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H. The Cicadas and Speechmaking (257 – 262)

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 PHAEDRUS: I join you in your prayer, Socrates. If this is really best for us, may it come to pass. As to your speech, I admired it from the moment you began: You managed it much better than your first one. I’m afraid that Lysias’ effort to match it is bound to fall flat, if of course he even dares to try to offer a speech of his own. In fact, my marvelous friend, a politician I know was only recently taking Lysias to task for just that reason: All through his invective, he kept calling him a “speech writer.” So perhaps his pride will keep him from writing this speech for us.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 SOCRATES: Ah, what a foolish thing to say, young man. How wrong you are about your friend: he can’t be intimidated so easily! But perhaps you thought the man who was taking him to task meant what he said as a reproach?

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 PHAEDRUS: He certainly seemed to, Socrates. In any case, you are surely aware yourself that the most powerful and renowned politicians are ashamed to compose speeches or leave any writings behind; they are afraid that in later times they may come to be known as “sophists.”

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 1 SOCRATES: Phaedrus, you don’t understand the expression “Pleasant Bend”* – it originally referred to the long bend of the Nile. And, besides the bend, you also don’t understand that the most ambitious politicians love speechwriting and long for their writings to survive. In fact, when they write one of their speeches, they are so pleased when people praise it that they add at the beginning a list of its admirers everywhere.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 PHAEDRUS: What do you mean? I don’t understand. (258)

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 SOCRATES: Don’t you know that the first thing politicians put in their writings is the names of their admirers?

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 PHAEDRUS: How so?

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 1 SOCRATES: “Resolved,” the author often begins, “by the Council” or “by the People” or by both, and “So-and-so said”* – meaning himself, the writer, with great solemnity and self-importance. Only then does he go on with what he has to say, showing off his wisdom to his admirers, often composing a very long document. Do you think there’s any difference between that and a written speech?

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 PHAEDRUS: No, I don’t.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 SOCRATES: Well, then, if it remains on the books, he is delighted and leaves the stage a poet. But if it is struck down, if he fails as a speech writer and isn’t considered worthy of having his work written down, he goes into deep mourning, and his friends along with him.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 PHAEDRUS: He certainly does.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 SOCRATES: Clearly, then, they don’t feel contempt for speechwriting; on the contrary, they are in awe of it.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 PHAEDRUS: Quite so.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 1 SOCRATES: There’s this too. What of an orator or a king who acquires enough power to match Lycurgus, Solon, or Darius as a lawgiver and acquires immortal fame as a speech writer in his city?* Doesn’t he think that he is equal to the gods while he is still alive? And don’t those who live in later times believe just the same about him when they behold his writings?

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 PHAEDRUS: Very much so.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 SOCRATES: Do you really believe then that any one of these people, whoever he is and however much he hates Lysias, would reproach him for being a writer?

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 PHAEDRUS: It certainly isn’t likely in view of what you said, for he would probably be reproaching his own ambition as well.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 SOCRATES: This, then, is quite clear: Writing speeches is not in itself a shameful thing.

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 PHAEDRUS: How could it be?

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 SOCRATES: It’s not speaking or writing well that’s shameful; what’s really shameful is to engage in either of them shamefully or badly.

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 PHAEDRUS: That is clear.

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 SOCRATES: So what distinguishes good from bad writing? Do we need to ask this question of Lysias or anyone else who ever did or will write anything – whether a public or a private document, poetic verse or plain prose?

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 PHAEDRUS: You ask if we need to? Why else should one live, I say, if not for pleasures of this sort? Certainly not for those you cannot feel unless 
you are first in pain, like most of the pleasures of the body, and which
for this reason we call the pleasures of slaves.

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 SOCRATES: It seems we clearly have the time. Besides, I think that the cicadas, who are singing and carrying on conversations with one another (259) in the heat of the day above our heads, are also watching us. And if they 
saw the two of us avoiding conversation at midday like most people, diverted by their song and, sluggish of mind, nodding off, they would
 have every right to laugh at us, convinced that a pair of slaves had come 
to their resting place to sleep like sheep gathering around the spring in
 the afternoon. But if they see us in conversation, steadfastly navigating around them as if they were the Sirens, they will be very pleased and immediately give us the gift from the gods they are able to give to mortals.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 PHAEDRUS: What is this gift? I don’t think I have heard of it.

