Phaedrus

by

Plato

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This term can be complicated in Greek philosophy, and even within a single work of Plato’s, because of its various shades of meaning. Love or eros can refer to passionate sexual desire; it can refer to the Greek god of love, Eros (“Cupid,” in Roman religion); and it can refer to a longing for higher goods like justice and beauty. In Phaedrus, Lysias’s and Socrates’s’ first two speeches are concerned with the first of these meanings—both argue that love is a form of madness that should be avoided in sexual relationships. Yet later, when Socrates realizes he’s dishonored the god Eros by speaking this way, he gives a second speech that focuses on the latter meaning of love—that is, love as the pursuit of the vision of eternal beauty. Ultimately, he argues that this philosophical type of love characterizes the highest human relationships, and consequently that the divinely-given “madness” of love should be embraced rather than avoided.

Love/Eros Quotes in Phaedrus

The Phaedrus quotes below are all either spoken by Love/Eros or refer to Love/Eros. For each quote, you can also see the other terms 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.
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 long 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

When the agreed time comes, and they pretend not to remember, it reminds them; struggling, neighing, pulling, it forces them to approach the beloved again to make the same proposition, and as soon as they are close to him, head down and tail outstretched, teeth clamped on its bit, it pulls shamelessly; but the same thing happens to the charioteer as before, only even more violently, as he falls back as if from a starting barrier; still more violently, he wrenches the bit back and forces it from the teeth of the horse of excess, spattering its evil-speaking tongue and its jaws with blood and, thrusting its legs and haunches to the ground […] When the bad horse has had the same thing happen to it repeatedly and it ceases from its excess, now humbled it allows the charioteer with his foresight to lead, and when it sees the boy in his beauty, it nearly dies of fright; and the result is that then the soul of the lover follows the beloved in reverence and awe.

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Phaedrus
Related Symbols: The Soul-Chariot’s Horses
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

And then, well, if the better elements of their minds get the upper hand by drawing them to a well-ordered life, and to philosophy, they pass their life here in blessedness and harmony, masters of themselves and orderly in their behavior, having enslaved that part through which badness attempted to enter the soul and having freed that part through which goodness enters; and when they die they become winged and light, and have won one of their three submissions in these, the true Olympic games - and neither human sanity nor divine madness has any greater good to offer a man than this. But if they live a coarser way of life, devoted not to wisdom but to honor, then perhaps, I suppose, when they are drinking or in some other moment of carelessness, the licentious horses in the two of them catch them off their guard, bring them together and make that choice which is called blessed by the many, and carry it through…

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Phaedrus
Related Symbols: The Soul-Chariot’s Horses
Page Number: 37
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
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Love/Eros Term Timeline in Phaedrus

The timeline below shows where the term Love/Eros appears in Phaedrus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
227a-230e
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
...to hear about Lysias’s speech because it was “in a certain sort of way about love.” He goes on to explain that in his speech, Lysias argued that one should grant... (full context)
231a-234c
Love and Madness Theme Icon
...“fail to achieve the things I ask for because I happen not to be in love with you.” He explains that, while those who are in love often later repent of... (full context)
Love and Madness Theme Icon
...unreasonable to agree to sex with someone who’s in the “unfortunate” condition of being in love—"for the ones who suffer it agree themselves that they are sick rather than in their... (full context)
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Lysias points out that men in love will likely boast about their conquests, while those not in love are more likely to... (full context)
234d-241d
Love and Madness Theme Icon
...his speech. He opens by telling the story of a handsome young lad with many lovers. One cunning lover convinced the lad that he (the lover) was not in love with... (full context)
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
Socrates quotes the imaginary lover as saying that most people fail to establish the subject of their deliberations at the... (full context)
The Soul’s Struggle for Wisdom Theme Icon
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
Socrates explains that, in order to distinguish between a man who’s in love and one who isn’t, the first step is to observe that every person is ruled... (full context)
Love and Madness Theme Icon
When the lover falls out of love and returns to his senses, leaving his “previous mindless regime,” says... (full context)
241e-243e
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
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... (full context)
244a-257b
Love and Madness Theme Icon
...that it isn’t true that “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 might... (full context)
The Soul’s Struggle for Wisdom Theme Icon
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
In addition to the aforementioned types of madness, love is “sent from the gods to help lover and beloved.” This kind of madness brings... (full context)
The Soul’s Struggle for Wisdom Theme Icon
Love and Madness Theme Icon
...alternately pining for and finding relief in the presence of beauty is what is called “love.” (full context)
The Soul’s Struggle for Wisdom Theme Icon
Love and Madness Theme Icon
...image of the good and bad horse and describes their respective behavior in connection to love. When the “charioteer” catches sight of a beloved, the good horse shows restraint, but the... (full context)
The Soul’s Struggle for Wisdom Theme Icon
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Socrates concludes his speech by again contrasting the divine blessings that accompany friendship with a lover and the “good sense” and “miserly benefits” that come with acquaintance with one who’s not... (full context)
257c-274a
The Soul’s Struggle for Wisdom Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
Phaedrus and Socrates agree that “love” is a more abstract, uncertain type of thing, and Phaedrus aptly points out that Socrates... (full context)
Love and Madness Theme Icon
Rhetoric and Philosophy Theme Icon
...madness, and from there identified four types of divine madness, culminating in the best one, love. He explains to Phaedrus how this worked scientifically: first, he gathered together scattered things under... (full context)