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Journeys in Plato's Phaedrus: Hermias' Reading of the Walk to the Ilissus


Baltzly, D, Journeys in Plato's Phaedrus: Hermias' Reading of the Walk to the Ilissus, Studies in Hermias' Commentary on Plato's Phaedrus, Koninklijke Brill NV, JF Finamore, CP Manolea and S Klitenic Wear (ed), Leiden, pp. 7-24. ISBN 9789004414310 (2020) [Research Book Chapter]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2020 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden

DOI: doi:10.1163/9789004414310_003


Plato's Phaedrus is a dialogue of journeys, a tale of transitions. It begins with Socrates' question, 'Where to and from whence, my dear Phaedrus?' and con­cludes with the Socrates' decision, 'Let's go' (sc. back into the city from whence they've come). In the speech that forms its centre-piece Socrates narrates another famous journey-the descent of the soul into the body and its re­ascent to the realm of Forms through erotic madness. It is not too implausible to suppose that Plato himself saw fit to relate his powerful images of the human soul's fall and re-ascent by dramatic means that highlight the movement from one place to another. You don't have to be a Neoplatonist to think that this paral­lel between the movements of the teller in the drama and the psychic dynamics in the tale told is no coincidence.

It is, however, characteristic of Neoplatonic readings of Plato's dialogues to take such a modest interpretive hypothesis and apply it to matters of detail in the text with relentless systematicity. Most-but by no means all-modern readers regard the resulting edifice as a kind of 'hermeneutic over-kill: While we all recognise that Plato was a very thoughtful writer who was capable of investing his dialogues with all manner of significant asides and revealing remarks, Neoplatonic readings often locate great significance in things seem­ingly very insignificant. They systematically connect elements within a dia­logue, as well as across dialogues, or even read details of the dialogue in relation to texts like the Chaldean Oracles or against the backdrop of the accepted wis­dom about the nature of daimones or astral bodies. Taken as a whole, the result strains credulity-at least for some of us.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Keywords:Plato, Phaedrus, Hermias, journeys
Research Division:Philosophy and Religious Studies
Research Group:History and philosophy of specific fields
Research Field:History of philosophy
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in philosophy and religious studies
UTAS Author:Baltzly, D (Professor Dirk Baltzly)
ID Code:135718
Year Published:2020
Deposited By:Office of the School of Humanities
Deposited On:2019-11-08
Last Modified:2021-04-28

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