Plato's Phaedrus: A Defense of a Philosophic Art of Writing by Ronna Burger

By Ronna Burger

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It is the "prophets of the Muses" and the "gods of the place"—Pan and the nymphs—whom Socrates later praises for the artfulness displayed in his first speech delivered in the name of the nonlover (262d), and again the nymphs and Pan whom Socrates credits for the artful beginning of that speech, which establishes with no prior defense a determinate definition of eros as the premise of its condemnation (263d). The sacred resting spot, which Socrates enthusiastically describes upon their arrival, belongs to the nymphs and the cicadas, prophets of the Muses (cf.

247c). 27 Lysias's nonerotic art of writing thus represents the necessary opposition that reveals the limitations of Socrates' praise for the madness of eros, awakened by desire for a particular beloved. But the speech of the nonlover, who claims to possess objectivity through the mastery of desire, discloses the germ of truth in its condemnation of eros only in light of its nature as a product of writing cop- 28 Plato's Phaedrus structed by art in the absence of desire; the silence and immutability attributed to the written word at the conclusion of the conversation (cf.

Because the self-contradiction of Lysias's speech consists in the impossibility of its being an address to any particular beloved, it seems to indicate the conditions for persuasion and submission in the association, not of individual lover and beloved, but of ruler and ruled in the city. 22 This wooer of the demos must provide an assurance of his own completeness, personal disinterest, and perfect self-control, as well as a pledge of his willingness and ability to satisfy the needs and desires of those he seeks to rule.

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