Assigned: Plato. From Ion (46-58); from The Republic, Books II, III, VII, X (58-89); Phaedrus (89-95). Also read the editors’ introduction (43-46).

Ion (circa 390 B.C.E.)

1. On 46-47 (“Ion! Hello. Where have you…”), what is Socrates’s opening rhetorical strategy? How does he employ flattery and something like “sports talk” to draw Ion into a frank discussion about his own profession, that of a rhapsode who recites Homer’s great epic poems The Odyssey and The Iliad?

2. On 47-50 (“You know, Ion, many times…”),Socrates puts Ion the rhapsode through his paces regarding the type of subjects Homer and other poets deal with, and who is best able to judge whether they deal well or ill with those subjects. On the basis of this discussion, why does Socrates apparently feel justified in declaring to Ion, “you are powerless to speak about Homer on the basis of knowledge or mastery” (49)? On 49-50 (“And now take the whole of any other subject…”), how does Socrates reinforce the reasoning that brought him to such a conclusion?

3. On 50-51 (“I do see, Ion, and I’m going…”), Socrates regales Ion with a striking metaphor of poetic inspiration: the Heraclean or magnetic stone, which attracts iron rings to itself, and even, as Socrates says, “puts power in the rings, so that they in turn can do just what the stone does—pull other rings…” (50). The Muse, or a god, is the magnetic stone, poets are metal rings endowed by the Muse with inspirational power, and rhapsodes are other rings attracted by the poet’s power; together, the poet and the rhapsodes constitute part of a magnetic chain. How does this metaphor reinforce the charge Socrates has been making against Ion’s claim to be a master of his craft? Perhaps more importantly, what is Socrates implying by this metaphor about the relative balance of power between mortal human beings and the gods? What is he implying about human beings’ ability to control what happens to them, the thoughts that come to them, etc.?

4. On 51-53 (“And you rhapsodes in turn…”), Socrates calls Ion a “representative of representatives” (51), and then brings up the way he surely becomes impassioned when he recites Homeric passages. What image of the spectators who enjoy Ion’s performances does Socrates conjure, along with a vision of all sorts of ancillary “rings” (teachers, dancers, etc.) attached to various muses? He also says that all are pulled inexorably towards only one muse, while others, not in their range, have no power over them. How is Socrates using this vision to teach Ion a lesson about the limited nature of the gift he has been given by the gods? Might this vision be said to implant a sense of artists’ insanity or instability, their dangerousness as a force for chaos and disorder, or would that be an inappropriate interpretation in the context of the present dialogue? Explain.

5. On 53-57 (“And I really do want to hear…”), Socrates returns to the issue of legitimate, clearly defined professions and again gets Ion to admit that only a member of such a profession will be able to judge “the things which belong to that profession, whether they are things said or things done” (54). Ion seems to admit that when Homer refers to certain fields of knowledge, a practitioner in that field would know better than Ion how to judge the references Homer makes; yet, Ion balks when it comes to generalship. (56-57) Why does he balk? Why is Socrates so intent upon needling Ion with this “generalship” question—how might it affect our perspective on Ion to hear him responding in such an evasive manner?

6. On 57-58 (“But you, Ion, you’re doing…”), Socrates concludes the dialogue by teasing Ion. Likening him to Proteus, the shape-shifting servant of Poseidon, he presents Ion with a choice: “how do you want us to think of you—as a man who does wrong, or as someone divine?” (58) Ion chooses the latter, and Socrates jovially agrees to treat him that way. What impression of Ion are we left with as the dialogue closes, based on our hearing his assertions of knowledge coupled with his inconsistent responses?

7. General question: Plato’s dialogue Ion casts Socrates as the wry eiron (character who is “in the know”) undermining an alazon (a boastful, ignorant character). All the same, is it risky to our understanding to interpret this early dialog as if it was written alongside The Republic, in which Socrates more or less banishes poets? Is Socrates condemning Ion, or Homer, or poetry in general? What if he actually believes unironically that Ion is inspired to sing Homer’s verses? What is the upshot of Socrates’ argument that Ion is not the master of any craft, but is instead divinely inspired to sing only about Homer? Is the dialogue Ion being advanced in the service of a broader point about truth, maintaining social and political order, etc., or is that assumption dubious? Explain.

