Soul‐Leading: The Unity Of The <i>Phaedrus</i>, Again

Jessica Moss

in Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Volume 43

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199666164
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191751936 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy

Soul‐Leading: The Unity Of The Phaedrus, Again

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The Phaedrus claims that good logoi must be “put together like a living creature”, with parts that suit one another and the whole; but the dialogue itself seems to be a misshapen jumble. It begins as a series of elegant rhetorical speeches about love, and ends as a dry philosophical discussion of rhetoric. What makes it hang together? This essay argues for a new reading: the Phaedrus is a treatise on the kind of persuasion that Plato calls soul-leading (psuchagōgia). Here as in other dialogues Plato is concerned with how a philosopher can lead people’s souls (that is, their attention and concern) away from worldly things and toward the goods of philosophy – a task at which Socrates’ typical methods often fail. The two parts of the Phaedrus consider two methods of such soul-leading, love and rhetoric, and the dialogue as a whole asks how either or both can be successful. The events of the dialogue dramatize the endeavour, and unify the two proposed methods: we see Socrates engaged in an attempt at soul-leading, using as his tool Phaedrus’s love, not of another person, but of rhetoric.

Keywords: erōs; love; rhetoric; beauty; psychagōgia; soul-leading; persuasion; Phaedrus; symposium; drama

Chapter.  10044 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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