Phaedrus

by

Plato

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Phaedrus can help.

Lysias Character Analysis

Lysias is a celebrity speechwriter and speaker whom Phaedrus has just come from hearing at the beginning of Phaedrus. Phaedrus describes him as the cleverest of present writers. Though Lysias himself does not appear or speak in the dialogue, Phaedrus reads aloud to Socrates a copy of Lysias’s latest speech, which argues that it’s best to pursue a sexual relationship with someone who isn’t in love with you. Socrates disapproves of the speech and Phaedrus’s enthusiasm for it, and he offers a speech in response that overturns Lysias’s argument. Together, Socrates and Phaedrus dissect and critique Lysias’s lack of concern for the truth as evidenced by his speech. By the end of the dialogue, Socrates has demonstrated that Lysias stands for the worst tendencies of contemporary rhetoric and that philosophical dialectic is a superior approach.

Lysias Quotes in Phaedrus

The Phaedrus quotes below are all either spoken by Lysias or refer to Lysias. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Soul’s Struggle for Wisdom Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of Phaedrus published in 2005.
227a-230e Quotes

Phaedrus — if I don’t know Phaedrus, I’ve forgotten even who I am. But I do, and I haven’t; I know perfectly well that when he heard Lysias’ speech he did not hear it just once, but repeatedly asked him to go through it for him, and Lysias responded readily. But for Phaedrus not even that was enough, and in the end he borrowed the book and examined the things in it which he was most eager to look at, and doing this he sat from sun-up until he was tired and went for a walk [] knowing the speech quite off by heart, unless it was a rather long one. He was going outside the wall to practice it, when he met the very person who is sick with passion for hearing people speak — and [] he was glad, because he would have a companion in his manic frenzy, and he told him to lead on.

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Phaedrus, Lysias
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

But, Phaedrus, while I think such explanations attractive in other respects, they belong in my view to an over-clever and laborious person who is not altogether fortunate; just because after that he must set the shape of the Centaurs to rights, and again that of the Chimaera, and a mob of such things [] if someone is skeptical about these, and tries with his boorish kind of wisdom to reduce each to what is likely, he’ll need a good deal of leisure. As for me, there’s no way I have leisure for it all, and the reason for it, my friend, is this. I am not yet capable of ‘knowing myself’, in accordance with the Delphic inscription; so it seems absurd to me that while I am still ignorant of this subject I should inquire into things which do not belong to me.

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Phaedrus, Lysias
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
231a-234c Quotes

Yet how is it reasonable to give away such a thing to someone in so unfortunate a condition — one that no person with experience of it would even try to prevent? For the ones who suffer it agree themselves that they are sick rather than in their right mind, and that they know they are out of their mind but cannot control themselves; so how, when they come to their senses, could they approve of the decisions they make when in this condition? Moreover, if you were to choose the best one out of those in love with you, your choice would be only from a few, while if you chose the most suitable to yourself out of everybody else, you would be choosing from many; so that you would have a much greater expectation of chancing on the man worthy of your affection among the many.

Related Characters: Phaedrus (speaker), Lysias (speaker), Socrates
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
234d-241d Quotes

In everything, my boy, there is one starting-point for those who are going to deliberate successfully: they must know what they are deliberating about, or they will inevitably miss their target altogether. Most people are unaware that they do not know what each thing really is. So then, assuming that they know what it is, they fail to reach agreement about it at the beginning of their enquiry, and, having gone forward on this basis, they pay the penalty one would expect: they agree neither with themselves nor with each other. So let us, you and I, avoid having happen to us what we find fault with in others: since the discussion before you and me is whether one should rather enter into friendship with lover or with non-lover, let us establish an agreed definition of love, about what sort of thing it is and what power it possesses, and look to this as our point of reference while we make our enquiry as to whether it brings help or harm.

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Phaedrus, Lysias
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
241e-243e Quotes

When I was about to cross the river, my good man, I had that supernatural experience, the sign that I am accustomed to having — on each occasion, you understand, it holds me back from whatever I am about to do — and I seemed to hear a kind of voice from the very spot, forbidding me to leave until I make expiation, because I have committed an offence against what belongs to the gods. Well, I am a seer; not a very good one, but like people who are poor at reading and writing, just good enough for my own purposes; so I already clearly understand what my offence is. For the fact is, my friend, that the soul too is something which has divinatory powers; for something certainly troubled me some while ago as I was making the speech, and I had a certain feeling of unease, as Ibycus says (if I remember rightly), ‘that for offences against the gods, I win renown from all my fellow men’. But now I realize my offence.