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 SOCRATES: Everyone who loves the Muses should have heard of this. The story goes that the cicadas used to be human beings who lived before the birth of the Muses. When the Muses were born and song was created for the first time, some of the people of that time were so overwhelmed with the pleasure of singing that they forgot to eat or drink; so they died without even realizing it. It is from them that the race of the cicadas came into being; and, as a gift from the Muses, they have no need of nourishment once they are born. Instead, they immediately burst into song, without food or drink, until it is time for them to die. After they die, they go to the Muses and tell each one of them which mortals have honored her. To Terpsichore they report those who have honored her by their devotion to the dance and thus make them dearer to her. To Erato, they report those who honored her by dedicating themselves to the affairs of love, and so too with the other Muses, according to the activity that honors each. And to Calliope, the oldest among them, and Urania, the next after her, who preside over the heavens and all discourse, human and divine, and sing with the sweetest voice, they report those who honor their special kind of music by leading a philosophical life. There are many reasons, then, why we should talk and not waste our afternoon in sleep.

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 PHAEDRUS: By all means, let’s talk.

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 SOCRATES: Well, then, we ought to examine the topic we proposed just now: When is a speech well written and delivered, and when is it not?

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 PHAEDRUS: Plainly.

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 SOCRATES: Won’t someone who is to speak well and nobly have to have in mind the truth about the subject he is going to discuss?

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 PHAEDRUS: What I have actually heard about this, Socrates, my friend, (260) is that it is not necessary for the intending orator to learn what is really just, but only what will seem just to the crowd who will act as judges. Nor again what is really good or noble, but only what will seem so. For that is what persuasion proceeds from, not truth.

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 SOCRATES: Anything that wise men say, Phaedrus, “is not lightly to be cast aside”; we must consider whether it might be right. And what you just said, in particular, must not be dismissed.

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 PHAEDRUS: You’re right.

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 SOCRATES: Let’s look at it this way, then.

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 PHAEDRUS: How?

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 SOCRATES: Suppose I were trying to convince you that you should fight your enemies on horseback, and neither one of us knew what a horse is, but I happened to know this much about you, that Phaedrus believes a horse is the tame animal with the longest ears –

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 PHAEDRUS: But that would be ridiculous, Socrates.

38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 SOCRATES: Not quite yet, actually. But if I were seriously trying to convince you, having composed a speech in praise of the donkey in which I called it a horse and claimed that having such an animal is of immense value both at home and in military service, that it is good for fighting and for carrying your baggage and that it is useful for much else besides ­

39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 PHAEDRUS: Well, that would be totally ridiculous.

40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 SOCRATES: Well, which is better? To be ridiculous and a friend? Or clever and an enemy?

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 PHAEDRUS: The former.

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 SOCRATES: And so, when a rhetorician who does not know good from bad addresses a city which knows no better and attempts to sway it, not praising a miserable donkey as if it were a horse, but bad as if it were good, and, having studied what the people believe, persuades them to do something bad instead of good – with that as its seed, what sort of crop do you think rhetoric can harvest?

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 PHAEDRUS: A crop of really poor quality.

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 SOCRATES: But could it be, my friend, that we have mocked the art of speaking more rudely than it deserves? For it might perhaps reply, “What bizarre nonsense! Look, I am not forcing anyone to learn how to make speeches without knowing the truth; on the contrary, my advice, for what it is worth, is to take me up only after mastering the truth. But I do make this boast: even someone who knows the truth couldn’t produce conviction on the basis of a systematic art without me.”

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 PHAEDRUS: Well, is that a fair reply?

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 SOCRATES: Yes, it is – if, that is, the arguments now advancing upon rhetoric testify that it is an art. For it seems to me as if I hear certain arguments approaching and protesting that that is a lie and that rhetoric is not an art but an artless practice (41). As the Spartan said, there is no genuine art of speaking without a grasp of truth, and there never will be.

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 PHAEDRUS: We need to hear these arguments, Socrates. Come, produce (261) them, and examine them: What is their point? How do they make it?

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 SOCRATES: Come to us, then, noble creatures; convince Phaedrus, him of the beautiful offspring, that unless he pursues philosophy properly he will never be able to make a proper speech on any subject either. And let Phaedrus be the one to answer.

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 PHAEDRUS: Let them put their questions.

50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 SOCRATES: Well, then, isn’t the rhetorical art, taken as a whole, a way of directing the soul by means of speech, not only in the lawcourts and on
other public occasions but also in private? Isn’t it one and the same art whether its subject is great or small, and no more to be held in esteem­ b if it is followed correctly-when its questions are serious than when they are trivial? Or what have you heard about all this?