8. General question: In Plato’s dialogue Ion, the rhapsode Ion is not a great debater, but if we want to help him get out of the fix he is in with Socrates (who has him looking like a master of no craft and a bit crazy besides), how might we do that? If Socrates is suggesting that poets and rhapsodes are not legitimate craftspeople and that poetry has no genuine knowledge in it, how might we counter such a dismissive view? What if poetry is a legitimate craft, only one that Socrates fails to recognize? Feel free to enlist Aristotle or any of a number of modern critics (romantic promoters of “inspiration,” or Symbolists, or psychoanalytic theorists, for example) in your quest to release poetry from Socrates’ disapproving gaze. Some possibilities for responding: Might the idea that poetry’s source is non-rational make it more valuable? Explain. Moreover, might we say that a painting or a vase or a literary text is an entirely “real” object in its own right, and that it can provide an authentic experience, whatever Plato may say to the contrary? If so, how?

From The Republic

From The Republic, Book 2 (circa 375 B.C.E.)

1. On 58-59 (“The question of education is…”), Socrates introduces us to his conception of childhood and proper education (παιδεία, paideía). What does he suggest about the perceptual and intellectual powers of children? Why, in his view, is it so important to shape their experience in the right way? What kind of “censorship” (59) must the parents and teachers of guardian children (these future guardians or governors are chosen from among the auxiliary or warrior class) exercise to ensure an upbringing worthy of their future role as governors? What should a child’s surroundings be like—what should be available for the child to experience, and what good effects will it have? What should not be there?

2. On 59-60 (“Let us consider the greatest…”), what does Socrates identify as the worst “fault” (59) in the texts of ancient poets such as Hesiod and Homer, whose work was produced centuries before Socrates’s time? According to Socrates, what exactly is so objectionable about Hesiod’s relating of the struggles between the ur-god Uranus and his son Cronos, and then, in turn, between Cronos and his son Zeus? What dreadfully inappropriate lesson do such stories supposedly implant in the impressionable children (future rulers, we must remember) who hear them? Why might such a lesson sow the seeds of chaos in the republic?

3. On 60 (“Nor can we permit it to be…”), Socrates argues against the retelling of certain stories about “quarreling” and plotting amongst the gods or among the Titans, etc. On what basis does he insist that such stuff must be kept out of young people’s minds? Is his objection to this material simply due to its presumed untruthfulness, or is it due to a concern not entirely reducible to what a mimetic theorist would call the ontological status of these stories—i.e., to their being grounded (or not grounded) in true being, or in truth? How, indeed, does Socrates deal with “falsehoods” as a vehicle of education? What indication of his strategy for handling falsehoods in a constructive manner does Socrates give us on page 60? Explain. (In responding, you may also want to cover Socrates’ remarks about this issue on 58 and 60 top.)

4. On 60-62 (“I agree with you there…”), Socrates’s dialogue partner Adeimantus asks him to explain which “norms” ought to “govern the telling of tales about the gods” (60). How does Socrates proceed toward the first among the “laws and principles” Adeimantus wants him to formulate? How, that is, does he build up a sense of the true nature of the gods, or god? What is the first norm, law, or principle once Socrates fully enunciates it?

5. On 62-65 (“We must consider a further…”), Socrates develops his case about the nature of god in more detail. On what basis does he reject stories in which the gods appear to be “wizard[s]” (62) who change from shape to shape as they desire, often for some rascally purpose as we find in poets like Hesiod, Homer, and in Greek mythology generally? In what sense is Socrates’ god supremely “simple” (62, 65 top), and therefore most unlike the changeful gods of the poets? Why, as well, would this god be averse to telling any kind of lie whatsoever? (64-65)

6. On 64-65 (“Well, then, another question…”), in the process of explaining how his version of god is supremely “simple,” neither changing in any way nor finding it useful to tell the other gods or human beings lies, Socrates returns to the interesting question of whether, and when, it is acceptable for parents and educators to make use of what is untrue. In doing so, on page 64 he distinguishes the “true lie” (ἀληθῶς ψεῦδος, aleithós pseúdos 382β) from the “lie in words” (τò […] ἐν τοῖς λόγοις [ψεῦδος], tō … en toís lógois pseúdos 382β). What do these two terms apparently mean, and how do the respective kinds of falsehood differ in their effect on the human psyche? With regard to the “lie in words,” when and why might it be acceptable to deploy such an untruth, at least on the part of a parent or educator?

