Volume 27, Issue 1, Fall 2022
Ryan M. Brown
The Lovers’ Formation in Plato’s Phaedrus
This essay argues that the Phaedrus’s Palinode articulates an account of love (erōs) in which the experience of love can morally and intellectually transform both lover and beloved. After situating this account of love within the dialogue’s thematization of soul-leading (psuchagōgia), I show how Socrates’s account of love makes an intervention into typical Greek thought on pederasty and argue against Jessica Moss’s contention that soul-leading love suffers severe limitations in its soul-leading capacity, showing that Moss is wrong to think that love can only efficaciously lead souls that are already well-formed. By contrast, the Palinode portrays the moral and intellectual formation of the lover, who first approaches the beloved in the spirit of rapacity only to be turned by his experience of beauty toward genuine service, ordered to the beloved’s benefit. The beloved likewise undergoes such a transformation as a result of his nascent return-love (anterōs).