Dialectic in the Phaedrus

in Phronesis
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?


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.


A Journal for Ancient Philosophy



AckrillJ. L. Essays on Plato and Aristotle 1997 Oxford

AllenM. J. B. Marsilio Ficino and the Phaedran Charioteer 1981 Berkeley and Los Angeles

AsmisE. Psychagogia in Plato’s Phaedrus Illinois Classical Studies 1986 11 153 172

BryanJ. WohlV. Eikos in Plato’s Phaedrus Probabilities, Hypotheticals, and Counterfactuals in Ancient Greek Thought 2014 Cambridge 30 46

BurgerR. Plato’s Phaedrus: A Defense of a Philosophic Art of Writing 1980 Alabama

CohenS. M. MoravcsikJ. M. ‘Plato’s Method of Division’ Patterns in Plato’s Thought 1973 Boston and Dordrecht 181 191

CooperJ. M. ‘Plato, Isocrates and Cicero on the Independence of Oratory from Philosophy’ Knowledge, Nature and the Good: Essays on Ancient Philosophy 2004 Princeton 65 80 [Reprinted from Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy 1 (1986), 77-96.]

CooperJ. M. Plato: Complete Works 1997 Indianapolis and Cambridge

CornfordF. M. Plato’s Theory of Knowledge 1935 London

de LacyP. Galen: on the Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato 1984 Vol. 2 Berlin

de VriesG. J. A Commentary on the Phaedrus of Plato 1969 Amsterdam

DelcomminetteS. Le Philèbe de Platon: Introduction à l’agathologie platonicienne 2006 Leiden

DillonJ. Alcinous: the Handbook of Platonism 1993 Oxford

DixsautM. Métamorphoses de la dialectique dans les dialogues de Platon 2001 Paris

DoddsE. R. Plato: Gorgias 1959 Oxford

DorterK. ‘The Method of Division and the Division of the Phaedrus Ancient Philosophy 2006 26 259 273

FerrariG. R. F. Listening to the Cicadas. A Study of Plato’s Phaedrus 1987 Cambridge

FredeD. van AckerenM. ‘Dialektik in Platons Spätdialogen’ Platon Verstehen 2004 Darmstadt 147 167

FuhrmannM. Das systematische Lehrbuch 1960 Göttingen

GriswoldC. Self-Knowledge in Plato’s Phaedrus 1986 New Haven

GuthrieW. K. C. A History of Greek Philosophy 1975 Vol. IV: Plato: The Man and his Dialogues: Earlier Period Cambridge

HackforthR. Plato’s Examination of Pleasure 1945 Cambridge [Reprinted as: Plato’s Philebus (London, 1972).]

HackforthR. Plato’s Phaedrus 1952 Cambridge

HeitschE. Platon: Phaidros 1993 Göttingen

HellwigA. Untersuchungen zur Theorie der Rhetorik bei Platon und Aristoteles 1973 Göttingen (= Hypomnemata 38)

HenryD. ‘A Sharp Eye for Kinds: Plato on Collection and Division’ Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 2011 41 229 255

JouannaJ. ‘La collection hippocratique et Platon (Phèdre, 269c-272a)’ Revue des études grecques 1977 90 15 28

LucariniC. M.MoreschiniC. Hermias Alexandrinus: In Platonis Phaedrum Scholia 2012 Berlin and Boston

MoravcsikJ. M. Moravscik ‘Plato’s Method of Division’ Patterns in Plato’s Thought 1973a Boston and Dordrecht 158 180

MoravcsikJ. M. LeeE. N.MourelatosA. P. D.RortyR. M. ‘The Anatomy of Plato’s Divisions’ Exegesis and Argument 1973b Assen 324 348

NehamasA.WoodruffP. Plato: Phaedrus 1995 Indianapolis

NussbaumM. MoravcsikJ. M.TemkoP. ‘Poetry, Goodness and Understanding’ Plato on Beauty, Wisdom, and the Arts 1982 Totowa, New Jersey 79 124

RawsonE. ‘The Introduction of Logical Organisation in Roman Prose Literature’ Papers of the British School at Rome 1978 46 12 34

ReinhardtT. ‘Plausibility in Plato’s Phaedrus and the Rhetorica ad Alexandrum Museum Helveticum 2010 67 1 6

RitterC. Platons Dialog Phaidros 1914 Berlin

RossW. D. Plato’s Theory of Ideas 1953 2nd edn Oxford

RoweC. J. Plato: Phaedrus 1986 Warminster

RoweC. J. Plato: Theaetetus and Sophist 2015 Cambridge

Santa-CruzM. I. RossettiL. ‘Division et dialectique dans le Phèdre Understanding the Phaedrus 1992 Sankt Augustin 253 256

SinaikoH. L. Love, Knowledge, and Discourse in Plato: Dialogue and Dialectic in Phaedrus, Republic, Parmenides 1965 Chicago and London

SouilhéJ. Étude sur le terme ΔΥΝΑΜΙΣ dans les dialogues de Platon 1919 Paris

ThompsonW. H. The Phaedrus of Plato 1868 London

VicaireP. Platon: Phèdre 1972 Paris

von ArnimH. Platos Jugenddialoge und die Entstehungszeit des Phaidros 1914 Leipzig

WaterfieldR. Plato: Phaedrus 2002 Oxford

WedinM. V. ‘Collection and Division in the Phaedrus and Statesman Philosophical Inquiry 1990 12 1 21

WernerD. ‘Plato’s Phaedrus and the Problem of Unity’ Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 2007 32 91 137

WhiteD. A. Rhetoric and Reality in Plato’s Phaedrus 1993 Albany

WhiteN. P. Plato on Knowledge and Reality 1976 Indianapolis

YunisH. Plato: Phaedrus 2011 Cambridge


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 7 7 3
Full Text Views 17 17 15
PDF Downloads 4 4 1
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0