From The Republic, Book 3

7. On 65-69 (“From childhood onward, then…”), Socrates details specific behavior and attitudes that must not be represented by poets for the pleasure of the young men chosen as future guardians, and thus tasked with ruling the republic. What poets and verses does he consider it necessary to censor to keep these fledgling guardians free of fear of the underworld and death; free of terror more broadly; and immune to immoderate grief or laughter? With what principle does Socrates justify this rather far-reaching censorship?

8. On 69-72 (“Further: we must prize truth….”), Socrates insists that “we must prize truth,” and it seems that this must be the cornerstone of the fictional republic he is building. Still, he says that the republic’s rulers may, if they find it necessary, tell “lies” (69). How do you interpret the significance of the metaphor Socrates employs to make this point, which is that of a doctor administering medicine? (The Greek text at par. 389β runs, ἀνθρώποις δὲ χρήσιμον ὡς ἐν φαρμάκου εἴδει, anthrópois de khreísimon hōs en pharmákou eídei, “useful to men in the form of a remedy/drug.”) How does this metaphor (and the others that follow) reinforce the strong sense of class hierarchy and the imperative of maintaining control in Plato’s republic? On 69-72 (“… But no private person may tell lies to rulers…” 69 middle), how does Socrates further illustrate the right way to instill in “the multitude” moderation in the form of “obedience to the rulers” and “self-rule” (69) with regard to their personal appetites and desires? What critical remarks does he make about Homer’s depiction of gods and heroes in this moral regard?

9. On 72-74 (“Then we can say that good…”), Socrates turns to an analysis of what constitutes “the good order and disposition of the soul” (72) for an individual future guardian. This would seem to be the aim of proper education, or παιδεία (paideía). What thesis does Socrates advance regarding the total environment in which children should be brought up, as opposed to the restricted set of activities we usually call education? What additional arts, things and persons must parents and educators look to in order to ensure that their charges receive the best possible upbringing? Why, according to Socrates, should “education in poetry and music” (73) be considered of the highest importance to the budding spirit of a child? If all goes well, how will children’s souls respond to the beautiful and harmonious things with which their parents and teachers have taken care to surround them? Finally, from a modern perspective, how does a certain distrust of “extreme” pleasure—especially sexual pleasure—become manifest in this concluding section of our excerpt from Book 3? What seems to be the basis of Socrates’s distrust of such pleasure?

From The Republic, Book 7

10. On 75 (“Here allegory may show us best…”), Socrates describes the scene at the beginning of his allegory of the cave. What is the initial situation of the cave-dwellers? Where are they and what are they doing? What about the subsection of people who are on the other side of the wall that is behind the dwellers—what are they doing? Finally, what seems to be the general atmosphere evoked by this scene, taken all together? Why do you suppose Plato has chosen such an odd way to represent the lives of ordinary humans—why, that is, might a cave be a powerful metaphor both to appeal to us and unsettle us?

11. On 75-77 (“Imagine now how their liberation…”), what happens to destabilize the initial situation in the cave that Socrates has encouraged us to envision? In other words, what multi-stage process is one of the dwellers forced to undergo once he is unshackled? How does Socrates describe the dweller’s response to this profound change in his circumstances and state of understanding? How, in the end, would he come to regard the life of illusion he had formerly led, his companions in error, and those who ruled over them by deception? What would most likely happen if he were to return to the cave? How would he himself react once there, and how would he be received by his old comrades? Why would they receive him so unkindly?

12. On 77 (“Now, my dear Glaucon, we must…”), how does Socrates offer his dialog partner Glaucon the key to the meaning of the allegory he has just recounted, “apply[ing]” it to “all that has been said so far”? How should we properly interpret in allegorical fashion “the prisoners’ cave,” “the light of the fire,” and “the ascent and exploration of things above”? Where, after all is said, should we seek and find the source of reality and truth? In what sense does Socrates liken the freed prisoner in his allegory to the philosopher, a “lover of wisdom” like himself? Why would this philosopher appear “ridiculous” in the ordinary world of shadow-beholding prisoners? All the same, why would this philosopher, if he had to return from “a brighter life” of truth down to the darkness of the cave, be considered “happy,” while those just making the ascent to knowledge from darkness would deserve pity, or perhaps even laughter? How does the allegory, as a whole, suggest both the precious gift given to the true philosopher, and yet not leave aside the philosopher’s continued unease and subjection to the limitations of a mortal human being?

