Plato’s Phaedrus – A Dialogue in Evaluative Mode

The task here is to overlay Kinneavy’s modes to Plato’s Phaedrus and determine which of the four is working predominantly. I found, in truth, all four modes to be operational in this dialogue, so I found what Kinneavy said about the modes always working together to paint a ‘complete’ picture of reality to be quite accurate.

Nevertheless, to isolate the mode most suffused in the dialogue, I begin by answering the 2 questions Kinneavy poses:

  1. What is the object of the discourse? What’s being talked about?
    – Essentially, the 3 speeches each work toward the single conclusion Socrates explains at the end, and that is to answer the question of how you can tell an artful speech from an in-arftul one (good rhetoric vs. bad rhetoric). In answering this question, Socrates makes the claim that “you must know the truth concerning everything you are speaking or writing about” (554). He says you must also “understand the nature of the soul” and be able to discern, from there, who your audience is and how you may best persuade them. In Socrates’ opinion, philosophers are the best positioned men to accomplish the task of speaking artfully, because it is only they who can apprehend Truth and the nature of the soul.
  2. What aspect of that object is given the most attention?
    – The criteria for good speeches is arrived at by means of 3 speeches. The first two speeches are wrong. After each speech, Socrates draws out several criteria that can be used to judge rhetoric: the speech has to be technically correct, exhaustive, Truthful/accurate. After stating the criteria, he shows how his rhetoric fits into the category of “good” rhetoric.

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