It’s been a very ancient greek week

Posted: September 9, 2008 in Readings, School, writing

I have officially begun the long and arduous road towards a PhD. Arguably, I began it long ago, and now have just started at the last institution. Whatever the case, classes started last week, and I’ve been reading like a maniac.

One thing I’ve come to realize is that keeping up is falling behind, which seems strange. But if I’m not ahead of the curve, I feel like I’m constantly playing catch up. So I need to get ahead, so that feeling like I’m falling behind really just makes me fall right to where I should be.

I’m intending to use this blog much more frequently now that scholastic time is all the time. Partially, I’ll be using it to ruminate on the readings I do for class. One of my classes, Research Methods, requires a kind of journal, and I’ll keep that here as well. But this is not one of those entries.

This entry is about ancient greek. One of the courses I’m taking is about ancient rhetoric, or at least rhetoric in antiquity, so it’s not surprising. But I’m also taking a course on authorship and the internet, which makes the words of Plato seem somewhat… outdated. Which, of course, they’re not.

It’s very strange for me to be reading these things again. I read the Phaedrus and Gorgias in college, back when I was a philosophy person. I even read them in graduate school when getting my philosophy MA. But now I have to look at them for a different reason. I’m not looking for fallacies (though I am finding them), but rather examining the issues of importance. I’m on the side of rhetoric, which Plato always claimed not to be (though he was). Also, I’m reading more into the subtext of the dialogues.

One question that’s been ruminating is the existence of Socrates. While it is generally accepted that there was a man named Socrates, some people doubt it. More importantly, people doubt whether Socrates in the work of Plato is always Socrates the person as opposed to Socrates the character. That is, which dialogues are recorded by Plato, and which ones are written by him? (A definite question of authorship). There are some dialogues that are written after the death of Socrates, so he’s probably just a character there. But what about the two I mentioned above?

It certainly seems possible that Gorgias is a recording. But I don’t think it is. There’s a lot of references throughout to what later becomes Plato’s philosophy as expressed in The Republic–I saw precursers to The Cave, The Forms, and other Unneccessarily Capitalized Ideas. This makes me think that Socrates here is a character, not a person.

Phaedrus, on the other hand, seems to lean the other way. It seems at first glance to have to be written rather than recorded. The primary subtext of the dialog is Socrates trying to seduce Phaedrus, which would be exceedingly difficult with Plato sitting there writing everything down. But a lot of what Socrates says here, such as his condemnation of writing, suggests that maybe these are his words instead of Plato’s. Then there are the points in the narrative when Socrates makes mention to the beautiful boy they were talking to. They, as in he and Phaedrus. It can easily be read that this boy is a metaphorical one, the person to whom they would be presenting their speeches if he were present. This reading supports Socrates hitting on Phaedrus, because it’s very clear just exactly WHO he’s talking about even if he’s not talking directly TO Phaedrus.

But then again, maybe the beautiful boy who is listening to them is Plato. Maybe he gets lost for a while because he gives Socrates and Phaedrus some privacy. I’m not sure.

But that, and Quintillian, is what I’ve been reading and readingg about lately. These are the thoughts that occupy my mind. As for my actual research… well, that’s a whole other post.

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