Congratulations to Ethan Gao on his recent successful PhD dissertation defence. His thesis is entitled “The dialectic of logos and eros: Plato’s display of rhetoric in the Phaedrus and the Symposium.”

Ethan’s dissertation offers an interpretation of Plato’s philosophical writing that relies on the discussion of speech that is displayed in the Phaedrus. As Socrates shows in this discussion of speech, the philosophical writer who wishes to teach the philosopher’s art of thinking must write in a way that could facilitate the serious activity of philosophy or dialectic, that is, the examination of the powers and affects of things that are said to be beneficial or harmful to human beings. In both the Phaedrus and the Symposium, Plato displays various speeches of praise and blame about eros or love to which Socrates must respond, hence inviting his audience to examine for themselves the natures of speech and love as complex things, both in terms of their powers and affects in relation to the human soul. In other words, rather than the indoctrination of some rigid metaphysical system, Plato sought to teach through his philosophical writing–dramatic works which can be identified as Plato’s “display of rhetoric”–an arduous art of thinking that Socrates calls dialectic.