McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Patrick L Miller
Eros, Myth, Phaedrus, Plato, Speeches, Symposium
Socrates engages his audience in Phaedrus with speeches that include revised or newly composed myths that express his theory of philosophical eros. The aim of the speeches is to generate a love for truth that spills over into dialogue. Speeches are a starting point for dialogue, just like physical attraction is the beginning of love. In the case of Phaedrus, the beginning of philosophy is portrayed using playful and rhetorically rich speeches that serve as "love potions" awakening the novice's soul, and ultimately leading Phaedrus to higher rungs on the ladder of love through the palinode, a medicinal speech. It is thinking about speeches, not the speeches themselves, which moves Socrates' student Phaedrus from the love of speeches to the love of Beauty itself. This is a stark contrast to the purpose of speechmaking for the sophist. The sophist seeks to enchant the soul, while the philosopher seeks to charm the soul into loving wisdom through stimulating discussions. Socrates also uses role reversals in the lover-beloved relationship to model the soul's ascent, contrasting the traditional roles with the way the lover and beloved are presented in Socrates' speeches. The novice must actively recollect Beauty itself in order to ascend, rather than passively listening to speeches that provide an image of beauty. Socrates' interlocutors must move themselves up the ladder of love from their own philosophical eros; wisdom is not attained by merely being pushed all the way up the ladder of love.
Trusso, D. (2015). The Erotic Charms of Platonic Discourse: Mythmaking, Love Potions, and Role Reversals (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/1294