© 1997 Bernard SUZANNE Last updated November 22, 1998
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Phaedo
(4th tetralogy : The Soul - 3rd dialogue of trilogy)

Detailed Structure of the Introduction

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The first task that awaits us when looking at the starting pages of the Phædo is to determine the criteria that are relevant to structure them. Indeed, we'll see as we go that there are several criteria that lead to different structures, and that Plato uses the interplay of these multiples structures with one another to "talk" to us.

In the gross outline I used as a starting point for the study of the structure of the Phædo, I assumed that the beginning of the "serious" discussion was at 63e7, after an intervention by Crito, and split what comes before in three parts according to obvious features : a first part ending at 59c7 with the last line of Echecrates in the outer dialogue (at least for the time being), a second one ending at 60b1 with the departure of Xanthippe,  just before Socrates starts talking, and a third one made up of the whole of the introductory dialogue between Socrates, Cebes and Simmias.

But a closer look shows that things are not that simple. If indeed Phædo states at 59c7 that he will tell everything "from the beginning (ex archès)", the fact is, the story has already started by then : from a "historical" standpoint, that is, as regard the description of characters, events and locations, its actual beginning could be ascribed to 58e1 when Phædo starts describing his state of mind and that of the other disciples while in Socrates' cell, though, from a "logical" standpoint, that is with regard to the speeches, the logoi that Echecrates wants to know about (his last sentence in the introduction is : "Say what were the logoi", 59c7), they only start at 60b1 after Xanthippe has left.

Then there is the question of deciding where is the real start of the "serious" discussion, and what is the purpose of the introductory dialogue. It is clear that Crito's intervention at 63d3-e7 is meant to mark a turn in the dialogue, but what is its deeper meaning, how does it relate to what preceeds and follows ? Besides, the introductory dialogue moves in progressive steps from Socrates initial remark about his hurting leg to the point where he is summoned by Simmias to provide a new "apology", alterning Cebes and Simmias as interlocutors to Socrates, which invites us to search for a finer structure. And in so doing, we come up with a less noticeable indication that may turn out to play a key role in structuring the dialogue. If we take the changes of interlocutor as a guide, the introductory dialogue splits in six parts :

  1. Monologue by Socrates about pleasure and pain, while rubbing his leg (60b1-c7)
  2. Dialogue with Cebes about the putting in verses of Æsop's fables by Socrates (60c8-61c1)
  3. Dialogue with Simmias about Socrates' recommendation to Evenus (61c2-d2)
  4. Dialogue with Cebes about suicide and the attitude of the philosopher in the face of death (61d3-62e7)
  5. Dialogue with Simmias on the need of a new apologia on the part of Socrates (62e8-63d2)
  6. Dialogue with Crito trying to cool down Socrates (63d3-e7)
The mention I'd like to highlight comes, not too surprizingly, at the end of section 3. There, it is said that Socrates "let his legs fall to the earth (kathèke ta skelè epi tèn gèn) and thus sitting still, kept discussing for the rest of the time (kai kathezomenos houtôs èdè ta loipa dielegeto)", only moving again at the end of the discussion at 116a2, when he rises to go bathe. What I want to suggest is that this deliberate movement of Socrates' body "toward the earth" to take a motionless sitting position for the "dialogos" marks, at a deeper level, the true end of the introduction and the start of the dialogue proper, which thus occupies the whole time he sits still. It somehow anticipates Socrates' death, when his whole body will again become motionless, this time for ever, and be put to rest in the earth, to show that the body may stop moving, but the soul keeps going. Socrates' logos is as much alive for Echecrates and those who listen to Phædo, or us who read the dialogue, as it was for Simmias and Cebes in Athens' jail. And in that respect, Crito's intervention on behalf of the jailer, standing there for the people of Athens who condemned Socrates to death, a jailer who starts worrying about Socrates' agitation once he stands still and only "moves" his mind, is further proof that Athens may stop Socrates' body and put it to death, but will never be able to quiet Socrates' logos, not even with the help of his best friend.

From the standpoint of what is being said, this last move of Socrates marks the end of that part of the discussion which focuses on the individual story of Socrates in his jail, now and before, seen from inside and outise the jail (with the reference to Evenus), and the start of the discussion which focuses on general rules, attitudes, principles. In other words, it marks the border between the realm of history within time and space, where the body moves, and the realm of reason and everlasting principles in which only the mind "moves" (even though a large part of the ensuing discussion still has to do with time and space ; but to talk about time and space is not the same as to be within time and space).

