There has been much scholarly debate concerning the relative merit of the three speeches in Plato's Phaedrus; the third speech, in particular, is much contested. While the first two speeches are undeniably mired in self-contradiction and materialism, the third speech, though mythical in content and focusing on the power of the soul, arguably still commits the error of entrapping the soul in empirical concerns. Despite, or perhaps because of, this failing, the allegory of the charioteer had an immense impact on the 15th-century Italian scholar Marsilio Ficino. His Neoplatonic reinterpretation of the myth, which evolved over the course of his life, was plagued by the ontological confusion of Plato's original; ultimately, however, Ficino was able to reconcile the relationship of body, mind and soul through a Christian application of the concepts of will from St. Augustine and charity from St. Paul.
[...] Not surprisingly, however, this is briefly and weakly argued, for the relationship should in fact give up any pretense of being a love of the soul; and so, significantly, the speech ends with the more probable outcome of the relationship: the consummation of their desires, having been caught their which puts their friendship a lower plane” and the end they emerge from the body without wings.” This is the logical end result of the materialist viewpoint, one which is even advocated by some critics such as A.W. [...]
[...] In his analysis of the Phaedrus, Ficino applies the idea of five ontological categories that had been touched upon in Plato's late work, the Sophist, and more developed in Plotinus (Westra 176): essence or being, rest, motion, identity, and difference. The charioteer as intellect represents essence, while the good horse on the right side is reason and so participates in rest and identity, and the bad horse on the left is appetite which is associated with motion and difference (Allen 88-89). [...]
[...] Considering this plurality of conflicts in the Phaedrus, it is clear that Marsilio Ficino had no easy task in attempting to reinterpret and make sense of the myth in relation to his proper Christian Neoplatonic system of metaphysics. It would appear he struggled to do so, in fact, in that he discusses the myth in nearly all of his major works—including the commentaries on the Philebus and the Symposium (1469), and his Theologia Platonica (1474)—he waited until the waning years of his life in 1496 to publish an incomplete commentary on the Phaedrus. [...]
[...] ideal form of Beauty that he had seen at the top of the arc, a statement that would be in line with Plato's Theory of Recollection, the language of the description belies the fallacy of basing a spiritual love on physical attraction: But the newly initiated, who has had a full sight of the celestial vision, when he beholds a god-like face or a physical form which truly reflects ideal beauty, first of all shivers and experiences something of the dread which the vision itself inspired; next he gazes upon it and worships it as if it were a god, and, if he were not afraid of being thought an utter madman, he would sacrifice to his beloved as to the image of a divinity. [...]
[...] Augustine, and by them for only a brief time—he compares it to a “stone thrown upward, which for a moment stays in the heights before returning to earth through gravity”—but this is actually a state of ecstasy (literally ex-stasis, or outside the body) and the soul must return its earthly container (Kristeller 225). Marsilio Ficino struggled to interpret Plato's Phaedrus and its allegory of the winged charioteer and horses. These difficulties were, in fact, caused by the metaphysical deficiencies of the myth itself as related by Socrates: this third speech fails to conform to Plato's strict standard of the complete autonomy of epistemology. [...]
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