The Symposium by Plato

The Symposium

In the course of a lively drinking party, a group of Athenian intellectuals exchange views on eros, or desire. From their conversation emerges a series of subtle reflections on gender roles, sex in society, and the sublimation of basic human instincts. The discussion culminates in a radical challenge to conventional views by Plato's mentor, Socrates, who advocates transcen...

Title:The Symposium
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The Symposium Reviews

  • Ahmad Sharabiani

    Symposium, Plato , 1935

    تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه سپتامبر سال 1984 میلادی

    پس زمین و عشق بودند که جانشین هرج و مرج و بی شکلی آغازین هستی شدند

    عنوان: ضیافت، یا، سخن در خصوص عشق؛ اثر: افلاطون؛ ترجمه و پیشگفتار: محمدعلی فروغی؛ ویراستار و پی نوشت: محمدابراهیم امینی فرد؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، جامی، 1385، در 160 ص، از مجموعه افلاطون، شابک: 9642575000؛ کتاب با عنوان «ضیافت: درس عشق از زبان افلاطون» با ترجمه «محمود صناعی» توسط انتشارات جامی در سال 1381 نیز منتشر شده است، چاپ دوم 1386، چاپ سوم 1389؛ موضوع: عشق، س

    Symposium, Plato , 1935

    تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه سپتامبر سال 1984 میلادی

    پس زمین و عشق بودند که جانشین هرج و مرج و بی شکلی آغازین هستی شدند

    عنوان: ضیافت، یا، سخن در خصوص عشق؛ اثر: افلاطون؛ ترجمه و پیشگفتار: محمدعلی فروغی؛ ویراستار و پی نوشت: محمدابراهیم امینی فرد؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، جامی، 1385، در 160 ص، از مجموعه افلاطون، شابک: 9642575000؛ کتاب با عنوان «ضیافت: درس عشق از زبان افلاطون» با ترجمه «محمود صناعی» توسط انتشارات جامی در سال 1381 نیز منتشر شده است، چاپ دوم 1386، چاپ سوم 1389؛ موضوع: عشق، سقراط (469 تا 399 قبل از میلاد)فلسفه یونان

    این رساله از رساله‌های سقراطی افلاطون است که در آنها سقراط چهرهٔ نخست رویداد بوده است. روایتی‌ ست که در بخشی از آن خواننده شاهد گفتگوی بازیگران آن با یکدیگر است. نام این داستان نیز اشاره به مهمانی‌هایی دارد که در یونان باستان برگزار می‌شد و مهمانان پس از خوردن خوراک به نوشیدن باده و گفتگو و بحث پیرامون موضوعی مشخص می‌پرداختند. تاریخ نگارش این رساله به درستی آشکار نیست ولی از قراین برمی‌آید که پس از سال 385 (پیش از میلاد) نوشته‌ شده باشد

    ا. شربیانی

  • Richard Derus

    Rating: 2* of five, all for Aristophanes's way trippy remix of the Book of Genesis

    While perusing a review of

    (dreadful tale, yet another fag-must-die-rather-than-love piece of normative propaganda) written by my good friend Stephen, he expressed a desire to read

    before he eventually re-reads this

    deathless work of art. As I have read

    with less than stellar results, I warned him off. Well, see below for what happened next

    Rating: 2* of five, all for Aristophanes's way trippy remix of the Book of Genesis

    While perusing a review of

    (dreadful tale, yet another fag-must-die-rather-than-love piece of normative propaganda) written by my good friend Stephen, he expressed a desire to read

    before he eventually re-reads this

    deathless work of art. As I have read

    with less than stellar results, I warned him off. Well, see below for what happened next.

    So this boring poet dude wins some big-ass prize and has a few buds over for a binge. They're all lying around together on couches, which is as promising a start to a story as I can think of, when the boys decide to stay sober (boo!) and debate the Nature of Luuuv.

    Phaedrus (subject of a previous Socratic dialogue by Plato) gives a nice little speech, dry as a popcorn fart, about how Love is the oldest of the gods, and Achilles was younger than Patroclus, and Alcestis died of love for her husband, and some other stuff I don't remember because I was drifting off, and so I got up to see if I would stay awake better on the patio. It was a little nippy that day.

    So next up is the lawyer. I know, right? Ask a lawyer to talk about love! Like asking a priest to talk about honor, or a politician to talk about common decency! So he pontificates about pederasty for a while, which made me uncomfortable, so I got up to get some coffee. I may have stopped by the brandy bottle on the way back out, I can't recall.

    So after the lawyer tells us when *exactly* it's okay for a grown man to pork a teenager, the doctor chimes in that luuuuuv is the drug, it's everything, man, the whole uuuuuuuniiiiiveeeeeeeeeerse is luuuuv. Who knew they had hippies in those days? I needed more brandy, I mean coffee!, and the text of my ancient Penguin paperback was getting smaller and smaller for some reason, so I went to

    get the magnifying glass so I could see the footnotes.

