On Reading Pindar Platonically

"On Reading Pindar Platonically." Manuscript undated. In The Archaeology of the Soul, 2012.


At the beginning of the Phaedrus, Socrates, in order to hear about Lysias’ speech, has to accompany Phaedrus on his constitutional; and, in response to Phaedrus’ oblique question as to whether he has the leisure, he scrambles slightly the opening words of Pindar’s Isthmian I. Instead of opposing Thebes to Delos, as Pindar had done, he puts the morning talk of Phaedrus and Lysias over and above any business he himself might have. Pindar did have a prior engagement, the celebration of Delian Apollo for the island of Ceos, but he abandoned it in order to celebrate the hometown victory of Herodotus at the Isthmian games. Are we to infer, then, that Socrates puts off some equally divine matter for Phaedrus’ sake? Since it turns out that Lysias’ speech denies implicitly that Eros is a god and fails to distinguish between divine and human kinds of madness, and Socrates in turn through a second speech has to make amends for his own impiety in matching Lysias’, we seem to have in Socrates’ quotation a graceful allusion to the similar embarrassment Pindar found himself in when he was forced to abandon Apollo for Herodotus.