The PHAEDRUS, usually considered among the last of Plato's dialogues, is one of the philosophical and literary masterpieces in his corpus. It is also a veritable digest of Platonic theory, covering topics in moral psychology, metaphysics, epistemology, and aesthetics. Virtually every major doctrine commonly attributed to Plato can be found in the dialogue, including his theory of forms, his doctrine of recollection, his views on the immortality of the soul, and his tripartite account of human psychology.
The structure of the PHAEDRUS famously falls into two parts: the first containing three speeches on love, or eros; the second containing a discussion between Socrates and Phaedrus on the difference between good and bad discourse. Since antiquity, readers of this dialogue have puzzled over the connection between these two parts of the work and their respective themes. What is the relationship exactly between love and discourse? We will explore this question in this seminar through a close investigation of Plato's moral psychology in the PHAEDRUS, focusing on his views on the role of human motivation in argument and the connection between this topic and other topics in the dialogue. In the process, we will consider the place of the PHAEDRUS both in the context of Plato's views on rhetoric elsewhere (in works such as the GORGIAS) and in the context of various historical debates that were occurring in 4th- and 5th-century Greece regarding the art of argument.