CriticaLink | Plato: Phaedrus | Guide to Sections 265 A - 270 A

Phaedrus: What do you mean?
Socrates: They were in a way opposite to one another. One claimed that one should give one's favors to the lover, the other, to the non-lover. . .

In reminding Phaedrus of how he has categorized the types of madness, Socrates demonstrates the importance of careful definitions, which are lacking in Lysias's speech. His assignment of some categories of madness to particular gods can be correlated with the "levels" of reincarnation in his treatment of metempsychosis in sections 248 D - 248 E:

  1. a philosopher, or a connoisseur of beauty, music, and eroticism (Eros)
  2. a lawfully installed ruler or a military leader
  3. a politician or businessman
  4. an athlete or a physician
  5. a prophet (Apollo), religious devotee, or mystic (Dionysus)
  6. a poet or other kind of creative artist (Socrates specifically refers to mimetic artists engaged in representation) (the Muses)
  7. a craftsman or farmer
  8. a sophist or demagoge
  9. a tyrant

Socrates's taxonomy of "madness" illustrates both of the procedures that he emphasizes in the following sections:

The intellectual process of synthesis gathers together scattered and apparently disparate phenomena under a single category. For example, Socrates looks at a range of behaviors and groups them all under the heading of "madness." Synthesis is concerned with similarities, "family resemblances".

Analysis works to distinguish among apparently similiar phenomena, isolating parts and separating different phenomena into discrete categories. For example, once Socrates establishes the cateogy of "madness", he turns to an analysis of the different types of madness, each with distinguishing characteristics.

Dialectic is the term Socrates uses to describe the application of synthesis and analysis in logical thinking. (In medieval education, dialectic, rhetoric, and grammar formed the trivium, the foundation of the liberal arts.)

For Socrates, dialectic must come before rhetoric, because procedures of synthesis and analysis permit a more thorough knowledge of the topics to be treated in any instance of speech or writing. The long list of rhetoricians that follows, full of references to the technicalities of rhetorical practice and including the names of famous orators such as Teisias and Gorgias, is meant to ridicule the pretensions of these sophists who fail to grasp the what rhetoric should be because they have ignored dialectic. They are mere craftspeople--like woodworkers or metalsmiths, they are occupied with the merely material aspects of their art (figures of speech and cleverly designed phrases); they are also "crafty" in the sense that they often aim to deceive listeners with their speeches.

Socrates praises Pericles as one of the most accomplished "true" rhetoricians, because Pericles's rhetoric emerged out of his engagement with the philosophy of his contemporary Anaxagoras. Only a philosophical approach to rhetoric can insure a "good" use of rhetorical techniques.

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