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Plato, Phaedrus 263b6

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 February 2009

Friedrich Solmsen
Affiliation:
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Extract

Οὐκο⋯ν τ⋯ν μέλλοντα τέχνην ῥητορικ⋯ν μετιέναι πρ⋯τον μέν δεῖ τα⋯τα ⋯δῷ διῃρ⋯σθαι, κα⋯ εἰληɸέναι τιν⋯ χαρακτ⋯ρα ⋯κατέρου το⋯ εἵδουδ, ⋯ν ᾧ τε ⋯ν⋯γκη τ⋯ πλ⋯θος πλαν⋯σθαι Kα⋯ ⋯ν ᾧ μή (Phaedrus 263b6–9). To the best of my knowledge the soundness of the first six words of this sentence (Οὐκο⋯ν…μετιέναι) has never been questioned, yet to accept them as they are in the manuscripts means to close one's eyes to the direction of the argument.

At 260d5–9 rhetoric personified and allowed to plead its case makes the ‘big’ statement that anyone learning how to speak would do well to know the truth about his subject but that even if he knows it he would not be able ἄνεν ⋯μο⋯, i.e. without the aid of rhetoric, πείθειν τέχνῃ. From that point on the issues are whether rhetoric justly claims to be a τέχνῃ, what territory it covers and how the procedure of someone practising it τέχνῃ may differ from that of one for whom it is an ἄτεχνος τριβή (see 260e3–5). Even if rhetoric engages in ⋯πάτη (261a6ff.) and proves e.g. one and the same thing to be both just and unjust (261c5ff., d3f.), success will be with ⋯ τέχνῃ το⋯το δρ⋯ν (clO); witness Zeno of Elea, a master in such arguments λέγοντα τέχνῃ when he makes the same things appear like and unlike or one and many (261d6–9). To judge shrewdly what kind of subjects deceive people more easily (261eff.) the rhetorician himself must have a firm grasp of the truth: λόγων ἄρα τέχνην, ⋯ ⋯ταῖρε, ⋯ τ⋯ν ⋯λήθειαν μ⋯ εἰδώς, δόξας δ⋯ τεθηρευκώς, γελοίαν τινά, ὡς ἔοικε, κα⋯ ἄτεχνον παρέξεται(262c 1 ff.).

Type
Shorter Notes
Copyright
Copyright © The Classical Association 1986

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References

1 Hackforth, R., Plato's Phaedrus (Cambridge, 1952)Google Scholar renders ⋯κατέρον το⋯ εἴδους by ‘the two kinds of words’. At 263a6ff. Socrates does come forward with a distinction between ⋯νόματα that mean the same to everybody and others of more controversial meaning. However, considering the reference to διανοεῖσθαι. at a7 and the application made to ἔρως at c7, I prefer to understand ‘two kinds of things’ or ‘of subjects’. Against the introduction of ⋯νομάτων, by conjecture at a2 (instead of τοιούτων) Verdenius, W. J. has rightly protested (Mnemosyne ser. 4, 8 [1955], 243)Google Scholar.

2 Definition in the orthodox form of a διαίρεσις is more easily recognised in Socrates' first speech (237b7–238c4) than in his second, whose poetic style severely limits technical language (244a4–245a8; 249d3ff.). For the liberties which the summary at 265ef. takes with the content of his speeches a reference to Hackforth, op. cit. 133 (n. 1) may suffice. Plato in effect supplies here an additional dihaeresis of μανία which pulls together both speeches while yet starting them off in opposite directions.

3 Immediately before 263b6 Socrates speaks of ⋯ ῥητορική (b3), and there is no obvious reason for changing from the simple ῥητορική to the more elaborate τέχνην ῥητορικήν.

4 See further 265d1 δυοῖν εἰδοῖν, εἰ αὐτοῖν τ⋯ν δύναμιν τέχνῃ λαβɛῖν 270b5 μ⋯ τριβῇ μόνον κα⋯ ⋯μπειρίᾳ, ⋯λλ⋯ τέχνῃ, 270e1 and e2ff., 271b8, c4, 272b1 (272e1 f.), 273e3, 277b1, c4.

Another representative passage is 266d2, where Socrates and Phaedrus have agreed that methods like those adumbrated at 263b belong properly speaking to dialectic, not to rhetoric, which seems still to elude them: καλόν πού τι ἄν εἴδ, ⋯ τούτν ⋯πολειɸθ⋯ν ὅμως τέχνῃ λαμβάνεται.

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