Phaedrus restricts rhetoric to forensic and deliberative discourse. Socrates says that rhetoric is a
method of inﬂuencing minds by means of words. To him, rhetoric deals with all matters--
serious and trivial. It is all-pervasive; not just conﬁned to law or politics. Every kind of
discussion covered by the art of rhetoric. Socrates says that even those who would mislead
others without being misled themselves must know the real likenesses or differences among
things. If you want to master rhetoric, you have to understand the true nature of things. If you
don't, you won't know how to make that gradual removal from the truth that will allow you to
persuade people. If you don't know the truth, you can't deceive.
Every detail should be necessary--you shouldn't be able to cut something off from a discourse.
Everything should have an internal coherence: principle of unity. If we want to attain that kind
of wholeness, we need a new philosophical method of division: deﬁnition by collection and
Essential deﬁnition: put something into a class, and show how it is different from every other
member of that class.
Explicit topics in Phaedrus:
-principles of composition
-nature of rhetoric
Plato as ultimate rationalist--but a lot of his persuasion depends on myth and allegory. He
understands limitations of logic, and when you need to go beyond them.
"Basic English". The idea that reducing language to its most simple form can lead to a better life.
This is what the utilitarian speaker does. Rhetorical language, on the other hand, incites
interest and brings pleasure. It is the speech of emotion. Neutral language is the speech of
business and science. It assumes there is a rational solution to all human problems.
Socrates says that love is madness, but not all madness is evil.
All persuasive speech is a form of love.
Plato's big question: if truth is not sufﬁcient to persuade people, what else can be legitimately
added? Knowledge of the truth must precede the art of persuasion. First you need a knowledge
of the human soul, then recognition of the power of deﬁnition (similarity/difference, division,
Something to think about: triad of oppositions/associative clusters/etc. Structure of binary
oppositions--gives you building blocks. How something develops is the most important part of
There cannot be a true rhetoric without philosophy underlying it. Dialectic ﬁrst, rhetoric second.
You have to establish the terms of the debate, and then move people to accept your view.
Often you have to pass f