The Rhetorician

This raises all sorts of questions, the most basic of which are: “What counts as `looking’ vs. `not looking’?” and “Do we really need a separate law of physics to describe the evolution of systems that are being looked at?Sean Carroll

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


Robert M. Pirsig


This book has a lot to say about Ancient Greek perspectives and their meaning but there is one perspective it misses. That is their view of time. They saw the future as something that came upon them from behind their backs with the past receding away before their eyes.

When you think about it, that’s a more accurate metaphor than our present one. Who really can face the future? All you can do is project from the past, even when the past shows that such projections are often wrong. And who really can forget the past? What else is there to know?

Over the last couple of days my mind seems focused on time lines. It seems I am adjusting perspective, while knowing full well that while the day can be assessed, and so a life. One is facing the past as Pirsig did in writing his book. Imagine him actually looking to his past as it recedes to where the words become “a place” and behind, a sun shines. We see where such an adjustment of thinking here helps one to see what Pirsig was doing.


So in that case it was not normal experience that suffered, but what came out of the sickness that allowed an “ultimate realization” that you or I do not have to contend with, but sick men who struggle to search and found something, that normal people would not. So this is why the time line is important to be realized.

It can indeed seem quite confusing but it is an interesting idea here, much as one could be unsettle here with the Chicken before the egg scenario. This took me back to some of the things Sean Carroll wrote. This is not about biology or creationism, but about how perspective has been orientated in a historical sense to how we see it today. For Pirsig and Nash, they had to recount their past in order for us to understand their struggle.

Sean Carroll has a interesting set of four entires about the backwardness of the arrow of time and how it would appear. This is an interesting exercise for me on how perception about the current direction of the universe could have represented “the Egg before the chicken” scenarios.

Incompatible Arrows, I: Martin Amis
Incompatible Arrows, II: Kurt Vonnegut
Incompatible Arrows, III: Lewis Carroll
Incompatible Arrows, IV: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Chicken or Egg

Illustration from Tacuina sanitatis, Fourteenth century

Reverse chronologynarrating a story, or parts of one, backwards in time — is a venerable technique in literature, going back at least as far as Virgil’s Aeneid. Much more interesting is a story with incompatible arrows of time: some characters live “backwards” while others experience life normally.


PHAEDRUS. – Plato, The Dialogues of Plato, vol. 1 [387 AD]Edition used:

The Dialogues of Plato, vol. 1, translated into English with Analyses and Introductions by B. Jowett, M.A. in Five Volumes. 3rd edition revised and corrected (Oxford University Press, 1892).

Phaedr.I think that I understand you; but will you explain yourself?

Soc.When any one speaks of iron and silver, is not the same thing present in the minds of all?


Soc.But when any one speaks of justice and goodness we part company and are at odds with one another and with ourselves?


Soc.Then in some things we agree, but not in others?

Phaedr.That is true.

Soc.In which are we more likely to be deceived, and in which has rhetoric the greater power?

Phaedr.Clearly, in the uncertain class.

Soc.Then the rhetorician ought to make a regular division, and acquire a distinct notion of both classes, as well of that in which the many err, as of that in which they do not err?

Phaedr.He who made such a distinction would have an excellent principle.

Soc.Yes; and in the next place he must have a keen eye for the observation of particulars in speaking, and not make a mistake about the class to which they are to be referred.


Soc.Love belongs to the debatable class.

Now to which class does love belong—to the debatable or to the undisputed class?

Phaedr.To the debatable, clearly; for if not, do you think that love would have allowed you to say as you did, that he is an evil both to the lover and the beloved, and also the greatest possible good?

Soc.Capital. But will you tell me whether I defined love at the beginning of my speech? for, having been in an ecstasy, I cannot well remember.

Phaedr.Yes, indeed; that you did, and no mistake.

Soc.Lysias should have begun, as I did, by defining love.

Then I perceive that the Nymphs of Achelous and Pan the son of Hermes, who inspired me, were far better rhetoricians than Lysias the son of Cephalus. Alas! how inferior to them he is! But perhaps I am mistaken; and Lysias at the commencement of his lover’s speech did insist on our supposing love to be something or other which he fancied him to be, and according to this model he fashioned and framed the remainder of his discourse. Suppose we read his beginning over again:

Phaedr.If you please; but you will not find what you want.

Soc.Read, that I may have his exact words.
Phaedr.‘You know how matters stand with me, and how, as I conceive, they might be arranged for our common interest; and I maintain I ought not to fail in my suit because I am not your lover, for lovers repent of the kindnesses which they have shown, when their love is over.’
Soc.He begins at the end.

Here he appears to have done just the reverse of what he ought; for he has begun at the end, and is swimming on his back through the flood to the place of starting. His address to the fair youth begins where the lover would have ended. Am I not right, sweet Phaedrus?

Phaedr.Yes, indeed, Socrates; he does begin at the end.

Soc.No order or arrangement of parts in his discourse.

Then as to the other topics—are they not thrown down anyhow? Is there any principle in them? Why should the next topic follow next in order, or any other topic? I cannot help fancying in my ignorance that he wrote off boldly just what came into his head, but I dare say that you would recognize a rhetorical necessity in the succession of the several parts of the composition?

Phaedr.You have too good an opinion of me if you think that I have any such insight into his principles of composition.

Soc.At any rate, you will allow that every discourse ought to be a living creature, having a body of its own and a head and feet; there should be a middle, beginning, and end, adapted to one another and to the whole?

Phaedr.Every discourse should be a living creature, having a body, head, and feet.


Soc.Can this be said of the discourse of Lysias? See whether you can find any more connexion in his words than in the epitaph which is said by some to have been inscribed on the grave of Midas the Phrygian.

