Plato’s “Phaedrus” on Love and Speechmaking (Part Two)

Jul 04, 2016, 06:06 AM

Continuing on Plato's dialogue (from around 370 BC), diving into Socrates's myth-laden speech on the nature of love: The soul is like a charioteer with a good horse and a bad horse, and the bad horse is the crazy, love-struck, lust-filled one, and pulls us toward the beloved until the good horse and charioteer restrain it. Love essentially gives the soul a chance to exercise self-control, to become more mature. Oh, and also, we are attracted to beauty because it reminds us of the time before our birth where our chariot chased after gods over the horizon of the world, beyond which at least some of us got a glimpse of that world of the heavenly Forms.

Are we supposed to take this myth literally? Is this really what Plato thought? The context in the dialogue tells us that this is probably not the case, although translating the myth into simple declarative statements describing Plato's beliefs is not going to be possible. Socrates speaks in myth (maybe) because the truly profound truths transcend words, and so this ecstatic musing is really the closest we can come to communicating the fundamentally incommunicable. This is a pretty surprising result given the reputation of Plato/Socrates as the champion of Reason and explicitly evaluating your beliefs based on Reason.

Listen to part 1 first, or get the ad-free, unbroken Citizen Edition with your PPEL Citizenship, which also gets you into the Not School groups that Brian Wilson talks here. And it's not too late to sign up with Great Discourses; get 15% off with code PELIFE or 20% off as a PEL Citizen. Please support PEL!

End song: "Summertime" by New People, from Might Get It Right (2013). #philosophy #plato #socrates #phaedrus #love #rhetoric Go to the blog: