Scholars Vishwa Adluri and Joydeep Bagchee discussing Phaedrus 229a-230a, note the following:(1)
“Returning to the Phaedrus, we detect the positivistic, scientific leanings of Phaedrus … He does not believe in either gods or accounts of them. He is a smug technician of words, pointedly without an ethical core. His adolescent, iconoclastic rationalism is either unaware of or puzzled by Socrates’ position, and he asks Socrates if he really believes in these tales. This is a question that philology, as it is practiced today, does not explicitly ask, and thus we are grateful to Phaedrus for bringing forth this point. Socrates’ answer complicates the violent simplicity of Phaedrus’ question. The question presents a false dichotomy: either you believe these tales and you are simplistic, old-fashioned, traditional, and unenlightened, or you do not believe these tales and you are enlightened, scientific, and wise. Plato’s genius consists in adding a further layer of complexity to this question … Turning the tables, Socrates himself offers a dichotomy: either one is clever (sophôtatos) and dabbles in the childish task of demythologizing ancient narratives, or one concerns oneself with self-knowledge. Socrates speaks from the point of view of the second option … The difference between a mature and immature philology is precisely philosophy. Otherwise it is a mere technique, a method. Socrates demonstrates that he is fully cognizant of what it is the clever intellectuals do. He himself provides a cameo of the first clever philologist: first disbelief and a pretension to intellectual maturity—to reject such tales. Then there is the scientific demythologization: the god must be the North Wind. Then there is a collation of versions (“or, was it perhaps, from the Areopagus?”). Finally, there is the forgetting of the seriousness of thinking, replaced instead by a “rough ingenuity” and much industry, that is, a hardworking ethic. Socrates, at least, finds this “amusing”. The serious question here is the “know thyself” commanded by the Delphic inscription. Socrates restores the mythic and its task of defining the mortal human being in relation to the divine.” (The Nay Science, pp. xii-xiii)
I”ll just leave this here for contemplation.
- Phaedrus is one of Plato’s dialogues presenting an exchange between Socrates and Phaedrus on, among other things, the art of rhetoric.