51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 PHAEDRUS: Well, certainly not what you have! Artful speaking and writing is found mainly in the lawcourts; also perhaps in the Assembly. That’s all I’ve heard.

52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 SOCRATES: Well, have you only heard of the rhetorical treatises of Nestor and Odysseus-those they wrote in their spare time in Troy? Haven’t you also heard of the works of Palamedes?

53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 1 PHAEDRUS: No, by Zeus, I haven’t even heard of Nestor’s – unless by Nestor you mean Gorgias, and by Odysseus, Thrasymachus or Theodorus.

54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 SOCRATES: Perhaps. But let’s leave these people aside. Answer this question yourself: What do adversaries do in the lawcourts? Don’t they speak on opposite sides? What else can we call what they do?

55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 PHAEDRUS: That’s it, exactly.

56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 SOCRATES: About what is just and what is unjust?

57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 PHAEDRUS: Yes.

58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 SOCRATES: And won’t whoever does this artfully make the same thing appear to the same people sometimes just and sometimes, when he prefers, unjust?

59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 PHAEDRUS: Of course.

60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 SOCRATES: And when he addresses the Assembly, he will make the city approve a policy at one time as a good one, and reject it – the very same policy – as just the opposite at another.

61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 PHAEDRUS: Right.

62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 1 SOCRATES: Now, don’t we know that the Eleatic Palamedes is such an artful speaker that his listeners will perceive the same things to be both similar and dissimilar, both one and many, both at rest and also in motion?

63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 PHAEDRUS: Most certainly.

64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0 SOCRATES: We can therefore find the practice of speaking on opposite sides not only in the lawcourts and in the Assembly. Rather, it seems that one single art – if, of course, it is an art in the first place – governs all speaking. By means of it one can make out as similar anything that can be so assimilated, to everything to which it can be made similar, and expose anyone who tries to hide the fact that that is what he is doing.

65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 PHAEDRUS: What do you mean by that?

66 Leave a comment on paragraph 66 0 SOCRATES: I think it will become clear if we look at it this way. Where is deception most likely to occur – regarding things that differ much or things that differ little from one another? (262)

67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 0 PHAEDRUS: Regarding those that differ little.

68 Leave a comment on paragraph 68 0 SOCRATES: At any rate, you are more likely to escape detection, as you shift from one thing to its opposite, if you proceed in small steps rather than in large ones.

69 Leave a comment on paragraph 69 0 PHAEDRUS: Without a doubt.

70 Leave a comment on paragraph 70 0 SOCRATES: Therefore, if you are to deceive someone else and to avoid deception yourself, you must know precisely the respects in which things are similar and dissimilar to one another.

71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 0 PHAEDRUS: Yes, you must.

72 Leave a comment on paragraph 72 0 SOCRATES: And is it really possible for someone who doesn’t know what each thing truly is to detect a similarity – whether large or small – between something he doesn’t know and anything else?

73 Leave a comment on paragraph 73 0 SOCRATES: Clearly, therefore, the state of being deceived and holding beliefs contrary to what is the case comes upon people by reason of certain similarities.

74 Leave a comment on paragraph 74 0 PHAEDRUS: That is how it happens.

75 Leave a comment on paragraph 75 0 SOCRATES: Could someone, then, who doesn’t know what each thing is ever have the art to lead others little by little through similarities away from what is the case on each occasion to its opposite? Or could he escape this being done to himself?

76 Leave a comment on paragraph 76 0 PHAEDRUS: Never.

77 Leave a comment on paragraph 77 0 SOCRATES: Therefore, my friend, the art of a speaker who doesn’t know the truth and chases opinions instead is likely to be a ridiculous thing -
not an art at all!

78 Leave a comment on paragraph 78 0 PHAEDRUS: So it seems.

79 Leave a comment on paragraph 79 0 SOCRATES: So, shall we look for instances of what we called the artful and the artless in the speech of Lysias you carried here and in our own speeches?

80 Leave a comment on paragraph 80 0 PHAEDRUS: That’s the best thing to do – because, as it is, we are talking quite abstractly, without enough examples.

81 Leave a comment on paragraph 81 0 SOCRATES: In fact, by some chance the two speeches do, as it seems, contain an example of the way in which someone who knows the truth can toy with his audience and mislead them. For my part, Phaedrus, I 
hold the local gods responsible for this – also, perhaps, the messengers of 
the Muses who are singing over our heads may have inspired me with this gift: certainly I don’t possess any art of speaking.

82 Leave a comment on paragraph 82 0 PHAEDRUS: Fine, fine. But explain what you mean.

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