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the art confined to speaking and writing in lawsuits, and to
speaking in public assemblies-not extended farther.
Soc. Then I suppose that you have only heard of the rhetoric of
Nestor and Odysseus, which they composed in their leisure hours when
at Troy, and never of the rhetoric of Palamedes?
Phaedr. No more than of Nestor and Odysseus, unless Gorgias is
your Nestor, and Thrasymachus or Theodorus your Odysseus.
Soc. Perhaps that is my meaning. But let us leave them. And do you
tell me, instead, what are plaintiff and defendant doing in a law
court-are they not contending?
Phaedr. Exactly so.
Soc. About the just and unjust-that is the matter in dispute?
Soc. And a professor of the art will make the same thing appear to
the same persons to be at one time just, at another time, if he is
so inclined, to be unjust?
Soc. And when he speaks in the assembly, he will make the same
things seem good to the city at one time, and at another time the
reverse of good?
Phaedr. That is true.
Soc. Have we not heard of the Eleatic Palamedes (Zeno), who has an
art of speaking by which he makes the same things appear to his
hearers like and unlike, one and many, at rest and in motion?
Phaedr. Very true.
Soc. The art of disputation, then, is not confined to the courts and
the assembly, but is one and the same in every use of language; this
is the art, if there be such an art, which is able to find a
likeness of everything to which a likeness can be found, and draws
into the light of day the likenesses and disguises which are used by
Phaedr. How do you mean?
Soc. Let me put the matter thus: When will there be more chance of
deception-when the difference is large or small?
Phaedr. When the difference is small.
Soc. And you will be less likely to be discovered in passing by
degrees into the other extreme than when you go all at once?
Phaedr. Of course.
Soc. He, then, who would. deceive others, and not be deceived,
must exactly know the real likenesses and differences of things?
Phaedr. He must.
Soc. And if he is ignorant of the true nature of any subject, how
can he detect the greater or less degree of likeness in other things
to that of which by the hypothesis he is ignorant?
Phaedr. He cannot.
Soc. And when men are deceived and their notions are at variance
with realities, it is clear that the error slips in through
Phaedr. Yes, that is the way.
Soc. Then he who would be a master of the art must understand the
real nature of everything; or he will never know either how to make
the gradual departure from truth into the opposite of truth which is
effected by the help of resemblances, or how to avoid it?
Phaedr. He will not.
Soc. He then, who being ignorant of the truth aims at appearances,
will only attain an art of rhetoric which is ridiculous and is not
an art at all?
Phaedr. That may be expected.
Soc. Shall I propose that we look for examples of art and want of
art, according to our notion of them, in the speech of Lysias which
you have in your hand, and in my own speech?
Phaedr. Nothing could be better; and indeed I think that our
previous argument has been too abstract and-wanting in illustrations.
Soc. Yes; and the two speeches happen to afford a very good
example of the way in which the speaker who knows the truth may,
without any serious purpose, steal away the hearts of his hearers.
This piece of good-fortune I attribute to the local deities; and
perhaps, the prophets of the Muses who are singing over our heads
may have imparted their inspiration to me. For I do not imagine that I
have any rhetorical art of my own.
Phaedr. Granted; if you will only please to get on.
Soc. Suppose that you read me the first words of Lysias' speech.
Phaedr. "You know how matters stand with me, and how, as I conceive,
they might be arranged for our common interest; and I maintain that
I ought not to fail in my suit, because I am not your lover. For
Soc. Enough:-Now, shall I point out the rhetorical error of those
Soc. Every one is aware that about some things we are agreed,
whereas about other things we differ.
Phaedr. I think that I understand you; but will you explain
Soc. When any one speaks of iron and silver, is not the same thing
present in the minds of all?
Soc. But when any one speaks of justice and goodness we part company
and are at odds with one another and with ourselves?
Soc. Then in some things we agree, but not in others?
Phaedr. That is true.
Soc. In which are we more likely to be deceived, and in which has
rhetoric the greater power?
Phaedr. Clearly, in the uncertain class.
Soc. Then the rhetorician ought to make a regular division, and
acquire a distinct notion of both classes, as well of that in which
the many err, as of that in which they do not err?
Phaedr. He who made such a distinction would have an excellent
Soc. Yes; and in the next place he must have a keen eye for the