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Tumescence And Spiritual Seed In The Phaedrus

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Chapter Summary

In the Phaedrus, Socrates distinguishes the two ways in which the perception of a young man?s beauty can affect his lover specifically as two opposite types of behaviour, of which one is debauchery, the other philosophic enquiry. The distinction the Phaedrus offers is a curiously bold one, which takes the form of two contrasting accounts. The intellectual excitement of the ?initiated? soul is, to put it briefly, depicted through the medium of a physiological, sexual metaphor in which the excitation and tumescence of the soul is followed by what can only be described as the ejaculation of spiritual seed into the soul of the beloved from the soul of the lover. It can scarcely be understood as a matter of course that philosophical madness should be able to go on describing itself in terms of arousal, tumescence and the emission of seed, ?spiritual? though these may be.

Keywords: Phaedrus; philosophical madness; Socrates; soul; spiritual seed; tumescence



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