¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 SOCRATES: Well, let’s leave minor points aside. Let’s hold what we do have closer to the light so that we can see precisely the power of the art these things produce.
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 SOCRATES: All right, tell me this. Suppose someone came to your friend Eryximachus or his father Acumenus and said: “I know treatments to raise or lower (whichever I prefer) the temperature of people’s bodies; if I decide to, I can make them vomit or make their bowels move, and all sorts of things. On the basis of this knowledge, I claim to be a physician; and I claim to be able to make others physicians as well by imparting it to them.” What do you think they would say when they heard that?
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 PHAEDRUS: I think they’d say the man’s mad if he thinks he’s a doctor just because he read a book or happened to come across a few potions; he knows nothing of the art.
¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 SOCRATES: And suppose someone approached Sophocles and Euripides and claimed to know how to compose the longest passages on trivial topics and the briefest ones on topics of great importance, that he could make them pitiful if he wanted, or again, by contrast, terrifying and menacing, and so on. Suppose further that he believed that by teaching this he was imparting the knowledge of composing tragedies –
¶ 10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 PHAEDRUS: Oh, I am sure they too would laugh at anyone who thought a tragedy was anything other than the proper arrangement of these things: They have to fit with one another and with the whole work.
¶ 11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 SOCRATES: But I am sure they wouldn’t reproach him rudely. They would react more like a musician confronted by a man who thought he had mastered harmony because he was able to produce the highest and lowest notes on his strings. The musician would not say fiercely, “You stupid man, you are out of your mind!” As befits his calling, he would speak more gently: “My friend, though that too is necessary for understanding harmony, someone who has gotten as far as you have may still know absolutely nothing about the subject. What you know is what it’s necessary to learn before you study harmony, but not harmony itself.”
¶ 13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 SOCRATES: So Sophocles would also tell the man who was showing off to them that he knew the preliminaries of tragedy, but not the art of tragedy itself. And Acumenus would say his man knew the preliminaries of medicine, but not medicine itself.
¶ 15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 1 SOCRATES: And what if the “honey-tongued Adrastus” (or perhaps Pericles)* were to hear of all the marvelous techniques we just discussed Speaking Concisely and Speaking in Images and all the rest we listed and proposed to examine under the light? Would he be angry or rude, as you and I were, with those who write of those techniques and teach them as if they are rhetoric itself, and say something coarse to them? Wouldn’t he – being wiser than we are – reproach us as well and say, “Phaedrus and Socrates, you should not be angry with these people – you should be sorry for them. The reason they cannot define rhetoric is that they are ignorant of dialectic. It is their ignorance that makes them think they have discovered what rhetoric is when they have mastered only what it is necessary to learn as preliminaries. So they teach these preliminaries and imagine their pupils have received a full course in rhetoric, thinking the task of using each of them persuasively and putting them together into a whole speech is a minor matter, to be worked out by the pupils from their own resources”?
¶ 16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 PHAEDRUS: Really, Socrates, the art these men present as rhetoric in their courses and handbooks is no more than what you say. In my judgment, at least, your point is well taken. But how, from what source, could one acquire the art of the true rhetorician, the really persuasive speaker?
¶ 17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 SOCRATES: Well, Phaedrus, becoming good enough to be an accomplished competitor is probably – perhaps necessarily – like everything else. If you have a natural ability for rhetoric, you will become a famous rhetorician, provided you supplement your ability with knowledge and practice. To the extent that you lack any one of them, to that extent you will be less than perfect. But, insofar as there is an art of rhetoric, I don’t believe the right method for acquiring it is to be found in the direction Lysias and Thrasymachus have followed.
¶ 21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 SOCRATES: All the great arts require endless talk and ethereal speculation about nature: This seems to be what gives them their lofty point of view and universal applicability. That’s just what Pericles mastered -besides having natural ability. He came across Anaxagoras, who was just that sort of man, got his full dose of ethereal speculation, and understood the nature of mind and mindlessness – just the subject on which Anaxagoras had the most to say. From this, I think, he drew for the art of rhetoric what was useful to it.
¶ 25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 SOCRATES: In both cases we need to determine the nature of something of the body in medicine, of the soul in rhetoric. Otherwise, all we’ll have will be an empirical and artless practice. We won’t be able to supply, on the basis of an art, a body with the medicines and diet that will make it healthy and strong, or a soul with the reasons and customary rules for conduct that will impart to it the convictions and virtues we want.
¶ 27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 SOCRATES: Do you think, then, that it is possible to reach a serious understanding of the nature of the soul without understanding the nature of the world as a whole?
¶ 31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 SOCRATES: Consider, then, what both Hippocrates and true argument say about nature. Isn’t this the way to think systematically about the nature of anything? First, we must consider whether the object, regarding which we intend to become experts and capable of transmitting our expertise, is simple or complex. Then, if it is simple, we must investigate its power: What things does it have what natural power of acting upon? By what things does it have what natural disposition to be acted upon? If, on the other hand, it takes many forms, we must enumerate them all and, as we did in the simple case, investigate how each is naturally able to act upon what and how it has a natural disposition to be acted upon by what.
¶ 33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 SOCRATES: Proceeding by any other method would be like walking with the blind. Conversely, whoever studies anything on the basis of an art must never be compared to the blind or the deaf. On the contrary, it is clear that someone who teaches another to make speeches as an art will demonstrate precisely the essential nature of that to which speeches are to be applied. And that, surely, is the soul.
¶ 35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 SOCRATES: This is therefore the object toward which the speaker’s whole (271) effort is directed, since it is in the soul that he attempts to produce conviction. Isn’t that so?
