Plato uses love as an allegory for rhetoric in the Phaedrus and it is easy to see how it relates to the concern for soul discussed in both Gorgias and Phaedrus. The nature of love presented in Phaedrus is somewhat suggestive of the options that love, and sexuality, is believed to be the gateways to the divine. Although there is a bit of obscure dialogue about what types of sexual conducts are unacceptable (page #154), these ideas are not precisely clarified in Phaedrus. There is a duality in the text between higher kinds and lower kinds of love. In Phaedrus, three parts are written on the idea of love, argument, rhetoric, and notions of love itself. Again, Plato builds his ideas around dualities like the beautiful vs. the ugly, the body vs. the soul, truth vs. uncertainty, and the low vs. the high. As well, Plato applies metaphors to explain his points, relating “the soul to the composite nature of a pair of winged horses and a charioteer” (page #149).
In our text, (beginning on page #149), Plato portrays the concept of a Charioteer riding a chariot hauled by a pair of horses. The text reads: “First the charioteer of the human soul drives a pair, and secondly one of the horses is noble and of noble breed, but the other quite the opposite in breed and character. Therefore in our case the driving is necessarily difficult and troublesome.” From this passage, I understood that the Charioteer has intelligence, purpose, and the portion of the soul that must lead the soul to truth. I think that one horse represents reasonable moral impulses, while the other horse represents the soul’s illogical emotions, desires, or lustful feelings. Its a beautiful metaphor as the Charioteer guides the complete chariot (soul), seeking to stop the horses from running different directions and to progress towards enlightenment.
I appreciated this piece of dialogue because not only was it relatable in my life, but it was easy to understand and grasp. There have been many times in my life where my morals are pulling me in different directions, and my soul has to grab the reins and pull me back into the light. “The natural function of the wing is to sore upwards and carry that which is heavy up to the place where dwells the race of the gods. More than any other thing that pertains the body, it partakes of the nature of the divine. But the divine is beauty, wisdom, goodness, and all such qualities; by these then the wings of the soul are nourished and grow, but by the opposite qualities such as vileness and evil, they are wasted away and destroyed.”
Plato talks about a “great circuit” which souls completely as they follow the gods in the trail of enlightenment. Those rare souls who are thoroughly enlightened can observe the world in all its beauty. Some souls have trouble managing the immoral horse, even with the guidance of the moral horse. At times they seem to be on the right path, but at other times, enlightenment is concealed from them. If overwhelmed by the winged black horse or carelessness, the soul loses its wings and is dragged down to earth. Should that unfortunate situation arise, the soul is transformed into one of nine kinds of human.
Plato doesn’t see the human soul as a kind of jumbled passions and ideas; which differs from the beliefs of numerous philosophers of his era. Instead, he observes the soul as a sort of composite, in which various components combine and influence each other. Plato uses his allegory about the charioteer to demonstrate that love is a representation of the love of the forms, and therefore is a “divine madness”.