Enthusiasm and Divine Madness: On the Platonic Dialogue Phaedrus
Plato's famous dialogue, the Phaedrus, was variously subtitled in antiquity: "On Beauty", "On Love", "On the Psyche". It is also concerned with the art of rhetoric, of thought and communication.
Pieper, noted for the grace and clarity of his style, gives an illuminating and stimulating interpretation of the dialogue. Leaving the more recondite scholarly preoccupations aside, he concentrates on the content, bringing the actual situation in the dialogue -- Athens and its intellectuals engaged in spirited debate -- alive. Equally alive is the discussion of ideas, which are brought to bear on contemporary experience and made to prove the perennial validity of Socratic wisdom, and its power to excite the mind. The main thesis -- that in poetry and in love man is "beside himself", that is, divinely inspired -- is discussed with reference to modern poets, novelists, and modern psychology.
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