Plato’s Phaedrus on Philosophy and the City

Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy 2 (2):101-105 (2018)
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Abstract

This paper offers an interpretation of the dramatic setting of Plato’s Phaedrus as an allegory of the situation of the philosopher within Plato’s Athens. Following Jean-Pierre Vernant’s work on the place of class struggle and warfare within the ancient Greek city-state in his Myth and Society in Ancient Greece I decipher key passages on the Phaedrus as implicit responses to Plato’s experience of the city. The key themes that emerge are: the relation between the country and the city; the connection between leisure, luxury, and territorial expansion; the prospects for philosophical rule in the city; and the assessment of writing as a product of urban and commercial development. In my concluding paragraphs I suggest that Plato’s dialogues should more generally be regarded as a confrontation with the social conditions of the city-state as Plato experienced them. I also suggest that Platonic writings such as the Phaedrus are best interpreted allegorically as well as literally to ensure that multiple levels of meaning are drawn out through close analysis.

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