A prayer for me as well : friendship and philosophy in Plato's Phaedrus

White, Glenavin Lindley
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Although Plato's views on Friendship, or philia, are almost always found embedded in discussions of erotic love, I argue that these views nevertheless constitute a clear and compelling picture of the nature and value of the best kinds of friendship. Moreover, I suggest that these views on friendship present us with a surprising insight into Plato's overall conception of the practice of philosophy, as a personal process of striving for knowledge at the center of the best human life. To tease out these views on philia, I begin with a close reading of Plato's Phaedrus. As many have noted, this dialogue appears at first to be strangely disunified: its first half is concerned primarily with giving an account of erotic love, while its second half is devoted to a discussion of the nature and value of rhetoric. I begin by examining the theory of erotic love presented by Socrates in the 'palinode' at the center of the Phaedrus, and arguing that we can begin to see a theory of philia emerging from this account. I then argue that a central element of this theory of philia, as presented in the palinode to love, provides us with a link to the later discussion of rhetoric, and a unifying theme for the Phaedrus as a whole: the knowledge of souls. With this unifying theme in hand, I return to the account of philia, and eros, in the first half of the Phaedrus and, in light of this topic, draw further conclusions about Plato's views of the importance of philia, and eros, to philosophy.