From The Republic, Book 10

13. On 78 (“Indeed. And many other things…”), what complexity of feeling does Socrates admit to even as he insists that all “poetry that is imitative” must be banished from the ideal Republic? What is his attitude towards the epic poet Homer and classical tragedians, in spite of the criticism he later levels at Homer on 81-83 (“Now let us consider tragedy and Homer as its master…”)? Aside from personal admiration, what larger cultural and societal consideration might be making Socrates somewhat anxious about criticizing the greatest literary artist Greece has ever produced?

14. On 78-81 (“Could you tell me in general…”), in explaining his views on “imitation” or representation (since Glaucon, in the wake of Socrates’s mention of the supposed banishment of “imitative” poets, has asked him about this concept), Socrates uses as his example the making of a bed. First of all, who is the highest of all “craftsmen,” and what makes him so—what does he make? (78-79) Next, how does Socrates describe the work of the ordinary craftsperson with whom we are all familiar—the carpenter who works with wood, or some other skilled artisan who works with, say, metal or stone? Finally, how does Socrates suggest we should understand the activity of the painter who gives us only an image of the bed (or a portrait of the craftsperson who made it, to follow Socrates’s example) made by the artisan? Why is that image (i.e., a painting) accorded only the status of something “at third remove from nature” (80), and the painter considered not a craftsperson but instead an “imitator”?

15. On 81-83 (“Now let us consider tragedy and…”), on what grounds does Socrates criticize Homer and other poets, playwrights, or representers? According to Socrates, what should Homer know or be able to do, but doesn’t or can’t? What good things should his work have generated in the world that they have not? What examples of this supposed failure conduct Socrates towards his conclusion that all of these artists are “mere imitators of illusions of virtue and imitators as well of the other things they write about” (82-83)?

16. On 83-84 (“Now consider still another proposition…”), what new wrinkle does Socrates add to his critique of imitators such as poets and painters? How does even the legitimate craftsperson get drawn into the web of ignorance Socrates attributes to imitators? Who, then—aside from god—alone knows the true nature of, say, a horse’s bit and reins? On what principle does Socrates ground his claim in this regard? To whom, then, do mere imitators of bits, reins, and whatnot really aim their efforts? Who is their audience, and why does that displease Socrates?

17. On 84-87 (“And which part of man responds…”), Socrates, having demonstrated to his satisfaction that poets only imitate things at three removes from truth, moves on to consider which part of the human soul poetry and the imitative arts appeal to. How does he make his case that it appeals only to the irrational element in humankind? How does he describe this irrational, contradictory element in us through a discussion of the way in which a good person will bear severe grief or serious injury? How might that person’s irrational element nonetheless threaten the proper inclination to follow “law and reason” (86)?

18. On 87-88 (“It should be evident that the…”), Socrates arrives at his strongest statement against the admission of poets to his republic. What already-stated criticisms does he list at this point, and how does he parallel the bad effects of the poets on individuals to the effects generated by wicked, powerful political figures in an entire society? Much worse yet, according to Socrates, Homer and other poets have the “power to corrupt even the best men” (87). How do they accomplish this—how do they grant us license to indulge irrational feelings rather than to keep them appropriately in check? In what sense is this indulgence in part grounded in a social or collective experience, and not merely individual experience? In responding, consider what Socrates says on 87 bottom-88 top about the modeling or enabling effect other people’s strong lamentations have on us, as opposed to the way we bear our own misfortunes. Is he suggesting that emotion is, in a sense, contagious? How, too, does this “contagion” risk lead us to infer that poetry, left unchecked, would in Socrates’s view constitute a grave threat to the good order of his republic?

19. On 88-89 (“So then, Glaucon, when you…”), in spite of his great admiration of Homer, we see Socrates steadfastly insisting on the banishment of imitative poetry from the republic: if such severe action is not taken, he says, or if people later decide to readmit “the honey-tongued Muse, whether in lyric or epic form” (88), dreadful results for individuals and the state would ensue. Still, what kind of poetry does Socrates say he might permit to return to his republic? What “case” (89) would have to be made successfully before he would permit poetry that “is imitative and aims to provide pleasure” to re-enter his republic (88 bottom)?

General Questions on The Republic, fromBooks 2, 3, 7, 10

20. General question: In Book 2 of The Republic, Plato’s Socrates calls for considerable state-led censorship, limiting artistic choices and pre-configuring appropriate audiences. This concern for molding the environment and carefully managing experiential opportunities for the citizens of the republic begins even in infancy. The concept of childhood and the proper upbringing of children is clearly of interest to Socrates, and one of our questions for Book 2 already covers the details of his instructions for shaping a child’s mind and soul in the most positive, constructive way. What are your own thoughts on this matter of child-rearing? Do you think that in general, Americans (or parents in whatever country you live in) show sufficient regard for the raising-up of their children? Are they too lax, too inattentive, too severe, too “helicopter,” or do you think that on the whole, they do a good job and that “the kids are alright,” as the saying goes? Explain.