    Then comes Aristophanes. Now seriously, this is a good bit. Aristophanes, in Plato's world, tells us why we feel whole, complete, when we're with our true love: Once upon a time, we were all two-bodied and two-souled beings, all male, all female, or hermaphroditic. When these conjoined twins fell into disfavor, Zeus cleaved them apart, and for all eternity to come, those souls will wander the earth seeking the other half torn from us.

    Now being Aristophanes, Plato plays it for laughs, but this is really the heart of the piece. Plato quite clearly thought this one through, in terms of what makes us humans want and need love. It's a bizarre version of Genesis, don'cha think?

    So there I was glazed over with

    admiration for the imagination of this ancient Greek boybanger, and I was about to give up and

    take my contemplations indoors when the wind, riffling the pages a bit, caused me to light on an interesting line. I continued with the host's speech.

    Now really...is there anything on this wide green earth more boring than listening to a poet bloviate? Especially about luuuuv? Blah blah noble blah blah youthful yakkity blah brave *snore*

    Then it's Socrates's turn, and I was hoping Plato gave him some good zingers to make up for the tedium of the preceding sixteen years of my life. I mean, the previous speech. It was a little bit hard to hold the magnifying glass, for some reason, and it kept getting in the way of the brandy bottle. I mean, coffee thermos! COFFEE THERMOS.

    I'm not all the way sure what Plato had Socrates say, but it wasn't riveting lemme tell ya what. I woke up, I mean came to, ummm that is I resumed full attention when the major studmuffin and hawttie Alcibiades comes in, late and drunk (!), and proceeds to pour out his unrequited lust for (older, uglier) Socrates. He really gets into the nitty-gritty here, talking about worming his way into the old dude's bed and *still* Socrastupid won't play hide the salami.

    Various noises of incredulity and derision were heard to come from my mouth, I feel sure, though I was a little muzzy by that time, and it is about this point that the

    COFFEE THERMOS slid to the ground and needed picking up. As I leaned to do so, I remember thinking how lovely and soft the bricks looked.

    When I woke up under the glass table top, the goddamned magnifying glass had set what remains of the hair on top of my head on fire.

    The moral of the story is, reading

    should never be undertaken while outdoors.

    This work is licensed under a

    .

  • Elena

    The Symposium holds the key to ancient psychology. One has but to compare post-Freudian psychology's understanding of the drives with Plato's discourse on human longing here in order to measure the distance between the ancient and modern orientations to reality. It is strange for us to conceive this in the post-Darwinian, post-Freudian era, but Plato genuinely held that the longing to know is the fundamental human drive, with sexuality (the modern candidate foundational drive) being derived ther

    The Symposium holds the key to ancient psychology. One has but to compare post-Freudian psychology's understanding of the drives with Plato's discourse on human longing here in order to measure the distance between the ancient and modern orientations to reality. It is strange for us to conceive this in the post-Darwinian, post-Freudian era, but Plato genuinely held that the longing to know is the fundamental human drive, with sexuality (the modern candidate foundational drive) being derived therefrom. What a different psychology this basic belief reveals! And with this alternate psychology Plato reveals an orientation to the world that opens up horizons entirely other to those we are accustomed to.

    Plato has shown a concern for the way that our pre-rational orientation to the real feeds into and constrains our capacity to reason already in other dialogues, such as The Republic. One gets the feeling that the arch-rationalist becomes progressively haunted, in each dialogue, by the realization that what we love determines in advance the direction our rationality can take in its approach to the real. Nietzsche commented admiringly on Plato's psychological acumen evinced by his discovery that our strongest longing is the true, but hidden, master of our reason. Already with the Symposium we see that the structure of reasoning crystallizes itself around this primordial, pre-rational engagement with the real.

    Early on in the dialogue, Socrates makes the rather cheeky claim that it is only the genuine philosopher who can understand the real meaning of desire. Socrates further proposes, to the incredulity of others present, that indeed, philosophy is somehow connected with the pursuit of the fulfillment of this deepest desire. And what better setting could Plato choose to prove the power of Socrates's insight into the human drives than a drinking party? Here, Socrates proves his superior capacity to harmonize and rein in his whole human capacity for feeling not merely by displaying his superior discursive prowess, but also by drinking every last one of his companions under the table by banquet's end. The banquet setting thus seems like a mock ordeal which allows Socrates to reveal his deeper mastery over his animal nature. It is the depth of his transformation of his pre-rational nature that makes him the better philosopher.

    What Socrates shows us is that our longing is the hunger for completion awakened by our growing awareness of finitude. It is a drive to transcend the boundaries of our finitude through an effort to establish a relationship to a reality that is registered as being more complete than that possessed by the finite self. Socrates' famous speech on the real nature of love in this dialogue attests to the fact that our desire for sexual love is an offshoot of this primordial drive - which is part and parcel of the structure of consciousness itself - to find our fullest orientation to reality in an act of knowing that relates all that we are to a world which is for the first time experienced as a unity.

