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Plato: Phaedrus Revised ed. Edition
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1. Alexander Nehamas & Paul Woodruff (Hackett Pub Co, 1995).
2. Stephen Scully (Focus Pub/R.Pullins Co , 2003).
3. James Nichols (Cornell University Press, 1998).
I have given all 3 editions 5 stars for their own unique perspectives.
Throughout the centuries, scholars have debated on what exactly is the central theme of Phaedrus: is it a dialogue about rhetoric? Or is it about Love? Or perhaps it is about both? If so, how are we supposed to understand the connection between Rhetoric and Love? The book itself is divided into 2 parts: the first part is about Love and the second is about Rhetoric, and because of this division in the book that it generated a lively discussion about Rhetoric versus Love.
The 3 editions I review here provided 3 unique perspectives.
Nichols argues strongly that Phaedrus is definitely about Rhetoric, in fact he links Phaedrus to Gorgias. His argument is that in Gorgias, Plato discusses Rhetoric in relations to justice, and in Phaedrus, he discusses Rhetoric in relations to Love. Love, therefore is a subordinate subject to Rhetoric.
Similarly, Nehamas also argues that Phaedrus is about Rhetoric albeit not as strongly as Nichols. It is a "sustained discussion of Rhetoric" in which Plato used Eros as examples. (xxxviii)
Scully's interpretation is slightly different; this is where I find my own position to be closer to. His argument is that Love and Rhetoric are equal parts of Plato's Phaedrus. This unity is possible because "both [love and rhetoric] requires the philosopher at the helm. As a lover, the philosopher guides the soul of the beloved, as a rhetorician, he guides the soul of his partner in conversation.Read more ›
Scully’s version of the Phaedrus is a masterpiece of modern scholarship. His lucid introduction sets the stage and background for the dialogue. He clearly articulates the practice of pederasty that would have been easily recognizable to Plato’s contemporaries but is completely foreign to us. His footnotes combined are probably longer than the text itself. They include clarification of cultural practices, ancient Greek technological innovations, religious practices, politics, historical figures, problems with translations, and much more.
Scully says, “the two main themes of the Phaedrus are rhetoric and love, and therein lies the difficulty.” He takes each major section of the dialogue and puts in back into context and in doing so he clearly demonstrates the relationship between the two thereby putting an end to the critics of the Phaedrus who claim that the dialogue is disjointed, or is “ruptured”. Scully’s brilliant scholarship puts Plato’s masterpiece into context so that as modern readers we can appreciate Plato’s brilliance.
All these years later, I have come to believe that without an understanding of Plato, one cannot understand the story of Western Culture. And so I have been trying to reread Plato with mixed results.
I have never read any of his dialogues that I enjoyed as much as Scully's edition of Phaedrus. I have no Greek, I cannot assure you that it is a accurate translation. I can tell you that this is the first time I wanted to see the dialogue performed by really good actors. There are moments of great beauty in this dialogue- in the setting, the words and the thought.
As pointed out by the other reviewers, there has been much debate on the central theme of this dialogue. Scully does an excellent job of explaining the different interpretations that other translators or scholars have brought to their readings and how his differs. So among other graces, Scully serves as an introduction to the literature around the dialogue and influenced by the dialogue (he offers passages by Shakespeare, Donne and Eliot as examples of that influence).
I find myself swayed by what Scully sees as the central theme in the dialogue- the turning of the soul back toward its true understanding and nature.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This translation, by Stephen Scully, is less literal but more readable than the Agora Edition from Cornell University Press (translated by James H. Nichols Jr.). Read morePublished on June 25, 2014 by Douglas H. Walker