Rereading Isocrates: Why does Socrates prescribe a divine impulse for Isocrates at the end of the Phaedrus?
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In this thesis I argue that Plato’s reference to Isocrates at Phaedrus 279a-b attempts to represent the onto-epistemological differences between Platonic philosophy and Isocratean philosophy. Existing commentary on this moment in The Phaedrus tends to suggest either that Plato is insulting Isocrates or being optimistic about his potential conversion. I contend that Plato is realistically identifying the difference between their philosophies and naming that difference poetically, namely: as a “divine impulse” (ὁρμὴ θειοτέρα). My argument recognizes the rhetorical and philosophical implications of this phrase and attempts to explain why something divine, according to Plato, would help Isocrates to become a philosopher. In other words, I uncover what, for Plato, appears lacking in Isocratean philosophy. But I also show why, for Isocrates, this divine impulse is unnecessary.