    In the growth of our consciousness, we first learn to relate body to human body, immersing ourselves in the physical continuum of interchanges in a game of self-forgetful clinging to outward shadows. At this level of self-development, (according to Plato's account of the levels of understanding in the Republic) our relation is merely to the shifting outward images of being. Because we cannot conceive the unity of things at this level, we fall short of that supreme mark of reality, which is the knowledge of the unity of things. Our love at this level thus remains a game of hide-and-seek, played with ourselves as much as with one another.

    But as the power of our minds grows, we cannot fail to realize deeper dimensions of our longing to relate. We now come to long for a relationship to the real established on the basis of our most characteristic capacity. We long to relate to the world on the level of mind, and we find that this relation to the world not only takes us deeper into the heart of the real. Our deepest desire is realized in the perception of the world on the level of form. This level of perception also takes us deeper into ourselves, as well as revealing the true basis for relating to one another. Our real community is a communion of minds.

    Socrates proposition to us is that we are selves and lovers to the extent that we realize our true nature as knowers. And we attain realization as selves to the extent that we progress from being driven by our shadow-loving sexual love to that more comprehensive love in us that is wisdom itself. The rest of Plato's philosophy is arguably built on this psychology of self-realization.

    Plato's identification (through Socrates) of Love, the Good, the Beautiful, and the True is really the best definition of the most consummate philosophic vision. In our highest reasonings, Plato's Socrates claims, these four things become one. Their union, in the actuality of an experience, is what we call wisdom, the end goal of the whole search that structures our lives from the first awakening of consciousness in infancy. Modern philosophy would be different if we operated under the same definition of reason. The greatest proof of its power, to me, is that even Nietzsche, who was its most serious critic, nonetheless pined for the loss of it. It seems that Plato's description of the goal of human development was accurate after all, even if it remains only an inescapable regulative ideal for philosophic inquiry without ever becoming a stable, humanly realizable reality.

    This dialogue is worth reading if only for Alcibiades' drunkenly revealing speech expressing Socrates' effect on those poor souls, like himself, whom he manages to convert to his way of life. Surely there has been no greater portrait of the psychology of a great philosopher anywhere, nor of the effect that such a figure inevitably will have on natures less in tune with the original drive to know that structures human nature! But Alcibiades nonetheless proves himself to be Socrates' truest disciple, even as he expresses his frustration at his inability (read: unwillingness) to follow him to the end. Alcibiades poignantly shows what's in store for all of us as soon as we start to take this gig seriously: the way that Socrates represents will cleave us into two warring parts so that we become strangers to our old desires and attachments, and strangers in the world, awaiting a new birth.

  • Ian

    This might just be the work that put the "meta-" (at least the "metafiction") in "metaphysics".

    Plato’s name is attached to it, but its principal focus is Socrates. And guess what? Socrates doesn’t so much elaborate on his own views as (1) recount the views of others (especially those of the female philosopher Diotima) and (2) indirectly reveal his views by his conduct and his responses to the views of others (especially the taunts of Alcib

    This might just be the work that put the "meta-" (at least the "metafiction") in "metaphysics".

    Plato’s name is attached to it, but its principal focus is Socrates. And guess what? Socrates doesn’t so much elaborate on his own views as (1) recount the views of others (especially those of the female philosopher Diotima) and (2) indirectly reveal his views by his conduct and his responses to the views of others (especially the taunts of Alcibiades).

    Even the concept of "Platonic Love" could possibly be more accurately attributed to Socrates, but more likely to Diotima.

    In fact, I wonder whether this work proves that the Greek understanding of Love (as we comprehend it) actually owes more to women than men.

    Despite being familiar with the word for decades, I had no idea that "symposium" more or less literally means a "drinking party" or "to drink together".

    In Socrates’ time, it was like a toga party for philosophers.

    It’s great that this learned tradition was reinvigorated by Pomona College in 1953. How appropriate that Pomona was the Roman goddess of fruitful abundance. Of course, many of us will remember our first experience of a toga party from the film "Animal House".

    More recently, perhaps in tribute to the film, the concept has transformed into a "frat party" (notice the derivation from the masculine word "fraternity"), which Urban Dictionary defines in its own inimitable way:

    If you substitute philosophers for frat boys, young boys for young girls, and wine and mead for date rape drugs, then you have the recipe for "The Symposium".

    I should mention one other aspect of the plot (sorry about the spoiler, but the work is 2,400 years old today, so you've had enough time to catch up), and that is that Socrates appears to have attended two symposia over the course of two consecutive days.

    In those days, future philosophers were counselled to embrace alternating alcohol-free days.

    In breach of this medical advice, Socrates and his confreres turn up to this Symposium hung-over from the previous night. As a result, there was more talking than drinking.

    If this had just been your run-of-the-mill Saturday Night Live Symposium, it’s quite possible that the legacy of this particular night might never have eventuated. Instead, we have inherited a tradition of Greek Love, Platonic Love, Socratic Method and Alcohol-Free Tutorials.

    One last distraction before I get down to Love:

    It has always puzzled readers that "The Symposium" ends with a distinct change of tone as the feathered cocks begin to crow and the sun rises on our slumber party:

    Researchers at the University of Adelaide now speculate that what Socrates was saying was, "When you’re pissed, nobody can tell whether you’re serious or joking."

    There is still some contention as to whether Socrates was referring to the inebriation of the artist or the audience.

    Anyway, it remains for us to determine how serious this Socratic Dialogue on Love should be taken.

    Togas on? Hey, Ho! Let’s go!

    OK, so the tale starts with Apollodorus telling a companion a story that he had heard from Aristodemus (who had once before narrated it to Glaucon, who had in turn mentioned it to the companion – are you with me?).

    The tale concerns a Symposium at the House of Agathon. On the way, Socrates drops "behind in a fit of abstraction" (this is before the days of Empiricism) and retires "into the portico of the neighbouring house", from which initially "he will not stir".

    When he finally arrives, he is too hung-over to drink or talk, so he wonders whether "wisdom could be infused by touch, out of the fuller into the emptier man, as water runs through wool out of a fuller cup into an emptier one."

    Addressing his host, he adds, "If that were so, how greatly should I value the privilege of reclining at your side!"

    As often seems to be the fate of flirts, Agathon rebuffs him, "You are mocking, Socrates."

    Instead, it is agreed that each of the attendees will regale the withered assembly with their views on Love.

    Phaedrus speaks of the reciprocity of Love and how it creates a state of honour between Lover and Beloved. A state or army consisting of lovers whose wish was to emulate each other would abstain from dishonor, become inspired heroes, equal to the bravest, and overcome the world.

    Phaedrus also asserts that the gods admire, honour and value the return of love by the Beloved to his Lover, at least in a human sense, more than the love shown by the Lover for the Beloved.

    Paradoxically, this is because the love shown by the Lover is "more divine, because he is inspired by God".

    I had to have an alcohol-free day before I understood this subtle distinction, so don’t worry if you’re having trouble keeping up.

    Pausanius argues that there are two types of Love that need to be analysed: the common and the heavenly (or the divine).

    The "common" is wanton, has no discrimination, "is apt to be of women as well as youths, and is of the body rather than of the soul".

    In contrast, heavenly love is of youths:

    This love is disinterested (it is not "done from any motive of interest, or wish for office or power") and involves both honourable attachment and virtuous service.

    Eryximachus, a physician, defines Love in terms of both the soul and the body.

    He distinguishes two kinds of love: the desire of the healthy and the desire of the diseased. These two are opposites, and the role of the physician is to harmonise or "reconcile the most hostile elements in the constitution", by analogy with music, which is an "art of communion".

    Aristophanes explains the origin of the gender and sexuality of mankind in terms of three beings, one of which was a double-male (now separated into homosexual men), one a double female (now separated into homosexual women) and the third an androgynous double (now separated into heterosexual male and female) by Zeus:

    Agathon praises the god of love first and then his gift. Love in the form of Temperance is the master of pleasures and desires. It "empties men of disaffection and fills them with affection." Love is concerned with Beauty.

    Socrates approaches the topic of Love by asking questions, for example, "whether Love is the Love of something or nothing?"

    Socrates elicits the answer that Love wants Beauty and in doing so it wants what is Good.

    He then quotes Diotima extensively.

    Diotima, by a process that we would now call the Socratic Method, leads Socrates to the conclusion that Love is the love of the "everlasting possession of the Good". We seek Good, so that we can maintain it eternally. "Love is of immortality."

    Because Man is mortal, our way of achieving eternity or immortality of possession is the generation or birth of Beauty.

    We achieve immortality by way of fame and offspring.

    Diotima argues that Beauty applies to both the soul and the body. However, the "Beauty of the Mind is more honourable than the Beauty of the outward Form."

    She advocates the contemplation of "Beauty Absolute":

    Socrates does not reveal how else Diotima tutored him in the art and science of Love or whether she herself was a Beauty Absolute whose appeal was greater than that of boys and youths.

    At this point, the younger Alciabades speaks. He is equal parts frat and prat, he is evidently "in love" with Socrates, and seems intent on complaining that Socrates has resisted his sexual advances. Even though Alciabades had slept a night with "this wonderful monster in my arms... he was so superior to my solicitations...I arose as from the couch of a father or an elder brother."

    It is clear that Socrates has no affection for the mind of Alciabades, no matter what he might think of his body. He teases him by proposing that Socrates and Agathon share a couch for the night.

    And that's how it ends, but for the discussion of Comedy and Tragedy.

    If this had been a PowerPoint Presentation, Socrates, Plato and I would have told you what we were going to say, then say it, and end by telling you what we had just said.

    But because this work is pre-Microsoft, I will end this disquisition here, largely because I want to read Plato’s complementary work on Love, "Phaedrus", and see what more he has to say about Socrates, this mentor of frat boys who was so much more than a picker, a grinner, a lover and a sinner.

    Only then will I be able to speak more definitively of the Pompatus of Love.

    I would love

    To find One,

    An Other,

    So we could

    Each love one

    Another,

    In divine

    Unity.

    Scroll to 3:57 for video:

    Spanish subtitles:

    Starts at 2:50 (but the intro is fun):

  • Riku Sayuj

    Plato’s overriding concern as a teacher is how to achieve

    or how to live the good life. However, this is as difficult a topic to capture in teaching as it is to achieve in action. Hence he approaches the topic by defining many peripheral topics - by showing various aspects of the good life.

    In

    too the same ultimate question is approached, this time through the question of how to love perfectly. Many wonderful explanation of Love are given but in the end it boils down to how to live the good life  through the question of what should one love to do and hence what should one do in life. The answer that emerges is simple - love only things that are ends in themselves, do only them. Ends-in-themselves are not to done for any further end, to achieve something else. And most importantly, they should be eternal.

    Plato’s dialogues are fictional and often richly dramatic snippets of philosophical imagination. The Symposium is a particularly dramatic work. It is set at the house of Agathon, a tragic poet celebrating his recent poetic victory. Those present are amongst the intellectual elite of the day, including an exponent of heroic poetry (Phaedrus), an expert in the laws of various Greek states (Pausanias), a representative of medical expertise (Eryximachus), a comic poet (Aristophanes) and a philosopher (Socrates). And the political maverick Alcibiades towards the end.

    The Symposium consists mainly of a series of praise speeches (encomia), delivered in the order in which these speakers are seated:

    They begin with the discourse of Phaedrus, and the series contains altogether eight parts divided into two principal sequences:

    Love makes us noble and gods honor it. Love is the greatest god. Love is nobility. This is the simplest of the speeches.

    An unconditional praising of Love and this from the same Phaedrus who unconditionally condemns it

    !

    (

    ): Wants to define Love before praising it. Love is not in itself noble and worthy of praise; it depends on whether the sentiments it produces in us are themselves noble. Differentiates between “Common Love” & “Divine Love”: How hasty vulgar lovers are, and therefore how unfair to their loved ones?

    Pausanias goes on from this to provide a theory on the origins of Social Customs (of courtship, etc):

    Makes one wonder if we should really be proud of our modern methods, sans the niceties of elaborate courtship.

    Differentiates between “Healthy” & “Unhealthy” Love, doctor that he is.

    Everything sound and healthy in the body must be encouraged and gratified. Conversely, whatever is unhealthy and unsound must be frustrated and rebuffed: that’s what it is to be an expert in medicine.

    Bases Love on the conception of Longing & Completion - beautifully illustrated in his famous

     We used to be complete wholes in our original nature, and now “Love” is the name for our pursuit of wholeness, for our desire to be complete.

    Plato also uses this occasion to make fun of Aristophanes by painting whims lewd and bawdy man, given to sensual pleasures and fits of hiccups. There are even direct references to Aristophanes’s irreverent clouds:

    Decides to stop the praising of Love and focus on the Qualities of Love -

    He goes on toe elaborate on the perfection of Love’s qualities - about the god’s justice, moderation, bravery and wisdom - and how Love confers all these qualities to its devotees. Thus, Love is the source of all good, according to Agathon.

    He proceeds through the same arguments as in Phaedrus and arrives at:

    Love is a lack and desire to fill that. It is a desire for something lacking or a desire for preservation of what has been acquired. What constitutes eudaimonia is not to be had in a moment in time.

    If this is the objective of Love, The next question is how to pursue this objective.

    Answer: Seek Love in Beauty; and Reproduction and Birth, in Beauty - The argument does not deviate much from that in Phaedrus; readers will want to compare this speech on Love with those of Socrates in Phaedrus.

    Socrates’ account thus moves from an analysis of the nature of such desire to an account of knowledge and its acquisition; for if we all have a desire for our own good and happiness, the issue becomes how to identify correctly the nature of this good. He defines intellectual activity to be the best good, and more central to human happiness than any other activity.

    An

    almost pointless speech, does not contribute much to the dialogue directly, and yet it does, by adding to the context:

    Praise Socrates & Distance Socrates from the follies of this young man.

    Alcibiades’ account reveals that although he desires the wisdom he perceives in Socrates, there is a competing value pulling him away: “

    This conflict between the attractions of wisdom and the sort of excellence that earns honour from the people is the very one argued out theoretically in Socrates’ speech. Alcibiades’ choice to organize his life around the pursuit of personal honor exonerates Socrates from any association with the terrible events that resulted from his choices. Socrates was not responsible for the corruption.