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Phaedrus, Lysias
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
244a-257b Quotes

[It is not true that] when a lover is there for the having, one should rather grant favors to the one not in love, on the grounds that the first is mad, while the second is sane. That would be rightly said if it were a simple truth that madness is a bad thing; but as it is, the greatest of goods come to us through madness, provided that it is bestowed by divine gift. The prophetess at Delphi, no less, and the priestesses at Dodona do many fine things for Greece when mad, both on a private and on a public level, whereas when sane they achieve little or nothing; and if we speak of the Sibyl and of others who by means of inspired prophecy foretell many things to many people and set them on the right track with respect to the future, we would spin the story out by saying things that are obvious to everyone.

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Phaedrus, Lysias
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

These are the blessings, my boy, so great as to be counted divine, that will come to you from the friendship of a lover, in the way I have described; whereas the acquaintance of the one not in love, which is diluted with a merely mortal good sense, dispensing miserly benefits of a mortal kind, engenders in the soul that is the object of its attachment a meanness that, though praised by the many as a virtue, will cause it to wallow mindlessly around the earth and under the earth for nine thousand years.

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Phaedrus, Lysias
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire Phaedrus LitChart as a printable PDF.
Phaedrus.pdf.medium

Lysias Character Timeline in Phaedrus

The timeline below shows where the character Lysias appears in Phaedrus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
227a-230e
The Soul’s Struggle for Wisdom Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
...you’re going, and where have you come from?” Phaedrus says he’s just come from hearing Lysias speak and is taking a refreshing walk. (full context)
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
Socrates asks if Lysias had been “feasting you all with his speeches.” Phaedrus says that it will be appropriate... (full context)
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
With a heavy dose of sarcasm, Socrates remarks that Lysias’s speech sounds admirable, and that if only he were arguing in favor of a poor... (full context)
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
The Limits of Writing Theme Icon
Socrates retorts that if he knows Phaedrus at all, Phaedrus asked to hear Lysias’s speech not once, but repeatedly, and even borrowed a copy to memorize. He’s sure that... (full context)
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
The Limits of Writing Theme Icon
...he’d rather not have Phaedrus practice declaiming a speech he’s memorized, if he can hear Lysias’s exact words instead. Phaedrus admits he’s been foiled. (full context)
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
...and Phaedrus find a shady spot on the riverbank where they can sit and read Lysias’s speech. Phaedrus asks if this is the spot where the wind god Boreas was said... (full context)
231a-234c
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Phaedrus reads Lysias’s speech to Socrates. Lysias begins by claiming that he will not “fail to achieve the... (full context)
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Lysias continues that it’s unreasonable to agree to sex with someone who’s in the “unfortunate” condition... (full context)
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Lysias points out that men in love will likely boast about their conquests, while those not... (full context)
Love and Madness Theme Icon
It seems to make sense, Lysias says, to grant favors to those who need them the most, because they’ll be most... (full context)
234d-241d
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
Phaedrus finishes reading Lysias’s speech and asks Socrates what he thought of it. Socrates replies that he was “beside... (full context)
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
Phaedrus says that Socrates is “talking nonsense,” and that Lysias’s speech lacked nothing worth saying on the subject. Though Socrates pleads “ignorance” and his layman... (full context)
241e-243e
Love and Madness Theme Icon
...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.” (full context)
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
244a-257b
The Soul’s Struggle for Wisdom Theme Icon
Love and Madness Theme Icon
...speech to them and again asking forgiveness for what came before, and also asking that Lysias, too, will be turned toward philosophy. (full context)
257c-274a
The Soul’s Struggle for Wisdom Theme Icon
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
The Limits of Writing Theme Icon
Phaedrus praises Socrates’s speech and admits that Lysias now appears “wretched” to him by comparison. He muses that he heard someone disparaging Lysias... (full context)
The Soul’s Struggle for Wisdom Theme Icon
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
Socrates and Phaedrus decide to examine Lysias’s speech and Socrates’s own, in order to see whether they accord with the science of... (full context)
The Soul’s Struggle for Wisdom Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
...one speech and as the greatest of gifts in the other. They look again at Lysias’s speech to see if he clearly defined “love” at the beginning and ordered the rest... (full context)
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
After Phaedrus reads the beginning of Lysias’s speech again, Socrates points out that Lysias didn’t even “begin from the beginning,” but tried... (full context)
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
In contrast to Lysias’s speech, Socrates points out how he began his second speech by first distinguishing between human... (full context)
274b-279c
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
...wrap up their conversation, Socrates remarks that he thinks Isocrates will turn out better than Lysias, since Isocrates demonstrates “an innate philosophical instinct” which Lysias lacks. The two pray to the... (full context)