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the nature of that being to which he addresses his speeches; and this,
I conceive, to be the soul.
Soc. His whole effort is directed to the soul; for in that he
seeks to produce conviction.
Soc. Then clearly, Thrasymachus or any one else who teaches rhetoric
in earnest will give an exact description of the nature of the soul;
which will enable us to see whether she be single and same, or, like
the body, multiform. That is what we should call showing the nature of
Soc. He will explain, secondly, the mode in which she acts or is
Soc. Thirdly, having classified men and speeches, and their kinds
and affections, and adapted them to one another, he will tell the
reasons of his arrangement, and show why one soul is persuaded by a
particular form of argument, and another not.
Phaedr. You have hit upon a very good way.
Soc. Yes, that is the true and only way in which any subject can
be set forth or treated by rules of art, whether in speaking or
writing. But the writers of the present day, at whose feet you have
sat, craftily, conceal the nature of the soul which they know quite
well. Nor, until they adopt our method of reading and writing, can
we admit that they write by rules of art?
Phaedr. What is our method?
Soc. I cannot give you the exact details; but I should like to
tell you generally, as far as is in my power, how a man ought to
proceed according to rules of art.
Phaedr. Let me hear.
Soc. Oratory is the art of enchanting the soul, and therefore he who
would be an orator has to learn the differences of human souls-they
are so many and of such a nature, and from them come the differences
between man and man. Having proceeded thus far in his analysis, he
will next divide speeches into their different classes:-"Such and such
persons," he will say, are affected by this or that kind of speech
in this or that way," and he will tell you why. The pupil must have
a good theoretical notion of them first, and then he must have
experience of them in actual life, and be able to follow them with all
his senses about him, or he will never get beyond the precepts of
his masters. But when he understands what persons are persuaded by
what arguments, and sees the person about whom he was speaking in
the abstract actually before him, and knows that it is he, and can say
to himself, "This is the man or this is the character who ought to
have a certain argument applied to him in order to convince him of a
certain opinion"; -he who knows all this, and knows also when he
should speak and when he should refrain, and when he should use
pithy sayings, pathetic appeals, sensational effects, and all the
other modes of speech which he has learned;-when, I say, he knows
the times and seasons of all these things, then, and not till then, he
is a perfect master of his art; but if he fail in any of these points,
whether in speaking or teaching or writing them, and yet declares that
he speaks by rules of art, he who says "I don't believe you" has the
better of him. Well, the teacher will say, is this, and Socrates, your
account of the so-called art of rhetoric, or am I to look for another?
Phaedr. He must take this, Socrates for there is no possibility of
another, and yet the creation of such an art is not easy.
Soc. Very true; and therefore let us consider this matter in every
light, and see whether we cannot find a shorter and easier road; there
is no use in taking a long rough round-about way if there be a shorter
and easier one. And I wish that you would try and remember whether you
have heard from Lysias or any one else anything which might be of
service to us.
Phaedr. If trying would avail, then I might; but at the moment I can
think of nothing.
Soc. Suppose I tell you something which somebody who knows told me.
Soc. May not "the wolf," as the proverb says, claim a hearing"?
Phaedr. Do you say what can be said for him.
Soc. He will argue that is no use in putting a solemn face on
these matters, or in going round and round, until you arrive at
first principles; for, as I said at first, when the question is of
justice and good, or is a question in which men are concerned who
are just and good, either by nature or habit, he who would be a
skilful rhetorician has; no need of truth-for that in courts of law
men literally care nothing about truth, but only about conviction: and
this is based on probability, to which who would be a skilful orator
should therefore give his whole attention. And they say also that
there are cases in which the actual facts, if they are improbable,
ought to be withheld, and only the probabilities should be told either
in accusation or defence, and that always in speaking, the orator
should keep probability in view, and say good-bye to the truth. And
the observance, of this principle throughout a speech furnishes the
Phaedr. That is what the professors of rhetoric do actually say,
Socrates. I have not forgotten that we have quite briefly touched upon
this matter already; with them the point is all-important.
Soc. I dare say that you are familiar with Tisias. Does he not
define probability to be that which the many think?
Phaedr. Certainly, he does.
Soc. I believe that he has a clever and ingenious case of this
sort:-He supposes a feeble and valiant man to have assaulted a
strong and cowardly one, and to have robbed him of his coat or of
something or other; he is brought into court, and then Tisias says
that both parties should tell lies: the coward should say that he
was assaulted by more men than one; the other should prove that they
were alone, and should argue thus: "How could a weak man like me
have assaulted a strong man like him?" The complainant will not like
to confess his own cowardice, and will therefore invent some other lie