Yet, it looks as if Plato had tried to make this break, which I take from now on to be the "logical" end of the introduction and start of part 1, as smooth as possible. As a whole, the six sections listed above evidence, between Socrates quieting the pain in his leg and Crito unable to quiet his logos, a third group of four scenes, two with Cebes, two with Simmias, on top of, or rather, as a prelude to, those making up the first and second parts of the dialogue. This group shows how man's mind, set in motion by his feelings (here the pain and pleasure felt by Socrates in his leg), and chalenged by his peers (here the question of Evenus relayed by Cebes), is eventually led to consider the meaning of a whole life, of any man's life in the light of death. But in such an ascent, there is not one deep ditch to cross to move from sensible to intelligible, from feelings to logos. Indeed, they are in a way inseparable, as are pleasure and pain according to Socrates' initial statement, and it's all a matter of proportion. The logos is there as soon as Socrates starts talking, not only in the mere words he utters, but even in what they talk about : Socrates is reasoning on his feelings, he is composing a muthos (60c2) about them, calling upon "the god (ho theos)" (60c2) and refering to other men's logos (Æsop). It is the logos which brings memories to Cebes to move the discussion forward (60c9) by giving the logos a social dimension and making it a dialogos with Evenus and the outside world. It is a divine logos that comes through Socrates' dream and compels him to explore all forms of logos, of "musical" logos, that is, meaning a logos that speaks to the whole of man, feelings and reason. And it is Socrates' logos to Evenus that becomes the criterion to help Simmias discern the true philosopher...

Taking these remarks into consideration and trying to organize the matter in a way that will be more thoruoughly explained afterward, the overall structure of the introduction looks like this :
 

A. Prologue: the dialogue between Phædo and Echecrates 57a-59c (72)
1. Context of the story in space and time : the request 57a-58d (43)
1.1a In Phlius, long after : Echecrates' request (part 1 : the pleasure of listening) 57a-58a (13)
1.2. In Athens, at the time of Socrates' death : new Theseus or new Minotaur ? 58a-c (18)
1.1b In Phlius, long after : Echecrates' request (part 2 : the pleasure of remembering) 58c-d (12)
2. Prelude to the story : "logical" and chronological setting - the disciples 58e-60b (56)
From a "logical" standpoint : feelings and names 58e-59c (30)
2.1. Monologue : mixed feelings of the disciples : pleasure and pain together 58e-59b (16)
2.2. Dialogue : names (logos) of the disciples : present/absent - Athenians/foreigners 59b-c (14)
B. Beginning of the story of Socrates' last day 59c-61d (86)
From a chronological standpoint : habits and spiritual filiation 59c-60a (26)
2.3. Monologue : the previous days ; habits of the disciples 59c-e (12)
2.4. "Dialogue" : the last day ; spiritual and "biological" family 59e-60b (14)
3. Prologue to the discussion : from feelings to philosophy - the topic 60b-61d (60)
3.1. Monologue : Socrates feelings - pleasant and painful - muthos and logos 60b-c (15)
3.2. With Cebes : Socrates' justification for his behavior - hymn to Apollo and verses on Æsop 60c-61c (36)
3.3. With Simmias : Socrates' logos : to be a philosophos 61c-d (9)
  
Part I : Life in the visible realm 
  
61d-84b
  
(935)
Introduction : mastered body and free spirit in jailed soul 61d-63e (97)
  Cebes and suicide - where are the best masters ? - "diaskopein te kai muthologein" (61e1) 61d-62e (57)
  Simmias' request for a new apology - Socrates strongest belief 62e-63d (29)
  The jailer's failed attempt to quiet Socrates'  logos with Crito's help 63d-e (11)
(Back to plan of whole dialogue)

This scheme, which takes the introduction to end at 61d2 as already said, but nonetheless includes the prologue of the first part as well, superimpose to the two part division based on the notion of outer and inner dialogues, a three part division split at the actual start of Phædo's story even before the outer dialogue is over, and at the effective start of the main discussion with Socrates even before he stands still. This three part introduction, hooked to the body of the dialogue by a section that is in a sense the continuation of its third part, in a (deeper) sense not, moves us, within both space and time, step by step closer and closer to the last logoi of Socrates, in a manner that ensures continuity despite disruptions. A first part sets the stage and characters of the outer story leading to the narrative ; a second part, half dialogue, half monologue, sets the stage and characters of the inner story ; and once everything is in place, a third part provides a prologue to the discussion that makes up the body of the dialogue, introducing Socrates' two partners in the discussion and  its topic, the philosophic life as the way of life called for by man's telos, and moving us into that discussion without us even noticing the transition.