Phaedr.What is there remarkable in the epitaph?

Soc.It is as follows:—

 * ‘I am a maiden of bronze and lie on the tomb of Midas;
* So long as water flows and tall trees grow,
* So long here on this spot by his sad tomb abiding,
* I shall declare to passers–by that Midas sleeps below.’

The discourse of Lysias had no more arrangement than the silliest of epitaphs.

Now in this rhyme whether a line comes first or comes last, as you will perceive, makes no difference.
Phaedr.You are making fun of that oration of ours.

Soc.Well, I will say no more about your friend’s speech lest I should give offence to you; although I think that it might furnish many other examples of what a man ought rather to avoid. But I will proceed to the other speech, which, as I think, is also suggestive to students of rhetoric.
Phaedr.In what way?

Soc.The two speeches, as you may remember, were unlike; the one argued that the lover and the other that the non–lover ought to be accepted.

Phaedr.And right manfully.

Soc.You should rather say ‘madly;’ and madness was the argument of them, for, as I said, ‘love is a madness.’

Soc.And of madness there were two kinds; one produced by human infirmity, the other was a divine release of the soul from the yoke of custom and convention.


Soc.Four subdivisions of madness—prophetic, initiatory, poetic, erotic.

The divine madness was subdivided into four kinds, prophetic, initiatory, poetic, erotic, having four gods presiding over them; the first was the inspiration of Apollo, the second that of Dionysus, the third that of the Muses, the fourth that of Aphrodite and Eros. In the description of the last kind of madness, which was also said to be the best, we spoke of the affection of love in a figure, into which we introduced a tolerably credible and possibly true through partly erring myth, which was also a hymn in honour of Love, who is your lord and also mine, Phaedrus, and the guardian of fair children, and to him we sung the hymn in measured and solemn strain.

Phaedr.I know that I had great pleasure in listening to you.

Soc.Let us take this instance and note how the transition was made from blame to praise.

Phaedr.What do you mean?

Soc.The myth was a creation of fancy, yet true principles were involved in it: (1) unity of particulars in a single note; (2) natural division into species.

I mean to say that the composition was mostly playful. Yet in these chance fancies of the hour were involved two principles of which we should be too glad to have a clearer description if art could give us one.

Phaedr.What are they?

Soc.First, the comprehension of scattered particulars in one idea; as in our definition of love, which whether true or false certainly gave clearness and consistency to the discourse, the speaker should define his several notions and so make his meaning clear.

Phaedr.What is the other principle, Socrates?

Soc.The second principle is that of division into species according to the natural formation, where the joint is, not breaking any part as a bad carver might. Just as our two discourses, alike assumed, first of all, a single form of unreason; and then, as the body which from being one becomes double and may be divided into a left side and right side, each having parts right and left of the same name—after this manner the speaker proceeded to divide the parts of the left side and did not desist until he found in them an evil or lefthanded love which he justly reviled; and the other discourse leading us to the madness which lay on the right side, found another love, also having the same name, but divine, which the speaker held up before us and applauded and affirmed to be the author of the greatest benefits.The dialectician is concerned with the one and many.

Phaedr.Most true.

Soc.I am myself a great lover of these processes of division and generalization; they help me to speak and to think. And if I find any man who is able to see ‘a One and Many’ in nature, him I follow, and ‘walk in his footsteps as if he were a god.’ And those who have this art, I have hitherto been in the habit of calling dialecticians; but God knows whether the name is right or not. And I should like to know what name you would give to your or to Lysias’ disciples, and whether this may not be that famous art of rhetoric which Thrasymachus and others teach and practise? Skilful speakers they are, and impart their skill to any who is willing to make kings of them and to bring gifts to them.


The idea here is that the argument can be held in objective analysis as a defining relation to perspective about what is real, in the here and now. So any describing from it’s source to something more defined topologically in movement from the vacuum, is a move to a finer substrate of the reality? What shape in the valley? Which one?

While scientifically engaged, “what if” internally you face the past as a lesson in history, and look upon the world, as our sun? Change it up, and the world is our past, while internally a sun shines behind us. This asks that the internal world is configured according to this dimensional perspective. Subjective yes, but allegorical to what any state of mind garners as it rests to it’s ideological state?


In the modern age of science and space flight the idea that Heaven is a physical place in the observable universe has largely been abandoned.[citation needed] Religious views, however, still hold Heaven as having a dual status as a concept of mind or heart, but also possibly still physically existing in some way on another “plane of existence”, dimension, or perhaps at a future time.[citation needed] According to science there are unobservable areas of the universe (everywhere beyond earth’s Particle horizon), although by their very nature it is not possible to observe them.

In this examination of “position” we are always facing our past. If we are to examine our scientific position, is this then real in how we analyze all of the experiments that are currently being undertaken?

You see, looking to an event in the cosmos, this orientation of looking back is to place “a measure” between the earth we stand on, and the event. The event is receding as we are gazing. While some of this observation is picked out in Pirsig’s afterword, the subsequent revelation given by Socrate to Phaedrus raises some perspective in my mind about what I had always believed.

As I look at the world, it is receding, yet, internally connected as if in a Ambigram of continuous rotation. It has to be symmetrical, in that asymmetry is to move into the world, while internally, it has always been where symmetry resides?

Why move into an objective status of scientific belief that what can exist in relation to the values that science call its dimensional, is the realization that such an existence is as if matched internally according to the degrees of freedom that we match according to the nature I had assigned Colour of Gravity.



  • Incompatible Arrows
  • Our Consciousness can “Contain the Future?”
  • Memories Arise Out of a Equilibrium
  • This entry was posted in PHAEDRUS, Plato's Cave, rhetoric, Robert Pirsig, Socrates and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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