Phaedrus: Dialectic and the Logic of Creation

Does the written word lack the essence of meaning? Can words ever truly capture what we are trying to say? How we really feel?

Once our words are released from our selves and captured upon the page, are they not free to be interpreted as we do not intend?

Near the close of Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates and Phaedrus discuss the qualities of aptitude and ineptitude in writing (274B ff). In this discussion Socrates uncovers the fickle nature of meaning in writing—exemplified best by Jacques Derrida’s Dissemination. He then goes on to discuss “the living and breathing word of him who knows,” and presents a Platonic definition of “the art of dialectic.” Here the difference between the dialectical method and rhetoric becomes clear—the former being a method of finding the truth of a matter through reason; the latter established as a method of persuasion.

The Project:

We will conduct a written dialectic in class.

Our dialectic will be written only—silence will be expected throughout the experiment. When you have an idea to express, it must be written.

Everyone must participate—I must have written contributions from everyone in the class.

Notice how much faster your thoughts flow through you than you are able to write. If you could speak, they would not be lost. Or would they? Quickly, take notes on your thoughts and construct a reasonable truth from your notes. First, capture if you can the essence of your thought. Next, reconstruct it with building-block-words in a way that most clearly facilitates your understanding of the matter in the mind of another.

Ours is not to argue or persuade, but to discover the truth of the matter.

What’s the matter?

Let’s try to discover, using Plato’s method of the dialectic, the logical truth behind the story of creation in the book of Genesis.

Do Your Homework:

You’ve read the creation story, seen contemporary examples, and covered different interpretations of the events described in Genesis 1:1-2:3 and 2:4-3:24. Post five truths in the space below—arguments from logic. Not from passion. Not from belief.


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