21. General question: Plato’s Socrates argues in The Republic, Book 3that the republic’s governors may tell lies if it helps to maintain order and is for the good of the people. Our own U.S. government, like many other complex, modern governments, doesn’t always give the full story (or indeed any story) about its activities. To what extent is it ever appropriate for a government to lie to its citizens, or conceal its operations from them? Under what circumstances, if any, would it be proper for a government to do so? If possible, give an example. Moreover, while it is understandable that this question of the “allowable lie” would occur to a philosopher building an image of the perfectly ordered republic, Socrates brings it up more than once, as if it is more important or troubling to him than he would be comfortable admitting to us. Why is the question of untruth’s utility or value so important to Plato and Socrates?

22. General question: Does the allegory of the cave in Book 7 of The Republic leave you with an optimistic or a pessimistic feeling about people’s capacity to get free of comforting illusions and to break forth from habitual ways of perceiving and thinking? Explain the reasoning that underlies your view. For instance, what role, if any, can philosophy and literature play in the upward-moving knowledge-process that Socrates describes? How many people around you do you suppose want to be like Socrates’ discoverer of truth? What percentage are probably more like the contented, risk-averse cavern-dwellers? Finally, what do you make of the strange fact that Socrates claims his liberated prisoner will eventually be able to “look on the sun itself” (76 middle; τὸν ἥλιον […] αὐτὸν καθ΄ αὑτὸν ἐν τῇ αὑτοῦ χώρᾳ δύναιτ’ἂν κατιδεῖν; tòn hēlion […] autón kath’ hautòn en tē hautoú xōra dynait’ àn katideín; he would be able to look upon the sun itself [literally “the sun itself according to itself”] in its own place) once he becomes sufficiently acclimated to his transformed surroundings? But if you look directly at the sun, you will be blinded. Is he thereby suggesting that philosophical truth is dangerous, that it will blind us to the things of this sensible or material world and leave us to behold, like blessed but sightless prophets, the ultimate truth of the intelligible world? How do you interpret the solar metaphor set forth by Plato’s Socrates?

23. General question: In Book 10 of The Republic, Plato’s Socrates centers his case leading up to partial banishment of poets from the republic on none other than Homer’s great epics, beloved centerpieces of ancient Athenian culture, education (paideía) and self-definition. Socrates’ praise of Homeric epic is passionate and obviously sincere even as he criticizes Homer for his supposed moral and intellectual faults. The praise continues right up to the memorable pronunciation, “our city will permit no poetry except hymns to the gods and fair words about good men” (88). If either lyric or epic poets with their “honey-tongued Muse” are admitted, declares Socrates, all will be lost: “pleasure and pain will become kings of the city, law will be displaced, and so will that governing reason which time and opinion have approved” (88). The choice is clear: we can have poetry, or we can have order and truth, but we can’t have both. This is obviously a species of censorship. As modern democratic people, we are driven to ask, “Can you actually align a community with such austere truth-seeking and banish the wilder varieties of literature, song and dance? What tends to happen in modern states that try this experiment, or some variant or degree thereof? Are unfettered literature, music, and other arts really forces conducing to disorder, or are they actually something quite different from what the ancient philosopher Plato thinks they are? Might they actually be ritual forms of containment for powerful and potentially destructive instincts and emotions? Explain. (In responding, you may find it useful to refer to our selection from Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music, Leitch 740-52, or to Freud for a general sense of the powerfully instinctual and “unconscious” element in human life; see Leitch 789-99.)

24. General question: What modern works of art can you think of that may take inspiration from (or work in opposition to) Plato’s great literary experiment, The Republic, in constructing an ideal society where everything is as it should be, with the people living under perfect control and in perfect harmony with one another? Choose one such film, work of fiction, or play and briefly discuss points of contact and any insights you can derive from the comparison. The generic term that should help you find some relevant texts or films is “utopian,” as in utopian fiction, utopian literature, utopian film, etc.

