CriticaLink | Plato: Phaedrus | Guide to Sections 277 A - 279 C

Socrates: And now that we have agreed about this, Phaedrus, we are finally able to decide the issue. . .

The concluding sections of the Phaedrus offer a review of the main points of the entire dialogue Socrates returns to the initial question about how to judge good and bad speaking, an summarizes his argument as follows:

  1. Only those speakers and writers who know the truth about their subject-matter can perform their tasks well. Even if it is successful, any speech that is ignorant of the truth is a disgrace to the speaker.
  2. This knowledge of the truth stems from the proper application of dialectic: grouping and sorting topics according to category and producing clear definitions of the key terms.
  3. This procedure must be coupled with a solid understanding of human psychology; speakers and writers must be aware of the different kinds of souls that comprise their audiences.
  4. Speakers and writers must construct works that are appropriate to their "target" audiences and that are responsive to kairos--the particular circumstances under which the work or performance will be received.
  5. The best philosophers put little stock in written works, choosing to reproduce their ideas as "legitimate children" (the metaphor of sexual reproduction is clear in Plato's text) directly in the minds of listeners who are physically present.

Phaedrus agrees to convey these points to Lysias, but asks that Socrates do the same with his favorite, the young rhetorician Isocrates. After a final prayer to Pan and the local deities of the place in which they have been conversing, Socrates and Phaedrus return to Athens.