Comprehending the dialogue between Socrates and Phaedrus was no easy task, and I’m sure there is still more I can learn upon reading the text again and discussion with others. However, there were a few areas of the conversation that stuck out to me and relate to our discussion of speech in class.
The first sentence that struck me was when Socrates said,
“In good speaking should not the mind of the speaker know the truth of the matter about which he is going to speak?”
Essentially, it is important to understand the information you are speaking about. Having a deep understanding of your topic also helps improve your fourth and fifth canons of rhetoric: memorization and delivery. A speaker is also more likely to come across to an audience as more authentic and believable if the speaker knows his or her information well.
While a speaker should be knowledgeable about his or her topic, Socrates continued to say that speaking involves more than just knowledge:
“I boldly assert that mere knowledge of the truth will not give you the art of persuasion.”
Relating back to the canons of rhetoric, while preparation and understanding your content is important, equally as important is your delivery. Socrates added that people are easily influenced by emotion, and people, especially ones who do not fully understand something, will be swayed by emotion over knowledge. For our purposes, delivering a successful speech involves knowing your information well and applying aspects like tone, volume, gestures, and eye contact to connect with your audience.
Finally, one other relevant quote from Socrates came when he was describing Zeno:
“…who has an art of speaking by which he makes the same things appear to his hearers like and unlike, one and many, at rest and in motion”
Audience analysis popped into my mind when I read this sentence and the accompanying ones. One of the difficulties of giving a speech is presenting your information in a way that everyone in your audience can understand. You do not want to be misunderstood or for people to not completely understand what you are saying. Additionally, if you rely too much on emotional appeal, your audience will not fully understand all the information you are presenting. Speaking like Zeno is not easy, but following the canons of rhetoric is an important tactic for delivering an effective speech.
Source: Plato, “Phaedrus”