25. General question: Vivian, a character in Oscar Wilde’s critical essay “The Decay of Lying,” argues for the proposition that “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.” How does that claim pay homage to Socrates’s assertion in The Republic of art’s power to influence those who engage with it? Consider also the extent to which advertising and fashion—two very important forces driving today’s “consumer capitalism”—appeal to people’s acquisitive side and encourage a certain kind of imitation (of a look, an attitude, etc.). On the whole, do you find these phenomena healthy, unhealthy, or somewhere in between? Explain.

26. General question: Our selections from Plato’s masterpiece The Republic scarcely mention women, except, at a few points, to assert that they are weak in comparison with men. Ancient Athens was by no means favorable to women, who were not allowed to participate in the political life of that city-state. However, have a look at an online copy of The Republic,Book 5, 451c-457e on women’s education and social/political role in the republic, and further to 461e if you want to read Plato’s view on community of women, his eugenic theory, and his ideas about the regulation of sexual unions. (See, for example, Tufts University’s repository, The Perseus Digital Library at What assessment does Plato, apparently strongly influenced by the institutions and practices of Athens’ sometime enemy Sparta (a militaristic, agrarian and partly egalitarian society), make in the relevant section of Book 5 regarding women’s capacities and their worthiness to participate fully in the civic life of his ideal republic?

From Phaedrus (370 B.C.E.)

1. On 89-91 of Phaedrus (“Is this enough on the subject…”), Socrates invents on the spot a story about an Egyptian god and king as a way to demonstrate for Phaedrus an “approach to speech to please god” (90). When Theuth visits King Thamous in Naucratis, how does he “pitch” his wonderful invention, writing? What does he promise it will do for humankind? However, what biting criticism does King Thamous make of the Egyptian god’s invention? Why, according to the king, will it only make people forget or merely “[jog] the memory” (90) rather than enhancing the retention of genuine memories? Do you find Thamous’s objections compelling? Why or why not?

2. On 91-92 of Phaedrus (“So anyone who thinks he…”), Socrates moves on to discuss his own objections to the invention and practice of writing. What objections appear in his remarkable comparison of writing to a painting (“… Yes, because there’s something odd about writing…”). How is a piece of writing, according to Socrates, both strangely aloof and yet scandalously promiscuous at the same time in terms of whom it consorts with? Why is it that, when faced with “rudeness and unfair abuse,” writing “always needs its father to come to its assistance” (91)? By contrast, how does Socrates describe speech, which he calls the “legitimate brother” (91) of the written word? Consider in this respect the parable of the farmer sowing seeds—how does it encourage people to show more care for speech than for writing? Ultimately, how is writing, according to Socrates, dangerous with regard to its potential for dissemination to a broad public?

3. On 92 of Phaedrus (“So are we to say that…”),what opinion does Socrates venture regarding whether a wise person or philosopher ought to write or occupy himself with dialectical speaking? How does Plato’s Socrates, again using the agricultural metaphor of sowing seeds, suggest how a wise person will regard writing, and what good effects the speaking of “an excellent dialectician” (92) can exercise upon others? How do you suppose Plato would respond if we were to point out to him that, for all his denunciations of writing, he is in fact a very good writer and creator of literary fictions that we take quite seriously as philosophy? Explain.

4. On 92-95 of Phaedrus (“With this conclusion in place…”), Socrates and his companion turn their minds to the orator Lysias, who has recently been “abused” (92 bottom) for writing down his speeches. In the course of explaining what constitutes “expertise” (93) in oratory or the lack thereof, why does Socrates apparently believe that any overreliance on writing out a speech is “a source of shame for the author” (93)? How does it indicate the creator/writer’s ignorance of the subject at hand? Why is the spoken word alone an appropriate medium for “clarity and perfection and something worth taking seriously” (93)? Finally, what verdict is rendered by Socrates on his and Phaedrus’s friend Lysias, who deigns to write down speeches? (94)

5. General question: You have read Socrates in Phaedrus on the differences between speech and writing, and you know that he believes speech gets us closer to truth—it seems he believes speech has a living connection to the truth attainable in an unbroken stream of interior thought, while writing supposedly does not have any such connection—and is more capable of generating good effects in the minds and souls of others. But what about your own view? How do you judge writing and speech? Do you think of one activity as somehow closer to life, truth and authenticity, and the other as farther away from these vital things, or do you think that speech and writing share some of the same limitations? Explain.

Edition: Leitch, Vincent B. et al., eds. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 3rd ed. New York and London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2018. ISBN-13: 978-0-393-60295-1.

Copyright © 2021 Alfred J. Drake