Dialectic in the Phaedrus

in Phronesis
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This article offers a new interpretation of Plato’s method of collection and division as formulated in the Phaedrus (265c5-266c1), in light of a detailed examination of the surrounding context. It argues that Socrates carefully distinguishes the characteristic operations of the method from its applications. It shows that collection and division are to be construed independently of one another, and that the collection of F-ness is equivalent to the procedure for the definition of F-ness; and it clarifies three kinds of application that are mentioned in the Phaedrus: simple definition, definition supplemented with division, and scientific analysis.

Phronesis

A Journal for Ancient Philosophy

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References

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10

T4 was first mentioned by Hackforth 1945, 142-3, and has been accepted by many scholars since: cf. e.g. Sinaiko 1965, 34-5; Hellwig 1973, 203 n. 68; Griswold 1986, 174-5; Dixsaut 2001, 118. Many of the supporters of the traditional interpretation mentioned in n. 9 do not mention T4, but this is mostly because they are not interested in the details of the method.

17

I follow Rowe 1986, 197, Heitsch 1993, 135-6, and Yunis 2011, 189 in taking ‘two speeches’ (τὼ λόγω) at 262d1 as referring to Socrates’ two speeches.

21

Cf. Rowe 1986, 200: ‘But the purpose of the section [= cp] is not after all just to introduce a particular kind of dialectical procedure (cf. 266c1); it is also to explain how Socrates was able to “pass over” from censuring love to praising it (265c5-6).’ I think this point is clear, but few scholars have seriously taken it into consideration for their interpretation of cp.

22

Griswold 1986, 279 n. 25 is pessimistic about the possibility that Socrates offers an answer to the question he has just posed, when he writes: ‘the schema [of the division of madness] does not inform us as to how the first speech misled its audience or in what sense it was composed by one knowing the truth.’ As a matter of fact, many scholars suppose that the secret of the antilogical manoeuvre is divulged much later, in Socrates’ imaginary conversation with Tisias (273d2-274a5). According to this view, Socrates claims there that an antilogical speaker can mislead the audience because he says things that resemble the truth. This line of interpretation may go back to Hermias’ comment on 262c, and has been adopted by many scholars since, e.g. von Arnim 1914, 192, Guthrie 1975, 409-10, Cooper 2004, 69-70, Griswold 1986, 172-3, Nehamas and Woodruff 1995, pp. xxxi-xxxiv, Reinhardt 2010. But this interpretation seems to me to take too little account of the context. Socrates’ dialogue with Tisias is merely a recapitulation of the discussion of the science of rhetoric, and it is unlikely that a crucial point of the discussion should be first provided in the recapitulation. For a different approach to this issue, cf. also Bryan 2014.

24

See esp. Hackforth 1952, 133 n. 1, Griswold 1986, 173-86, Heitsch 1993, 142-5.

37

Cf. e.g. Fuhrmann 1960 and Rawson 1978.

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