Myth and Philosophy in Plato's Phaedrus
Plato's dialogues frequently criticize traditional Greek myth, yet Plato also integrates myth with his writing. Daniel S. Werner confronts this paradox through an in-depth analysis of the Phaedrus, Plato's most mythical dialogue. Werner argues that the myths of the Phaedrus serve several complex functions: they bring nonphilosophers into the philosophical life; they offer a starting point for philosophical inquiry; they unify the dialogue as a literary and dramatic whole; they draw attention to the limits of language and the limits of knowledge; and they allow Plato to co-opt cultural authority as a way of defining and legitimating the practice of philosophy. Platonic myth, as a species of traditional tale, is thus both distinct from philosophical dialectic and similar to it. Ultimately, the most powerful effect of Platonic myth is the way in which it leads readers to participate in Plato's dialogues and to engage in a process of self-examination.
- Electronic book text
- 05 Aug 2012
- CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
- Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
- Cambridge, United Kingdom
'This book sets out to tackle some of the most vexing questions pertaining to one of the most challenging and perplexing of Plato's dialogues, the Phaedrus ... the discussion is always fresh, clear, helpful, sophisticated, and detailed. As well as appealing to experts, it succeeds in orientating the newcomer quickly with many key debates and controversies surrounding the Phaedrus ... any scholar seeking to maintain an alternative view on Plato's myths in the Phaedrus will need to address the very strong challenge posed by this book. The book's greatest value lies in the penetrating close analysis of the text itself: there are some real highlights and Werner's readings will be of much help not only to students of the Phaedrus, but to all scholars interested in Plato's literary and philosophical practice.' Philosophy in Review '... a well-written, meticulous, and insightful examination ... The command of the secondary literature is obvious, and readers will be repeatedly impressed with Werner's ability to call up particular passages from disparate works of scholarship and situate himself in relation to them. Werner is also excellent at pursuing the details and meaning of the references that Plato puts into his myths ... an important contribution to the study of this dialogue and to Plato's use of myth generally. Future scholarship will need to take this stimulating study into account.' Journal of the History of Philosophy 'This is a valuable new work that uses a relatively narrow focus to broaden our general perspectives on the Phaedrus in particular, and on Plato's use of myth and thought about philosophical discourse in general. Werner has not (and does not claim to have) wrestled Proteus into submission. It would be a shame if he had. He has, however, opened up a very promising new angle of approach.' Bryn Mawr Classical Review
Table of contents
1. Introduction; 2. Boreas, Typhon, and the allegorization of myth; 3. The palinode: soul and eros; 4. The palinode: forms and knowledge; 5. The palinode: tradition and philosophy; 6. The cicadas; 7. Rhetoric and dialectic; 8. Theuth, Thamus, and the critique of writing; 9. The Phaedrus as a whole; 10. Conclusion.