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79 We the Bird-Catchers Receiving the Truth in the Phaedo and the Apology S. Montgomery Ewegen There is no doubt that the Apology comes before the Phaedo. This sequence is obvious enough: the Apology presents the trial of Socrates, the Phaedo the final conversations that took place on the day of his death. Beyond the question of which of the two texts was written first—a matter of likely insoluble debate—the dramatic settings of the two dialogues make it clear that the Apology comes before the Phaedo and occurs dramatically prior to it.1 Suppose, however, that one wished to place the Phaedo before the Apology. Suppose that one imagined that the Phaedo looks back upon the Apology and communicates with it in certain provocative ways. Suppose that one wished to turn back from the Phaedo to the Apology while striving to carry over, if not everything from the former, then at least as much as would prove to be philosophically illuminating or provocative. At the risk of doing violence to a certain universally accepted chronology, this reading would place the Phaedo before the Apology in order to explore certain ways in which the Phaedo enriches and complicates the λόγος of the Apology, a λόγος that has much to do with λόγος.2 The authorization for such a retrograde reading appears in a comment made by Socrates in the Phaedo. Not long after Socrates has been released from his fetters into the Aesopian duality of pleasure and pain, Cebes asks Socrates why it was only after coming to prison that he composed poetry (60c–d). Socrates’s response is that it was in order to test the meaning of certain dreams and “to make sure that I was neglecting no duty in case their repeated commands meant I must make music in this way [ταύτην τὴν μουσικήν μοι ἐπιτάττοι ποιεῖν]” (60e; trans. modified). Socrates then explains the reoccurring dream: “the same dream came to me often in my past life [ἐν τῷ παρελθόντι βίῳ], sometimes in one form 5 80 | S. Montgomery Ewegen and sometimes in another, but always saying the same thing: ‘make music and work at it [μουσικὴν ποίει καὶ ἐργάζου]’” (60e). Socrates goes on to say that in his former life he interpreted the dreams as exhorting him to make “the greatest music [μεγίστης μουσικῆς],” that is, philosophy (61a).3 It was only after having been tried and imprisoned that Socrates looked back upon this reoccurring dream and re-interpreted it as urging him to make demotic music (61a). In this looking back we are told by Socrates that in his past life—that is, in the time before the Phaedo, the life before his death—he had a recurring dream. The precise scope of this “past life” is unclear, though we are told by Socrates that the dreams occurred “often.” Given Socrates’s former interpretation of the dream as urging him to continue practicing philosophy (“the greatest music”), the dream could extend to every occasion on which Socrates practiced philosophy. This would mean that every Platonic text that presents Socrates doing philosophy has Socrates making music, though, of course, music of a very peculiar sort. One can imagine, much more modestly, that Socrates’s dreams extend at least to the Apology, whose events occurred some thirty days prior to those depicted in the Phaedo.4 One could thus imagine that Socrates, as he delivers his ἀπολογία to the people of Athens and to the history of philosophy, is making music, that is, making the sort of music he believed his dreams to be urging him to make.5 The task, then, will be to determine the character of this music. Coming to any clarity on this point will require that we place the Phaedo before the Apology and listen to what Socrates has to say in the Phaedo about this music. More precisely, this will require that we listen to the swans of the Phaedo—the very swans to whom Socrates will liken himself—and to what they tell us about their own (and therefore Socrates’s) way of speaking, a way that will be seen to bear a unique and peculiar relation to the truth (ἀλήθεια). After listening to the swans, we shall turn back to the Apology in order to hear this music at work within a discourse preeminently concerned with the truth. Through this looking back from the Phaedo to the Apology, our understanding of Socrates, his speaking, and the truth will undergo a transformation, one brought about by the joyful song of the swan. Phaedo It is, to begin with, a...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780253016201
Related ISBN
9780253016133
MARC Record
OCLC
907092951
Pages
270
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-10
Language
English
Open Access
No
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