    Also, show how even Socrates’ teachings are not flawless. Even Philosophy is dependent on good students to produce results.

    The Symposium belongs with the dialogues concerned with Education, especially the moral education of the young. Its discussion of the nature and goals of loving relationships takes us to the heart of Plato’s concern with the good life and how it is achieved. That Education and Desires are seen to play such an important role in moral development draws on a theme elaborated in the

    , and is concerned with the development of character and how that contributes to the good life.

    Though Plato leads us to the lofty heights of the Forms as the true end of our desire for good things and happiness, his account is nonetheless one that resonates beyond such abstractions. The Symposium does not contain a fully developed theory of the self, although it outlines with considerable care the dimensions of concern which preoccupy human beings. Its achievement is a rich and unitary image of human striving.

    Through this conception, even if narrow, of a flourishing life where certain things are advocated to the young as valuable, the dialogue explores the nature of

    , which may be translated as "happiness" or "flourishing".

    Thus, Plato’s concern with desire and its role in the good life leads to his conclusion: One’s ability to act well and to lead a worthwhile and good life depends, in part, on desiring the right kinds of things and acting on that basis. What, or whom, one desires determines the choices one makes and thereby affects one’s chances of leading a worthwhile and happy life.

  • Glenn Russell

    Plato’s Symposium is one of the best loved classics from the ancient world, a work of consummate beauty as both philosophy and as literature, most appropriate since the topic of this dialogue is the nature of love and includes much philosophizing on beauty. In the spirit of freshness, I will focus on one very important section, where Socrates relates the words of his teacher Diotima on the birth of Love explained in the context of myth:

    “Following the birth of Aphrodite, the other gods were havin

    Plato’s Symposium is one of the best loved classics from the ancient world, a work of consummate beauty as both philosophy and as literature, most appropriate since the topic of this dialogue is the nature of love and includes much philosophizing on beauty. In the spirit of freshness, I will focus on one very important section, where Socrates relates the words of his teacher Diotima on the birth of Love explained in the context of myth:

    “Following the birth of Aphrodite, the other gods were having a feast, including Resource, the son of Invention. When they’d had dinner, Poverty came to beg, as people do at feasts, and so she was by the gate. Resource was drunk with nectar (this was before wine was discovered), went into the garden of Zeus, and fell into drunken sleep. Poverty formed the plan of relieving her lack of resources by having a child by Resource; she slept with him and became pregnant with Love. So the reason Love became a follower and attendant of Aphrodite is because he was conceived on the day of her birth; also he is naturally a lover of beauty and Aphrodite is beautiful.”

    Diotima continues but let’s pause here as according to many teachers within the Platonic tradition there are at least two critical points to be made about this passage. The first is how love is conceived in the garden of Zeus, and that’s Zeus as mythical personification of Nous or true intellectual understanding. In other words, for one seeking philosophic wisdom, love is born and exists within the framework of truth and understanding, thus, in order to have a more complete appreciation of the nature of love, one must be committed to understanding the nature of truth. The second point is how within the Platonic tradition, truth is linked with beauty. Two of my own Plato teachers were adamant on this point, citing how modern people who separate beauty from truth can never partake of the wisdom traditions. (Incidentally, these exact two points are made eloquently by Pierre Grimes in this video:

    ).

    Although I am not a strict Platonist, I tend to agree. When I encounter people who have sharp minds and are keenly analytical but communicate their ideas in snide or sarcastic unbeautiful language or are in any way disingenuous or degrading of others, I find such behavior very much in bad taste. In a very real sense, I feel these individuals have cut themselves off from the world’s wisdom traditions, particularly from the Platonic tradition.

    I wanted to focus on this one paragraph to convey a sense of the richness of this magnificent Platonic dialogue. One could mine wisdom nuggets from each and every paragraph. And, yes, I get a kick every time I read the speech of Aristophanes featuring those cartwheeling prehumans with four arms and four legs. Also, two fun facts: One: reflecting on Alcibiades, the history of philosophy records another incredibly handsome man with a similar great head of curly hair and full curly beard, a man (fortunately!) with a much stronger character – the Stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Two: Diogenes Laertius reports the Greek philosopher Epicurus also wrote a book with the title ‘Symposium’. Unfortunately, this piece of writing is lost to us. Darn!

  • Manny

    OPRAH: Good evening and welcome to

    For people who missed last week's exciting semi-final round,

    beat

    4-1 while

    unexpectedly lost 3-2 to outsider

    . Let's all welcome our finalists!

    OPRAH: And now let me introduce our jury. I'm thrilled to have with us living legend Paul McCar

    OPRAH: Good evening and welcome to

    For people who missed last week's exciting semi-final round,

    beat

    4-1 while

    unexpectedly lost 3-2 to outsider

    . Let's all welcome our finalists!

