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Zeus and Philosophy in the Myth of Plato's Phaedrus Author(s): M. Dyson Source: The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 32, No. 2 (1982), pp. 307-311 Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Classical Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/638570 . Accessed: 01/04/2011 08:07 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Condit
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  Zeus and Philosophy in the Myth of Plato's PhaedrusAuthor(s): M. DysonSource: The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 32, No. 2 (1982), pp. 307-311Published by: Cambridge University Press  on behalf of The Classical Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/638570 . Accessed: 01/04/2011 08:07 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at  . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at  . http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=cup.  . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. Cambridge University Press  and The Classical Association  are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserveand extend access to The Classical Quarterly. http://www.jstor.org  Classical Quarterly 2 (ii) 307-311 1982) Printed n Great Britain 307 ZEUS AND PHILOSOPHY IN THE MYTH OF PLATO'S PHAEDRUS The matter which I wish to discuss is a discrepancy between two accounts of the srcin of the philosopher in the myth of Plato's Phaedrus. Before their incarnation the souls of all humans are imagined as having enjoyed the vision of reality, but not all in the same company or to the same degree. For, in the first place, the souls are distributed among the companies that severally follow eleven different gods, 247 a-b, a distribution which is regarded as important for the type of character an embodied soul will subsequently have, 252d. In the second place, some souls are more successful than others in following their god, and accordingly they manage to see more of reality than do the others, and on this variation depends the sort of life each soul will subsequently have on earth, 248d-e. And here arises the problem about the philosopher, cdrres- ponding to the two differences of company and degree in the soul's pre-natal vision of reality. For, in the one account, a lover whose soul was formerly in the company of Zeus will seek as his beloved someone who resembles the lover and his god, and will accordingly seek someone who is 'by nature philosophic and a leader', OAbotgao06s TE Ktl 7 EyLtOVLKS 747v wuLV (252 e). Apparently, ccording o this account, a capacity for philosophy depends upon the identity of the god one followed: each man lives honouring and imitating to the best of his ability the god in whose company he was, 252d; the lover in question is a follower of Zeus; the character he sees in his beloved must be that which he honours and imitates in his god, Zeus; the lover, then, must be of a similar character, philosophic and a leader. And since other characteristics are associated with other gods, it would appear that only the follower of Zeus can be a philosopher. But, in the other account, no reference is made to followers of any particular god, and the only criterion for whether a soul is born as a philosopher in its first incarnation is whether it has had a sufficiently clear view of reality; if not, it will be born into one of a further eight sorts of life, graded from king down to tyrant, 248 d-e. Here, then, is a puzzle. If the followers of Zeus alone can become philosophers, we must assume that these souls alone had, before their downfall, a clear enough view of reality, and that the followers of Apollo and Hera and Ares and the others had more limited vision. But this hardly accords with 248c, where a soul which follows any god with success is guaranteed security. If no distinction of this sort operates for souls who successfully avoid incarnation, why should it operate for souls who fail to maintain the sight of reality, and accordingly have to endure birth as a human being? Further, human understanding depends upon abstraction of general ideas from the mass of particular perceptions, and this is recollection of what the soul saw when 'it journeyed with god', av~L7opEvOEiaa Ow; the philosopher, then, is the man who constantly recalls that reality, 249c. Everything here implies that all gods are, in this respect, equal, and that Zeus' followers have no monopoly on philosophy. On the other hand, if the above is true - and it certainly seems fundamental to the myth's combination of recollection and eros -, then what does Plato mean by suggesting that the follower of Zeus will seek a person of philosophic nature for his beloved? To decide which of these accounts is preferable, let us assume first that only the souls who were in Zeus' train can become philosophers, and let us see how this assumption fits in with the rest of the text. Since philosophic love is restricted in this 11-2  308 M. DYSON way, love felt by followers of Ares, Hera, Apollo and the others cannot be philosophic, but must be inferior. This is the line taken by Hackforth, who concludes from 252c-253 c that a man may be a true lover without being a philosopher, the latter being a follower of Zeus. 'Plato seems strongly inclined to confine the ideal Epws - the means of regrowing the soul's wings - to a pair jointly pursuing the philosophic life - the life which he has most fully delineated in Rep. vI-vii. It is in our present section that he shows signs of resisting this inclination... We can hardly doubt that Plato sees in such pairs [e.g. followers of Ares] an inferior type of love to the former, though he does admire them'.' And in support he notes that the designation of the followers of Hera as flaUAKLKoL ecalls the ranking of a flauaAEkb vvoluos in second place, below the philosopher, in the order of lives at 248 d.2 Support may also be found in Plato's ensuing description of the process of falling in love and of the formation of a love relationship. Two examples are given, the one a love which leads to a life of philosophy, 256 a, and the other a love which leads to a life which is unphilosophic but devoted to honour, and is marred by an occasional lapse into carnal sexuality, 256c. The first of these results in an ideal life, a victory in one of the three truly Olympic bouts, riov TrptLv TaAatLua r-wv Coy qos ArAliq 'OAvZL7tlaK6WV VVEVLK'KaCtlV (256b): and here the reference has been taken to suggest that the winners are followers of Olympian Zeus, reinforcing the restriction of philosophy to followers of Zeus.3 The second, inferior but still valuable life of love, because it is OtAd0vTLos eems to relate to the honour-loving man of Rep. 8 as the first, ideal life corresponds to the philosopher of Rep. 6-7; but in the Phaedrus it is a follower of Zeus who is 0tA6uoo/6s TE Kac 7)yELOVK6S9 7TV qotV - words which seem peculiarly applicable to the philosopher- rulers of the Republic; hence, if the parallelism between the two dialogues is as firm as it seems to be, the honour-loving lovers of the Phaedrus should be men of the second order, followers not of Zeus but of other gods. In this way the concept of the follower of Zeus as the true philosophic lover ties in with the description of the two types of love as well as with the start at least of the grades of existence allocated to souls at their first incarnation. However, this unity, attractive as it is, is only achieved at the expense of ignoring a pointer at 253c. Here we are reminded that what we have just had described to us is the devotion of true lovers to an aim, their rrpolvula, with an indication of the initiation which follows if they achieve their objective in the way described, rTEAEr7, &Ev E 8 taTrp~wWVTraL po 7T oivi)- 9atS AEyw. But what precedes is the account of how lovers seek their beloved, each according to the character he derives from his special god, and how they seek to make themselves and their beloved as like as possible to their god. In this account there is no suggestion that one god alone will be responsible for true love, while the others will produce an inferior, though admirable, brand. The different characteristic ways in which a lover will relate to his beloved are noted as different, not as graded in merit, and all are accommodated finally under the one description, 7rpolOvfla iwrv wA &Ar76lg pcWvTwOv. urely we ought to conclude that the subsequent distinction between true, philosophic lovers and I R. Hackforth, Plato's Phaedrus (Cambridge, 1952), p. 101. See also W. H. Thompson, The Phaedrus of Plato (London, 1868), p. 79, and J. M. Rist, Eros and Psyche (Toronto, 1964), p. 19: 'In this passage, Plato speaks also of the followers of other gods: of Hera, Ares, and Apollo. That such persons are inferior to the followers of Zeus is certain. They are not philosophers, perhaps they are deficient intellectually, but they have practised 6kolwoaus OE4 as far as their inferior potentialities allow.' Rist suggests that, in the Republic, the guardians may be followers of Zeus, the &brKovpoL f Ares or of Hera, and' even the artisans in the Ideal Republic are possibly the followers of some lesser divinity'. 2 op. cit. p. 100 n. 3.  ZEUS AND PHILOSOPHY 309 honour-loving overs s not based on the distinction between Zeus and the other gods, but on the way couples who are characterised y any of the gods, including Zeus, develop heir ove and convert t into a way of life. There s no reason why some pairs of lovers whose particular od is, say, Apollo, should not successfully onvert heir love into a life of true philosophy, while some pairs of lovers under he aegis of Zeus fail to do this and rather convert heir ove into a life devoted to honour. The idea that true, philosophic overs are drawn only from the ranks of persons whose souls are followers of Zeus is not in harmony with the detail or the general run of the argument. f the alternative ccount of the srcin of philosophy s accepted, we have a basic scheme s follows: pws s that part of the divinely nspired xcitement, felt by the soul on recollecting orms, which s typically oncerned with one form n particular, amely beauty, 249 d-e. Lovers of beauty, whose memory s strong enough to lift them beyond a beastly response, ind n the image of beauty an overwhelming and life-transforming timulus o further ecollections; mong these are followers of Zeus and of other gods, 252c-253c. Any of these who pursues he matter properly may adopt a life of philosophy, av... . l rTEayLiVrvV E 81aLTra Katc tAouoo0lav vLK7ãUã) 7T / EATã7 7T-~ tavotas ayayvzTa (256a); that is, presumably, hey learn to follow the ascending oad of ever ncreasing bstraction f reality rom particulars, variously described n Rep. 6-7 and Symposium 10a-212a. They will then become the few among he few, those who are capable of being stirred y images of other orms like justice and temperance, 50a-b; and if they can achieve three such lives in succession, hey will be the true philosophers f 249a. Where n this scheme does the philosophic nature of the follower of Zeus fit in? It seems o me that t cannot be accommodated ithout riction, f qtA6ooo9s Tqv qOUtv is to bear the full weight that one would expect n the context of the myth, for the reasons expounded above. The friction, light as it is, would remain whatever word Plato used to denote nterest n intellectual ctivity, although t could perhaps have escaped notice altogether f some ess committal word ike StAo)LaO-6 had been used. For Plato has overlaid his basic account of love and philosophy with a scheme or interpreting haracter ifferences, nd this overlay s irredeemably, hough slightly, incompatible. Being Plato he would not, one assumes, adopt such a course without good reason. To find what his s we should consider how the passage onnecting Zeus with philosophy unctions n the whole account. The erotic speeches f the Phaedrus re all invitations, ttempts o persuade youth to accept the courtship of an older man. As such they lay stress on how the youth may expect to be treated by the other, and on what of lasting value he may hope to derive from entering he relationship. The angle from which love is discussed n Socrates' econd speech s immediately etermined y the place of the speech n this sequence, but there s more to it than that. Plato's general view of the nature of love is that t is essentially ppetitive, desire o obtain what one lacks.4 He needs o explain 3 G. De Vries, Commentary on the Phaedrus of Plato (Amsterdam, 1969), ad loc.; Thompson, ad loc. 4 'Appetitive' is hard to improve on. It has what may seem to be weaknesses, suggesting essential affinity with the appetitive part of the tripartite soul, and making the Platonic lover sound self-seeking. This he must of course be, in view of the fundamental analysis of eros as lack in Symposium 200a ff., and, rightly seen, this is one of the strengths of Plato's theory, if he can satisfactorily explain the proceative and benevolent aspects. Further, eros cannot be felt except by a mortal, a compound of body and psyche, and as such it is intimately concerned with sexual desires, which in Republic 4 Plato confines to the epithymetic part of the psyche; all men are 'fertile' both in body and in soul, Symp. 206c. This, too, is a strength, provided that some mechanism of sublimation or redirection of energy is available. The term 'appetitive', then, captures some of the paradoxes of eros.
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