Yet, if we take an even closer look at the first part thus delineated (57a1-58d9), which is supposed to set the stage before Phædo's account starts, we come to realize that it is not limited to the context of the outer story. No sooner has Echecrates stated the distance in time from the event he wants to know about and the distance in space between Phlius and Athens to explain his lack of information, that we are moved to Athens to learn about the precise time of Socrates death. In fact we are moved to much more than that, because the reference to the mission (theôria) to Delos in memory of Theseus' victory over the Minotaur enlarges the picture to the whole of Greece and to the mythological past of Athens, to heroes and gods as well as men. Thus, the very move that brings us one step closer to Socrates' cell and to the day of his death, that is, to a specific point within time and space, takes a "cosmic" dimension and invites us to wonder if Socrates might not be a new Theseus sent by Apollo to save Athens once again and mistaken by Athens for another Minotaur intent on "destroying" its youth (see the act of accusation at Apology, 24b), because of his "bull-like" look (1). And we see a city ready to abide by the law and to honor Apollo when it comes to standing by its vow of long ago, yet becoming at the same time sacrilegious by putting to death the one who turns out to be a gift of that very god to the city that kills him.

The central part, that sets the stage for the "inner" dialogue" (58e1-60b1), is about evenly split between the end of the direct dialogue with Echecrates and the beginning of the monologue (actually reported dialogue) by Phædo. The linking feature between the four sections of this second part is that they all focus on the disciples in one way or another. The first half, the one within the direct dialogue, is not involved yet with a "chronological" account, that starts only with the second half. Rather, it stands at a more "conceptual" level, dealing as it does, first with the state of mind "in general" of Phædo and the other disciples reacting to Socrates' attitude throughout the whole day, and then with the names, that is, in a sense, the logos, the "intelligible image" of those disciples. Yet the disciples are thus introduced in both their "physical" and "logical" dimensions, in their feelings first (2), the expression of their "nature", then by their names (3), the mark of society and logos upon them. And similarly, in the "chronological" section, there is room for the "physical" and the "logical" : the disciples are first seen in their habits (of coming to the jail everyday) in a subsection that is very precise about topography and takes over in time where the earlier section about the reprieve owed Apollo had left ; then, they are implicitely shown, in the scene of their entry into Socrates' cell followed by the exit of Xanthippe and Socrates' "biological" son, as candidates to the role of  "spiritual" heirs of Socrates, sons of his logos. And though, overall, the first, more "logical" section is within a direct dialogue (the dialogue with Echecrates) while the second, "chronological" section is within a monologue (Phædo's story), a closer look shows that on both sides, the more "physical" subsection (feelings on one side, habits on the other) are actually monologues of Phædo, while the more "logical" subsections (names on one side, welcome of "spiritual" heirs on the other) are dialogues, direct or reported (in the last subsection, the dialogue is no longer between Phædo and Echecrates, and not yet between Socrates, Cebes and Simmias, but it has the porter talking to the disciples, Xanthippe talking to Socrates and Socrates talking to Crito).

It is possible to read this whole part as a summary of the path to become a disciple of the "master" : it all starts with feelings (section 1), in the sphere of the epithumiai (and we'll see in the next part, that the discussion will also start with the feelings of Socrates, the pain and pleasure in his leg), and especially that most important feeling which is at the root of philosophy (see Theætetus, 155d), wonderment ("I felt wonderment (thaumasia epaton) being at his side", 58e, the first words of Phædo in this section). It then requires public recognition (section 2, the "catalogue" of names in a dialogue with Echecrates) of its being associated with the "master", and assiduous frequentation of him, even in the harshest conditions (section 3). But, in the end, there is no such thing as a "recognition" by the master, because there is no such thing as a "master", only a guide that you may or may not follow to the end : Socrates lets everybody in that is willing to listen to him, and he is not the one worrying about the "missing" ones or asking for "excuses". His only cause for concern is the excess of "passion", be it in his own wife...

The third part of the introduction, the prologue to the discussion with Socrates, starts with Socrates sitting on his bed and rubbing his bent leg and ends when he lowers his leg to the floor to take the position he will keep till the end of the discussion without moving. And it is from the care for his body and the feelings he experiences that the topic of the discussion, philosophy as a way of life that doesn't seem to care much for the body, will stem ! What's more, the whole discussion will take place between the care for the body that has just been freed from his chains (the rubbing of the leg) and the care for the body that is about to free the soul (the bath before drinking the hemlock), between a "private" care (to get rid of a painful feeling in his body that he alone feels) that turns out to have a "social" dimension (he needs to have a free mind and a body in check for the ensuing discussion) and a "social" care (the bath is taken "to spare the women the burden of washing a corpse", 115a, in respect of the custom, and as if Socrates himself was already taking part in his own burial) that has an obvious "private" dimension. But, rather than seeing there some sort of contradiction between Socrates' words and his deeds, we may interpret it as a lesson in acts on the relative importance of the care for the body and the care for the soul in the philosopher's life : as I said already, Plato/Socrates is not an "either..., or..." man, but an "and..., and..." proponent ; not "either the body or the soul", but "body and soul, only each one in its due place". We have to make do with a body so long as we are not dead (even to the last minute, as indicated by the bath), and besides, the body has a social as well as private dimension, and we must care for our neighbors by taking at least minimal care of our bodily look. And if, in the end, we compare the time spent on the care of the body in the dialogue to that spent in discussions for the care of the soul (about 26 lines (4) compared to roughly 2150 lines of discussion), we may find there an indication of what the proper balance should be...

Going back to the structure of the third part, we may find in its three sections a progression through all three parts of the soul. The first section, a monologue (5) by Socrates, deals, as we have already said, with feelings of pain and pleasure in his body, that is, with experiences that are mostly due to the lower part of the soul, the epithumiai, the "passions". The second section, with Cebes jumping in, brings into the picture the social dimension (Cebes has been questionned by other people), the potential for conflict of interest (between Socrates and Evenus), the judgement that people may pass on Socrates' behavior (why is he suddenly writing poetry ?...), the way people may interpret what may or may not be seen as a sign from the gods (Socrates attributes his dreams to a god), the move from thought to action (Socrates making good on the various meanings he finds to the dream), the need for an appropriate compromise between reason and passions (philosophy first in manner of "music", poetry only when it is no longer possible to roam the agora ; but then again, poetry in praise of the god first, "myths" that show men as animals thereafter, yet only to draw a moral lesson from them), and death at the end as the touchstone of all our choices (the call by Socrates to Evenus to follow him). All these bring us in the domain of the thumos, the intermediate part of the soul, the realm of judgement, choices of the will, decision-making, drive to action, and the like. Eventually, the third part, with Simmias taking over, building upon the final call of the previous section, forces us to look for the ultimate rationale of all choices in life, either by Socrates, Evenus or anybody else, the telos of our earthly life, and drops at last the word that says it all : philosophos (61c6) (6), image of the logos in the analogy of the city in the Republic, and program for a man's life. Now the word is there, and the discussion that will explore its meaning can start...

But we should notice once again that each section is not one-sided. If this is obvious as regards the middle section, which, ex hypothesis, is involved with the mixed, It is true as well of the other two in several ways. The first section talks of Socrates' feelings in terms of "forms", to hèdu, to lupèron, the pleasant, the painful, rather than hèdonè and lupè, pleasure and pain, as already mentioned in note 2, and anticipates some of the most abstract developments of the discussion on the forms ; and it reaches all the way to the "divine" when, in writing a fable about those "forms" of feelings, Socrates refers to "the god". Conversely, the last section introduces the philosopher, master of his logos, in reference to the most extreme of bodily "passions", death.

This doesn't contradict what was said, when looking at the structure of the body of the Phædo, of Cebes and Simmias' "roles" with regard to parts of the soul, that Cebes "plays the part" of a logos-loving thumos and Simmias that of those epithumiai that are worthy of the philosopher's ear. Indeed, Cebes first breaks in when he feels betrayed by a logos (Socrates) that suddenly seems to care for his body and, above all, to demean by taking, at the time he is about to die, a hard to explain interest in Æsop's "myths" that runs contrary to all he said and did before (these myths bring man closer to animals), while Simmias first jumps in rebelling at the idea that somebody might wish to die soon, even somebody whom Socrates himself, at his trial, mentioned as a prime candidate to the title of sophos, if we were to judge by the opinion of Callias, the richest man in town (see Apology, 20a-b). And if we look more closely at the vocabulary in both interventions, it confirms this interpretation. Cebes' first words are to invoke Zeus ("Nè ton Dia..., By Jove...", or litterally : "By Zeus", 60c8), then he refers to memory ("good you made me remember (anamnèsas (7))", 60c9), an operation of the mind, talks about Æsop's logous (60d1) and wonders "what in the world [Socrates] has in mind (hoti pote dianoètheis (8))" (60d3) in suddenly taking interest in making verses. Simmias on the other hand, in the few words that he says, declares that he "chance met (entetuchèka) (9)" (61c3) Evenus several times, and that, based on what he "perceived (èsthèmai (10))" (61c4), he should not be pleased by Socrates recommendation to follow him in death. He then goes on stating that "[he is] of the opinion (emoige dokei (11))" (61c7) that Evenus is a philosopher.

There is still another way to look at the progression through these sections, complementary to the previous one : it focuses more on how the discussion moves form one stage to the next one, as a guide on how to make use of our own logos. What it shows is that the logos is set in motion by a mixture of personal feelings coming from the epithumiai (Socrates' pain and pleasure), chance encounters that drive our thumos to take side (Evenus' question relayed through Cebes) and a free decision of the subject (Socrates' suggestion back to Evenus, which is not a logical consequence of what has been said before but a deliberate provocation to arouse Simmias' and Cebes' interest). Chance (Evenus' question about Socrates' verses) might have led Socrates toward a fight of pride, but this is not what he is interested in and he redirects the discussion by suggesting ex abrupto that Evenus, rather than worrying about competitors in mundane matters, might rather follow in his footsteps, not so much to do as Socrates, an individual, does, but to do as any man should do. Thus the move from feelings to reason starts with chance and ends with choice.

But then, the "lesson" doesn't stop here, and the introductory section of the main discussion, which prolongs the section just analyzed, may be read as a warning against the dangers of unchecked forays in abstract reasoning. Indeed, the first moves of Cebes, quick to react to Socrates' challenge, are kind of erratic. In the short discussion that ensues, he seems to be changing his mind by the minute, in the face of an unwavering Socrates, master of his own mind and proceeding along a straight path : first, Cebes says he heard nothing from Philolaus about suicide (61d), but in his next reply, he admits to the contrary (61e) ; in his first remarks, he seems to follow in Socrates' footsteps and lean toward the idea that, if the philosopher is right about life, suicide should be the logical thing to do, but soon, he is all too happy to find grounds in Socrates' "mythical" replies taken one-sidedly for a defense of the choice for life. Indeed, Socrates states off hand that he will "thoroughly examine and develop myths (diaskopein te kai muthologein) about life in the hereafter" (61e), but Cebes seems all too willing to take the myths at face value and forget about the diaskopein. So, Simmias eventually has to refocus the discussion on the concrete issue of Socrates' own death to bring it back to earth. The interrogation prompted by Socrates' choice to challenge Evenus (not on poetry, but on the meaning of one's whole life) that was in danger of turning into an abstract conflict of doctrines with Cebes, is redirected toward the examination of Socrates' own case by Simmias' request for a new "apology", and it is only from such grounds, rooted in acts that bear witness to the words, that it will be able to move back to higher levels of abstraction without ever loosing contact with the "ground" (12). And this "downward" movement of Simmias bringing back the focus on Socrates' here and now is completed by the jailer's intervention through Crito to try and stop the movement of Socrates' logos, leading to one more choice by Socrates, that of ignoring such a "warning"...

