the case, both Lysias’s speech and his own slandered Love by attributing bad things to him. Furthermore, both speeches were guilty of a refined sort of foolishness—"parading themselves as if they were worth something while actually saying nothing healthy or true, in case they might deceive some poor specimens of humanity and win praise from them.” Unlike the previous speech, Socrates’s next speech will be made with his head uncovered.
Socrates explains that their speeches have spoken ill of the god Love, and the offense is compounded by the fact that in doing so, they’ve deceptively tried to win the applause of naïve humans. Socrates is guiding his discussion with Phaedrus toward a more intentional focus on the purpose of rhetoric.
Themes
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon