Losing the Monstrous and the Multiform: The Lessons of Myth in Plato’s Phaedrus

Philosophy and Literature 38 (2):462-478 (2014)
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Abstract

At Phaedrus 229c, Socrates uncharacteristically defends myth, claiming not only to believe in myth but to be out of place in Athens because of this belief. In particular, he rejects attempts to explain myths that reduce them to natural phenomena. But in what sense can Socrates, the great critic of mythic poetry, believe in myth? For Socrates, myth is true, and thus believable, even when it is not correct; myths provide the terms by which humans can understand their experiences and their souls. Thus, to naturalize myths is to analyze away morally and philosophically valuable concepts.

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