(back to commented plan of the Phædo)

(1) The adverb taurèdon, bull-like, built on the word tauros, bull, like Minô-tauros, the Minotaur, half-man, half-bull monster, is used at 117b5 to depict the look from under of Socrates at the man who hands him over the cup of poison. This is the only use of this word in the whole corpus and it cannot be fortuitous. (back)

(2) In a similar way, the prologue to the discussion (60b-c) starts with the feelings of Socrates. On both sides, men are taken with the whole of their nature. And it may be worth comparing these two sections which, on the surface, seem to say the exact opposite : the first one presents several men united in their feelings of mixed pleasure and pain and Phædo marvelling ("thaumasia epaton...", 58e1) at this "truly strange (atechnôs atopon, 59a4)" mix ; the second one presents a single man, Socrates, split between successive painful and pleasant feelings and marvelling ("hôs thaumasiôs...", 60b4) at the strange ("hos atopon...", 60b3) incompatibility between these two contrary feelings. The first one refers to a "divine share (theias moiras, 58e6)" that seems to protect Socrates from any feeling of pain ; the second one talks of a god binding together both feelings. The first one talks about the pleasure stemming from philosophy with Socrates (59a3) ; the second shows Socrates led to muthos (60c2) by pleasure.

But things may not be as far apart as they seem to be. Phædo is indeed describing a variety of states within himself, Socrates and the other disciples, and he is trying to find an appropriate description of what he feels, which is made up of a succession of different states, "at times laughing, at other times crying" (59a8), of pleasures that are different now from what they were earlier, of pains that are mitigated by the calm of Socrates in the face of his own death ; it is only because he is trying to find one single qualification for his overall feelings across the whole day that he is talking of a "mix" (krasis, 59a5) within his soul. More accurate, Socrates knows and states from the start that we cannot feel both pain and pleasure at the very same time, though he is quick to notice that most often they come close to one another, the one leading to the other, and this is precisely what leads him to the "fable" he composes. Besides, Socrates is talking about physical pains and pleasures, pains and pleasures in the body, the pain of the chains on his legs and the relief after being freed from them, while Phædo is talking about intellectual feelings, "passions" (pathos, 59a5) of the soul, the pleasure of philosophy, the fear of someone else's death, and the like ; and the soul is much faster to change mood than the body to change sensations. But most importantly, Phædo is talking about feelings in individuals, instances of states of specific minds, pleasure (hèdonè) and pain (lupè), while Socrates is talking about concepts, forms, the pleasant (to hèdu) and the painful (to lupèron) ; and this must be read in light of the answer by Socrates to the anonymous objection (103a-c), which has to do with the same kind of distinction, a distinction between the forms themselves and the beings in which these forms come and go. (back)

(3) If we set aside the name of Apollodorus, which serves as a transition from the section on the feelings to that on the names, 7 names of fellow-countrymen (epichôriôn) are mentioned (Critobulus, Hermogenes, Epigenes, Æschines, Antisthenes, Ctesippus and Menexenus) and 7 names of foreigners (xenoi) (Simmias, Cebes, Phædondas, Euclides, Terpsion, Aristippus and Cleombrotus), with the mention in between of Plato himself (Crito is not mentioned by name, but only as Critobulus' father). Would that be the "twice seven (dis hepta, 58a11)" of the new Theseus, Socrates ? No longer 7 boys and 7 girls, but 7 Attics and 7 foreigners. If that were the case, the fact that the count includes all the quoted names, including some that weren't there (Aristippus and Cleombrotus) might mean that it is not enough to be with Socrates (as a disciple) to be "saved" with him (unlike what happened with the twice seven that were with Theseus, who were all saved ; but then, it was salvation of the body, not of the soul...). Some didn't bother staying till the end and were lost to a life of pleasure (Ægina, where Aristippus and Cleombrotus are said to have been that day, was at the time famed for being a place of pleasure). But conversely, it doesn't suffice to be physically present to be saved : the case in point is Menexenus, last named of the Attics, just before the mention of Plato, and whose name means "who stays forever a foreigner". Indeed, as I indicated elsewhere (see the comments on the Lysis in the introduction to the 1st tetralogy), Menexenus, first seen in the Lysis, is the one who stops at the end of the short path of rhetoric, at the end of the 5th tetralogy, with the dialogue that bears his name and shows the kind of politics this short path, that was the path of Gorgias and Isocrates after him, leads to (see "The Short Path of Isocrates", in the general introduction to the tetralogies). And if Menexenus is the attendant that is not saved, the fellow-countryman that stays a foreigner, Plato, whose name comes next, is the absent that is nonetheless saved, the soul that is there (after all, he writes the whole story) in spirit despite the weaknesses of the body (he tells us he was sick). (back)

(4) This is counting the first section of the third part of the introduction, the monologue by Socrates about the painful and pleasant while rubbing his leg (15 lines) and the section in the conclusion about the bath (166a-b, 11 lines). We might get an even smaller number by only counting the lines mentioning actual care of the body, not full sections in which these lines occur. Or we might get a slightly larger number (106 lines) by counting all of the introduction's third part (60 lines, from the time Socrates is said to rub his leg to the point where he is seen lowering it to stand still) and all of conclusion's first part (46 lines, from the time Socrates says he is going to take a bath at 115a to the point where he comes back with the disciples at 116c, thus including the discussion with Crito about his funerals). But even that larger number is minuscule compared to the discussion ! (back)

(5) Monologues seem to be more in tune with the epithumiai, the feelings. Feelings don't ask, don't "dialogue" with the mind, especially bodily feelings ! They just make them felt and that's all. Most of the Phædrus, the dialogue that deals with the "nature" of the soul, is made up of monologues, and it only turns to dialogue when looking for an understanding of the soul behind the speeches it produces (see the commented plan of the Phædrus). The Symposium too is made up of monologues, which probably means that it mostly deals with an eros that stays at a rather "physical" level. And indeed, to talk about an eros that is much more than that, Socrates introduces a dialogue within his monologue, the dialogue with Diotima !... In the analysis of the central part of the introduction, we have already seen that monologues were used by Phædo when dealing with more "physical" themes : the feelings of the disciples, their "habits", as opposed to dialogues for more "logical" themes. (back)

(6) Philosophia has already been mentioned twice : once by Phædo when describing his feelings (59a3), as the cause of greatest pleasures, and once by Socrates himself (61a3), as the first kind of "music" he used to practice, in the previous section of the introduction (at the level of the middle part of the soul that has to decide between philosophy and poetry). But this is the first occurrence of philosophos. The point now is to see how we can move from a concept to its embodiment in a person, from the logos as one part of the soul among others, that may be subdued by the others, or may withdraw from the world while still embodied and play it alone, to the logos as leader of the soul. (back)

(7) The verb here used calls to mind the so-called "theory of recollection (anamnèsis)" that will be mentioned later by Cebes (72e), though it will be developed with Simmias. The fact that it is developed with Simmias, not with Cebes, does not run contrary to what I suggest here, that recollection should be of more concern to the logos-loving Cebes. That recollection is an operation of the logos does not imply that a "theory" of recollection is aimed at the logos ! It is Cebes who indeed bring the "theory" to the fore, and he is quick to explain it to Simmias who has trouble remembering his "lesson". The point is, as I have shown already and will keep demonstrating, Socrates, in the Phædo, is very careful to take care of the whole of the soul. And Cebes has already "bought" the story about recollection and the point is now to drive it home down to the lowest part of the soul. For that, Cebes is ready to join forces with Socrates. Indeed, we might even say that the "theory" of recollection is targeted only toward the lowest part of the soul ! The point is, this so-called "theory of recollection" has a lot more to do with myth than it has with dialectical demonstration. It was devised to convince Meno, who wouldn't care for the "forms" (the "form" of virtue, in his case), didn't have the patience to seek a definition of what he was talking about, was a pragmatist from beginning to end and could only be convinced by "experience". So, Socrates needed a "proof" of the existence of the "forms" and the ability to learn what we don't already know that would stay within time and space ! Thus, this supposed "theory" is only fit to deal with the epithumiai, with the "materialistic" side of our nature, not with a dialectical mind... (back)

(8) The verb dianoeisthai refers to the dianoia, the operation associated with the third segment of the line in the Republic, the segment of intelligible images. (back)

(9) The verb used is derived from the same root as (and indeed includes, in the inflexion here used) the word tuchè, which means chance, fate, and thus implies encounters which are not the result of choice. (back)

(10) The verb here used, aisthanesthai, means to perceive, to apprehend by the senses, and has the same root as aisthèsis, sense-perception, sensation, the operation that feeds the epithumiai. (back)

(11) The verb dokein has the same root as doxa, opinion, and refers to operations that, in Plato/Socrates mind, owe little to the logos, and a lot more to feelings. (back)

(12) It is indeed the ultimate dialectical exercise which is introduced by Socrates' (spiritual) autobiography, not the initial "apology" for the philosopher's life ; in other words, the more abstract the discussion, the greater the need to "ground" it in "real life". (back)


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First published September 7, 1997 - Last updated November 22, 1998
© 1997 Bernard SUZANNE (click on name to send your comments via e-mail)
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