¶ 37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 SOCRATES: Clearly, therefore, Thrasymachus and anyone else who teaches the art of rhetoric seriously will, first, describe the soul with absolute precision and enable us to understand what it is: whether it is one and homogeneous by nature or takes many forms, like the shape of bodies, since, as we said, that’s what it is to demonstrate the nature of something.
¶ 41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 SOCRATES: Third, he will classify the kinds of speech and of soul there are, as well as the various ways in which they are affected, and explain what causes each. He will then coordinate each kind of soul with the kind of speech appropriate to it. And he will give instructions concerning the reasons why one kind of soul is necessarily convinced by one kind of speech while another necessarily remains unconvinced.
¶ 43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 SOCRATES: In fact, my friend, no speech will ever be a product of art, whether it is a model or one actually given, if it is delivered or written in any other way – on this or on any other subject. But those who now write Arts of Rhetoric – we were just discussing them-are cunning people: they hide the fact that they know very well everything about the soul. Well, then, until they begin to speak and write in this way, we mustn’t allow ourselves to be convinced that they write on the basis of the art.
¶ 47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 SOCRATES: Since the nature of speech is in fact to direct the soul, whoever intends to be a rhetorician must know how many kinds of soul there are. Their number is so-and-so many; each is of such-and-such a sort; hence some people have such-and-such a character and others have such-and such. Those distinctions established, there are, in turn, so-and-so many kinds of speech, each of such-and-such a sort. People of such-and-such a character are easy to persuade by speeches of such-and-such a sort in connection with such-and-such an issue for this particular reason, while people of such-and-such another sort are difficult to persuade for those particular reasons.
¶ 48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 The orator must learn all this well, then put his theory into practice and develop the ability to discern each kind clearly as it occurs in the actions of real life. Otherwise he won’t be any better off than he was when he was still listening to those discussions in school. He will now not only be able to say what kind of person is convinced by what kind of speech; (272) on meeting someone he will be able to discern what he is like and make clear to himself that the person actually standing in front of him is of just this particular sort of character he had learned about in school-to that he must now apply speeches of such-and-such a kind in this particular way in order to secure conviction about such-and-such an issue. When he has learned all this-when, in addition, he has grasped the right occasions for speaking and for holding back; and when he has also understood when the time is right for Speaking Concisely or Appealing to Pity or Exaggeration or for any other of the kinds of speech he has learned and when it is not-then, and only then, will he have finally mastered the art well and completely. But if his speaking, his teaching, or his writing lacks any one of these elements b and he still claims to be speaking with art, you’ll be better off if you don’t believe him.
¶ 51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 SOCRATES: You’re right. And that’s why we must turn all our arguments every which way and try to find some easier and shorter route to the art: we don’t want to follow a long rough path for no good reason when we can choose a short smooth one instead. Now, try to remember if you’ve heard anything helpful from Lysias or anybody else. Speak up.
¶ 57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 SOCRATES: Well, these people say that there is no need to be so solemn about all this and stretch it out to such lengths. For the fact is, as we said ourselves at the beginning of this discussion that one who intends to be an able rhetorician has no need to know the truth about the things that are just or good or yet about the people who are such either by nature or upbringing. No one in a law-court, you see, cares at all about the truth of such matters. They only care about what is convincing. This is called “the likely,” and that is what a man who intends to speak according to art should concentrate on. Sometimes, in fact, whether you are prosecuting or defending a case, you must not even say what actually happened, if it was not likely to have happened – you must say something that is likely instead. Whatever you say, you should pursue what is likely and leave the truth aside: the whole art consists in cleaving to that throughout your speech. (273)
¶ 58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 PHAEDRUS: That’s an excellent presentation of what people say who profess to be expert in speeches, Socrates. I recall that we raised this issue briefly earlier on, but it seems to be their single most important point.
¶ 59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 SOCRATES: No doubt you’ve churned through Tisias’ book quite carefully. Then let Tisias tell us this also: By “the likely” does he mean anything but what is accepted by the crowd?
¶ 61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 SOCRATES: And it’s likely it was when he discovered this clever and artful technique that Tisias wrote that if a weak but spunky man is taken to court because he beat up a strong but cowardly one and stole his cloak or something else, neither one should tell the truth. The coward must say that the spunky man didn’t beat him up all by himself, while the latter must rebut this by saying that only the two of them were there, and fall back on that well-worn plea, “How could a man like me attack a man like him?” The strong man, naturally, will not admit his cowardice, but will try to invent some other lie, and may thus give his opponent the chance to refute him. And in other cases, speaking as the art dictates will take similar forms. Isn’t that so, Phaedrus?
¶ 63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 1 SOCRATES: Phew! Tisias – or whoever else it was and whatever name he pleases to use for himself* – seems to have discovered an art which he has disguised very well! But now, my friend, shall we or shall we not say to him –
¶ 65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 SOCRATES: This: “Tisias, some time ago, before you came into the picture, we were saying that people get the idea of what is likely through its similarity to the truth. And we just explained that in every case the person who knows the truth knows best how to determine similarities. So, if you have something new to say about the art of speaking, we shall listen. But if you don’t, we shall remain convinced by the explanations we gave just before: No one will ever possess the art of speaking, to the extent that any human being can, unless he acquires the ability to enumerate the sorts of characters to be found in any audience, to divide everything according to its kinds, and to grasp each single thing firmly by means of one form. And no one can acquire these abilities without great effort – a laborious effort a sensible man will make not in order to speak and act among human beings, but so as to be able to speak and act in a way that pleases the gods as much as possible. Wiser people than ourselves, Tisias, say that a reasonable man must put his mind to being pleasant not to his fellow (274) slaves (though this may happen as a side effect) but to his masters, who are wholly good. So, if the way round is long, don’t be astonished: we must make this detour for the sake of things that are very important, not for what you have in mind. Still, as our argument asserts, if that is what you want, you’ll get it best as a result of pursuing our own goal.