    OPRAH: And now let me introduce our jury. I'm thrilled to have with us living legend Paul McCartney, world-famous novelist E.L. James, the beautiful and talented Lindsay Lohan, controversial scientist Richard Dawkins and ever-popular hockey mom Sarah Palin!

    OPRAH: Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm just going to remind you of the rules before we start. Each member of the jury gives us a short speech, and then we count up the votes to see who our lucky winner is. Over to you, Paul!

    MCCARTNEY: Thank

    , Oprah. Well, I look at our two finalists, and you know what I'm thinking? I'm thinking they won that special place they have in our hearts because they told us about Love. And I remember back in 1966 when John gave that interview where he said - no offense intended - "we're more popular than Jesus".

    They gave John a hard time about that, but all he wanted to say was that even though Jesus had shown us the power of Love, maybe, at that exact moment in history, we could do a better job of bringing it to the people and telling them all how amazing Love is. Because it is amazing, isn't it?

    Perhaps some of you remember this song we wrote.

    OPRAH: That's wonderful, Paul, but who are you voting for?

    MCCARTNEY: Oh, er... well, if John were here, I think he'd want me to vote for

    . He was always had a thing for Socrates. George too. Yes, Socrates it is.

    OPRAH: That's terrific, Paul, beautiful, beautiful song. Really takes me back. So Socrates is in the lead, but it's early days yet. Your turn, Erika!

    JAMES: Good evening, and I'm thrilled to be here. Now, I'm sure some of you have read the Fifty Shades books, and I believe a lot of people misunderstand them. It's easy just to think about the sex and the glitz and the limos and the handcuffs and the blindfolds and the whips and the--

    OPRAH: I'm not quite sure what you're trying to say here, Erika.

    JAMES: Just let me finish, Oprah. What most people don't realize is that these books aren't about sex, they're about Love. They're a spiritual journey, where Ana has to help Christian - have you ever wondered why he's called Christian? - find himself and discover the difference between empty eroticism and the redeeming power of--

    OPRAH: I'm afraid I'm going to have to cut you off there, Erika. You'll have to tell us now who you're voting for.

    JAMES: Well, Jesus, of course. Really, Fifty Shades is an allegory, a modern version of Dante's--

    OPRAH: That's incredibly interesting, Erika, and I wish we had more time to talk about it. But now the score's 1-1, and we're moving on to our third member of the jury. Your turn, Lindsay!

    LOHAN: Thank you everyone, and I'd particularly like to thank my parole officer for allowing me to join you tonight. She said it'd be good for me.

    . So, yeah, Love. To me, love's about trying to find my soulmate. I bet there's plenty of you people who feel the same way I do, there's someone out there who's, like, the other half of me and I have to find that person to be complete. You know? And it's really hard to guess who that person is, maybe it's a guy, like, you know, maybe Justin or Ashton or Zac or Ryan, and we were once this person who was half a man and half a woman and we got split apart, or maybe it's a woman, like maybe Sam or--

    OPRAH: Lindsay, that's such a moving thought, but we've got to watch the clock. Who are you voting for?

    LOHAN: Well, duh, Socrates of course. It's all there in the Symposium. The Aristophanes speech. I must have read it a million times.

    OPRAH: Lindsay, thank you so much, and I really hope you find your soulmate one day. You just need to keep looking. So Socrates has taken a 2-1 lead and we're going over to our next speaker. Richard?

    DAWKINS: Ah, yes. Now, I've been sitting here listening to all of you, and I've enjoyed your contributions, but I'm a scientist and I've got to think about things in a scientific way. When I think about love as a scientist, all I ultimately see is tropisms and feedback loops. An organism feels a lack of something - it could be as simple as an

    needing an essential nutrient - and it does what it can to get it. Love is just the concrete expression of that negative feedback loop. There's nothing--

    OPRAH: This all sounds like Socrates's speech. I take it you're voting for him then?

    DAWKINS: What? Oh, no, no, not at all. Jesus, every time.

    I can't stand Platonic forms and all that mystical nonsense. Jesus, now there's a straightforward, plain-speaking person with solid humanist values. Just a shame he got mixed up with the religion business.

    OPRAH: Er - right. Always ready to surprise us, Richard! So it's up to Sarah to cast the deciding vote. Over to you, Sarah!

    PALIN: Well Oprah, I'm afraid I'm not as imaginative as Richard. I'm just a regular small-town girl with regular small-town values, and I was brought up readin' the Sermon on the Mount. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake, blessed are ye when men shall revile you, smaller government, lower taxes, support Israel, no to--

    OPRAH: Is that all in the Sermon on the Mount, Sarah?

    PALIN: Maybe not in those exact words. But it's there. And you can bet your boots I'm not votin' for a liberal type who hangs around with a bunch of guys what're openly tryin' to get into his-

    PALIN: Anyways. I'm votin' for Jesus.

