techne [art] in plato’s phaedrus

Plato. “Phaedrus.” The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present. Ed. Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg. 2nd ed. Boston & New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001. 138-68. Print.

mentions of art [techne]:

  • S: And it is worthwhile to adduce also the fact that those men of old who invented names thought that madness was neither shameful or disgraceful; otherwise they would not have connected the very word mania with the noblest of arts, that which foretells the future, by calling it the manic[/mantic] art (148). [techne can be hierarchal, ranked by nobility; madness as techne?]
  • S: So also, when they gave the name to the investigation of birds and by other signs, since they furnish mind (nous) and information (historia) to human thought (oiesis) from the intellect (dianoia) they called it the oionoistic (oionoistike) art, which modern folk now call oiōnistic making it more high-sounding by introducing the long O (148). [skilled/organized ways of thinking as techne]
  • S: But he who without the divine madness comes to the doors of the Muses, confident that he will be a good poet by art, meets with no success, and the poetry of the sane man vanishes into nothingness before that of the inspired madmen (148). [techne is nothing/lacking/not enough if not accompanied by inspired madness]
  • S: So what I claim is this, that without [the help of the art of speaking] …the knowledge of the truth does not give the art of persuasion (157). [techne can enable/ be dependent – to be persuasive, truth must couple with art of speaking]
  • S: Yes, if the arguments that are coming against her testify that she is an art (157). [techne is arguable; it is not enough to speak – it must be judged/deemed techne or not]
  • S: For I seem, as it were, to hear some arguments that she is lying and not an art, but a craft devoid of art. A real art of speaking, says the Laconian, which does not seize hold of truth, does not exist and never will (157). [craft & techne differ. can have craft devoid of art but can art be devoid of craft? techne must work with truth, at least in speaking.]
  • S: Is not rhetoric in its entire nature an art which leads the soul by means of words …? (157).[rhetoric as persuasive techne]
  • P: the art of speaking and writing is exercised chiefly in lawsuits, and that of speaking also in public assemblies; and I have never heard of any other uses (157). [techne can be relegated to spaces/venues/discourse communities]
  • S: Then he whose speaking is an art will make the same thing appear to the same persons at one time just and at another, if he wishes, unjust? … Do we not know that the Eleatic Palamedes (Zeno) has such an art of speaking that the same things appear to his hearers to be alike and unlike, one and many, stationary and in motion? (157). [techne as deft and skilled maneuvering, manipulation]
  • S: Then the art of contention in speech is not confined to courts and political gatherings, but apparently, if it is an art at all, it would be one and the same in all kinds of speaking, the art by which a man will be able to produce a resemblance between all things between which it can be produced, and to bring to the light all the resemblances produced and disguised by anyone else (157). [techne is transferable/flexible to different situations; possession of techne enables one to sense its presence elsewhere/expose its absence]
  • S: Then he who does not understand the real nature of things will not possess the art of making his hearers pass from one thing to its opposite by leading them through the intervening resemblances, or of avoiding such deception himself? … he who knows not the truth, but pursues opinions, will, it seems, attain an art of speech which is ridiculous and not an art at all (158). [techne depends on knowledge/understanding]
  • S: Shall we look in the speech of Lysias, which you have with you, and in what I said, for something which we think shows art and the lack of art? (158) [even an understanding of techne wants for examples and not mere conjecture]
  • S: at any rate, I possess no art of speaking (158). [does this show humility or disdain? is socrates privileging truth over skill here?]
  • S: Now we must tell what there is in this that is faulty and lacks art, must we not? … Then he who is to develop an art of rhetoric must first make a methodological devision and acquire a clear impression of each class, that in which people must be in doubt and that in which they are not (158). [techne has/needs method/methodology; techne is developed]
  • S: Oh, how much more versed the nymphs, daughters of Achelous, and Pan, son of Hermes, are in the art of speech than Lysias, son of Cephalus! Or am I wrong, and did Lysias also, in the beginning of his discourse on love, compel us to suppose Love has to be some one thing which he chose to consider it, and did he then compose and finish his discourse with that in view? (159). [techne implicates consideration, choice, cogent reason in pre-crafting/making/organizing/composing stage, and then throughout process]
  • S: But tell me now what name to give to those who are taught by you and Lysias, or is this that art of speech by means of which Thasymachus and the rest have become able speakers themselves, and make others so, if they are willing to pay them royal tribute? (160) [possessors/masters of techne have earned the right to name the art, create/modify language/discourse surrounding it]
  • S: Can there be anything of importance, which is not included in these processes and yet comes under the head of art? (160) [implies a taxonomy of techne]
  • S: – the niceties of the art (160). [techne as possessing cultural mores; possibly indicating techne-categorized subculture; or simply that varying categories of techne possess rules for playing nicely within society; or maybe this merely acknowledges the presence of an agreed upon ‘right way’]
  • S: And once, when Prodicus heard these inventions, he laughed, and said that he alone had discovered the art of proper speech, that discourses should be neither long nor short, but of reasonable length (161). [links techne to invention and discovery; also hints (again) at norms and expectations]
  • S: Never mind the little things; let us bring these other things more under the light and see what force of art they have and when (161). [techne is nuanced; force of techne implies movement, change-making capacity, sharing/contagion quality]
  • P: They would say, I fancy, that the man was crazy and that because he had read something in a book or had stumbled upon some medicines, imagined that he was a physician when he really had no knowledge of the art (161). [to know techne is to have experience with the doing/making; techne privileges experience/intuiting over book learning]
  • S: If you are naturally rhetorical, you will become a notable orator, when to your natural endowments you have added knowledge and practice; at whatever point you are deficient of these, you will be incomplete (162). [techne requires natural capacity]
  • S: All great arts demand discussion and high speculation about nature; for this loftiness of mind and effectiveness in all directions seem somehow to come from such pursuits (162). [again with the natural ability]
  • S: The method of the art of healing is much the same as that of rhetoric (162). [techne as methodological; techne as process – (in this case) analysis of nature, desired outcome, prescription/delivery]
  • S: … evidently, the man whose rhetorical teaching is a real art will explain accurately the nature of that which his words are to be addressed, and that is the soul, is it not? (163). [techne, at least in the case of rhetoric, is directed toward object and goal]
  • S: By no other method of exposition or speech will this, or anything else, ever be written or spoken with real art. But those whom you have heard, who write treatises on the art of speech nowadays, are deceivers and conceal the nature of the soul, though they know it well. Until they write and speak by this method we cannot believe that they write by the rules of art (163). [imposters; again with norms; again with truth in techne]
  • S: … truly artistic way [:] Since it is the function of speech to lead souls by persuasion, he who is to be a rhetorician must know the various forms of soul … he has learned to tell what sort of man is influenced by what sort of speech … (163) [techne involves a synthesis of different knowledges and application to the situation at hand]
  • S: Therefore you must examine all that has been said from every point of view, to see if no shorter and easier road to art appears, that one may not take a long and rough road, when there is a short and smooth one (164). [techne wants efficiency]


One thought on “techne [art] in plato’s phaedrus

  1. Pingback: Ergas, Oren. Overcoming the Philosophy/Life, Body/Mind Rift: Demonstrating Yoga as embodied-lived-philosophical-practice | {kin}aesthetic composure

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