Soul and Socrates

Topics: Soul, Mind, Thought Pages: 6 (2309 words) Published: May 4, 2002
Purposely difficult and intentionally obsessive, Plato's Phaedrus is an exceedingly difficult read that defies all conventional logic as a piece of discourse. The text is extremely subjective, open to interpretation and individual creativity as to what or whom the narrative is about. Written by Plato, a close disciple of Socrates, this text is set along the Illissus river where Phaedrus and Socrates meet for a day of speech, debate, rhetoric and okay…flirting. Phaedrus leads of the day and recites a speech by his close friend Lysias, who Phaedrus considers to be a top speechmaker. Socrates then, after chiding by Phaedrus unleashes two speeches of his own that overshadow and refute Lysias claim so boldly that Phaedrus is so taken by the power of Socrates, that Phaedrus I think misses the point of the entire speech. I think the main idea of the Phaedrus is that Plato's purpose in writing the document, and using Phaedrus as an example of the reader of this dialogue, is to develop a mad passion to pursue wisdom because of the way Socrates hints, and later describes his definitions of madness, pursuit of wisdom, and critical thinking. For it were a simple fact that insanity is evil, the saying would be true; but in reality the greatest blessings come to us through madness, when it is sent as a gift of the gods (465).

I think that one of the most powerful claims in the entire text is that of how madness is essential to pursue virtually everything, including Phaedrus' beloved wisdom. In the quote Socrates is not suggesting or insinuating an aspect of his lesson; he is not merely attempting to get Phaedrus to think, as he so often does in this text, but right here in this quote Socrates declares his love for the ability to be mad. The ability to want something so bad, so vehemently, is what Socrates flat out told Phaedrus, is nothing short of god-like. Socrates said this after his first speech when I believe Phaedrus is just starting to "fall under the spell" that Socrates is attempting to blind him with. Speak without fear (465) Phaedrus says to Socrates just a moment before Socrates, I my opinion gives a little more information than he wants to, so early in the text. The quote on page 465 was also very strong because it was unexpected by I think both Socrates and Phaedrus. Socrates is very adamant about madness, and how it is necessary. Necessary for all aspects of life, not just academic, rhetorical or philosophical but for something as fundamental as happiness.

We, on our part, must prove that such madness is given by the gods for our greatest happiness; and our proof will not be accepted by the merely clever, but will accepted by the truly wise (469).

It is my intention with this quote to show the crucial relationship between madness and the evolution of higher thought. I argue very plainly for this correlation linking the "truly wise" and madness because it demonstrates Socrates attempt to "dangle" an idea in front of Phaedrus, who after Socrates 1st speech was expecting a philosophical, structured way of defining the soul and now left to wonder what madness has to do with anything. The quote defends the claim that madness is an essential part of Socrates attempt to persuade Phaedus (the reader) that madness is not something bad; the way Lysias outlined it in his speech, but an obligatory element in developing a passion for something.

My discourse has shown that this is, of all inspirations, the best and of the highest origin to him who has it or who shares in this madness, is called a lover (483).

Taken from Socrates 2nd speech, Socrates is using madness now on a different level, this time as tool to describe inspiration to be a lover. Socrates literally cites his entire speech to explain how madness leads to love; to passion, not just an evolution of thinking, but also a pursuit of how it manifests itself through madness. It is the madness that I consider to be what the Phaedrus needs to understand. It...
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