    OPRAH: Ah - thank you Sarah. Forthright as ever! So that's 3-2 to

    , but well done

    , you were so close. And thank you everyone, particularly Socrates and Mr. Christ, for an amazing and deeply spiritual experience, it's been incredible meeting you all, thank you again, and we'll be back next week.

  • Foad

    افلاطون، در رساله ی بسیار دلکش "ضیافت" ، بحث مفصلی راجع به حقیقت "عشق" می کند.

    رساله به بازگویی ماجرای یک ضیافت می پردازد. آگاتون میهمانی ای گرفته و نخبگان را دعوت کرده، از آن جمله است: سقراط استاد افلاطون. بحث به چیستی عشق می رسد و هر کس از میهمانان سخنرانی ای زیبا و غزل گونه در ستایش عشق می کند.

    از جمله، یکی می گوید: انسان ها در ابتداى آفرينش شان، جفت جفت به هم متصل بودند، و شكلى كروى مى ساختند. اين جفت هاى به هم پيوسته، چنان كامل و قدرتمند بودند، كه خواستند بر ضد خدايان آسمان بشورند، و خدايان ك

    افلاطون، در رساله ی بسیار دلکش "ضیافت" ، بحث مفصلی راجع به حقیقت "عشق" می کند.

    رساله به بازگویی ماجرای یک ضیافت می پردازد. آگاتون میهمانی ای گرفته و نخبگان را دعوت کرده، از آن جمله است: سقراط استاد افلاطون. بحث به چیستی عشق می رسد و هر کس از میهمانان سخنرانی ای زیبا و غزل گونه در ستایش عشق می کند.

    از جمله، یکی می گوید: انسان ها در ابتداى آفرينش شان، جفت جفت به هم متصل بودند، و شكلى كروى مى ساختند. اين جفت هاى به هم پيوسته، چنان كامل و قدرتمند بودند، كه خواستند بر ضد خدايان آسمان بشورند، و خدايان كه ترسيدند از ايشان شكست بخورند، تدبيرى انديشيدند: اين جفت هاى كروى را از هم جدا كردند.

    از آن پس جفت هاى از هم جدا افتاده، ديگر فكر نبرد با خدايان از سرشان افتاد؛ چرا كه حالا در به در به دنبال نيمه ى گمشده ى خود مى گشتند، و تمام دغدغه شان يافتن "او"يى است كه فقط به وسيله ى او كامل مى شوند.

    نوبت که به سقراط می رسد، با دلخوری می گوید: «من گمان داشتم وقتی گفتید "از چیستی عشق بحث کنیم"، منظورتان بحث دقیق و موشکافانه بود، نه این که صرفاً به عبارت پردازی های شاعرانه بپردازیم.»

    و خودش، بحثی فلسفی و زیبا در حقیقت عشق می کند. به طور خلاصه، می گوید: «به رغم آن چه که شما گفتید، عشق اصلاً زیبا نیست ، بلکه درست بر عکس: عشق در مقابل زیبایی است. عشق در حقیقت "طلب زیبایی" است ، و کسی در "طلب" زیبایی می رود که فاقد آن باشد.»

  • Fatemeh sherafati

    خیلی کتاب خوبی بود.. زیاد پیش اومده بود که بشنوم سقراط از شیوه ی پرسش و پاسخ استفااده می کنه برای بحث کردن.. تو این کتاب اولین بار این دیدم چطور و چقدر هوشمندانه این کار رو انجام میده..

    داستان کتاب در مورد ضیافتیه که برگزار شده و بحث عشق میان حضار پیش میاد. که اول هر کدوم از حاضرین نظرشون رو می گن، و در نهایت سقراط، به طرز دلنشینی از عشق صحبت می کنه که واقعا دوست دارم یک بار دیگه سطرهای مربوط به سقراط رو بخونم.

  • Carlos De Eguiluz

    Lectura #6 de la materia de Teoría del Conocimiento, "El Banquete".

    Citas y pequeños comentarios de uso personal:

    Sabios reunidos: Fedro, Agaton, Eriximaco, Pausanias, Aristodemo, Aristófanes

    *Tributo al amor.

    *Palabra clave: virtud.

    Lectura #6 de la materia de Teoría del Conocimiento, "El Banquete".

    Citas y pequeños comentarios de uso personal:

    Sabios reunidos: Fedro, Agaton, Eriximaco, Pausanias, Aristodemo, Aristófanes

    *Tributo al amor.

    *Palabra clave: virtud.

    *Los dioses miraban el amor como una virtud.

    *La comparación de las dos venus.

    *Amor virtuoso que pertenece a la Venus celeste. Todos los demás a la venus popular (EROS).

    *Amor en la ciencia.

    *JUSTICIA, TEMPLANZA, FUERZA -CARACTERÍSTICAS DEL DIOS DEL AMOR.

    *Es una mujer quien tiene la respuesta a lo que es verdaderamente el amor, Diotima.


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