A fascinating discussion on sex, gender, and human instincts, as relevant today as everIn 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 transcendence through spiritual love The Symposium is a deft interweaving of different viewpoints and ideas about the nature of love as a response to beauty, a cosmic force, a motive for social action and as a means of ethical educationFor than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English speaking world With than , titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up to date translations by award winning translators


10 thoughts on “The Symposium

  1. Glenn Russell Glenn Russell says:

    Plato s Symposium is one of the most 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 most 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 acomplete 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


  2. Ahmad Sharabiani Ahmad Sharabiani says:

    Symposium, PlatoThe Symposium Ancient Greek is a philosophical text by Plato dated c 385 370 BC It depicts a friendly contest of extemporaneous speeches given by a group of notable men attending a banquet The men include the philosopher Socrates, the general and political figure Alcibiades, and the comic playwright Aristophanes 1984 Symposium, PlatoThe Symposium Ancient Greek is a philosophical text by Plato dated c 385 370 BC It depicts a friendly contest of extemporaneous speeches given by a group of notable men attending a banquet The men include the philosopher Socrates, the general and political figure Alcibiades, and the comic playwright Aristophanes 1984 1385 160 9642575000 1381 1386 1389 469 399 385


  3. Richard Derus Richard Derus says:

    Rating 2 of five, all for Aristophanes s way trippy remix of the Book of GenesisWhile perusing a review of Death in Venice 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 The Symposium before he eventually re reads this crapulous homophobic maundering deathless work of art As I have read The Symposium 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 GenesisWhile perusing a review of Death in Venice 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 The Symposium before he eventually re reads this crapulous homophobic maundering deathless work of art As I have read The Symposium with less than stellar results, I warned him off Well, see below for what happened next Stephen wrote Damncan you do a quick cliff notes summary or maybe a video lecture I would much rather take advantage of your previous suffering than have to duplicate it THE SYMPOSIUMSo 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 neededbrandy, I mean coffee , and the text of my ancient Penguin paperback was getting smaller and smaller for some reason, so I went to look for the brandy 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 brandy fog admiration for the imagination of this ancient Greek boybanger, and I was about to give up and pass out 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 reallyis there anything on this wide green earthboring 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 brandy bottle 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 The Symposium should never be undertaken while outdoors This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License


  4. Manny Manny says:

    OPRAH Good evening and welcome to What s the Most Spiritual Book of All TimeFor people who missed last week s exciting semi final round, The Sermon on the Mount beat The Bhagavad Gita 4 1 while Jonathan Livingston Seagull unexpectedly lost 3 2 to outsider The Symposium Let s all welcome our finalistsApplause Enter JESUS CHRIST and SOCRATES, both wearing tuxedos They shake hands More applause 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 What s the Most Spiritual Book of All TimeFor people who missed last week s exciting semi final round, The Sermon on the Mount beat The Bhagavad Gita 4 1 while Jonathan Livingston Seagull unexpectedly lost 3 2 to outsider The Symposium Let s all welcome our finalistsApplause Enter JESUS CHRIST and SOCRATES, both wearing tuxedos They shake hands More applause 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 PalinThe crowd goes wild, with some people clapping and others booing It s impossible to make out a word anyone says 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 you, 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 repopular than JesusJESUS holds up a hand to show he s coolThey 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 itHe takes out a guitar Perhaps some of you remember this song we wrote.There s nothing you can do that can t be doneNothing you can sing that can t be sungNothing you can say but you can learn how to play the gameIt s easyNothing you can make that can t be madeNo one you can save that can t be savedNothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in timeIt s easyAll you need is love 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 The Symposium He was always had a thing for Socrates George too Yes, Socrates it isApplause The scoreboard shows 1 0 SOCRATES looks a little embarrassed, while JESUS curiously examines MCCARTNEY s guitar 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 hadtime 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 meLaughter, applauseSo, 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 E coli 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 timeHe takes off his jacket, revealing a T shirt that says ATHEISTS FOR JESUSI 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 businessBoos, catcalls, some scattered clapping The scoreboard shows 2 2 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 hisJESUS and SOCRATES exchange puzzled glances PALIN Anyways I m votin for Jesus.OPRAH Ah thank you Sarah Forthright as ever So that s 3 2 to The Sermon on the Mount, but well done The Symposium, 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 weekCredits, theme music


  5. Riku Sayuj Riku Sayuj says:

    It s been less than three years that I ve been Socrates companion and made it my job to know exactly what he says and does each day Before that, I simply drifted aimlessly Of course, I used to think that what I was doing was important, but in fact I was the most worthless man on earth as bad as you are this very moment I used to think philosophy was the last thing a man should doIn Praise of Love An Encore This is a dialogue about the human aspiration towards happiness, anIt s been less than three years that I ve been Socrates companion and made it my job to know exactly what he says and does each day Before that, I simply drifted aimlessly Of course, I used to think that what I was doing was important, but in fact I was the most worthless man on earth as bad as you are this very moment I used to think philosophy was the last thing a man should doIn Praise of Love An Encore This is a dialogue about the human aspiration towards happiness, and how that desire is best satisfied Plato s overriding concern as a teacher is how to achieve eudamonia 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 The Symposium 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 Symposium The Setting 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 SymposiumThe 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 The Speeches 1 Phaedrus 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 in his own eponymous dialogue 2 Pausanias perhaps the most interesting of these speeches for this reviewer 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 onesLove is, like everything else, complex considered simply in itself, it is neither honorable nor a disgrace its character depends entirely on the behavior it gives rise to The common, vulgar lover loves the body rather than the soul, his love is bound to be inconstant, since what he loves is itself mutable and unstable The moment the body is no longer in bloom, he flies off and away, his promises and vows in tatters behind him How different from this is a man who loves the right sort of character, and who remains its lover for life, attached as he is to something that is permanent Pausanias goes on from this to provide a theory on the origins of Social Customs of courtship, etcWe can now see the point of our customs they are designed to separate the wheat from the chaff, the proper love from the vile That s why we do everything we can to make it as easy as possible for lovers to press their suits and as difficult as possible for young men to comply it is like a competition, a kind of test to determine to which sort each belongs This explains two further facts First, why we consider it shameful to yield too quickly the passage of time in itself provides a good test in these matters Second, why we also consider it shameful for a man to be seduced by money or political power, either because he cringes at ill treatment and will not endure it or because, once he has tasted the benefits of wealth and power, he will not rise above them None of these benefits is stable or permanent, apart from the fact that no genuine affection can possibly be based upon them Only in this case, we should notice, is it never shameful to be deceived in every other case it is shameful, both for the deceiver and the person he deceives Suppose, for example, that someone thinks his lover is rich and accepts him for his money his action won t be any less shameful if it turns out that he was deceived and his lover was a poor man after all For the young man has already shown himself to be the sort of person who will do anything for money and that is far from honorable By the same token, suppose that someone takes a lover in the mistaken belief that this lover is a good man and likely to make him better himself, while in reality the man is horrible, totally lacking in virtue even so, it is noble for him to have been deceived For he too has demonstrated something about himself that he is the sort of person who will do anything for the sake of virtue and what could behonorable than that It follows, therefore, that giving in to your lover for virtue s sake is honorable, whatever the outcome And this, of course, is the Heavenly Love of the heavenly goddess Love s value to the city as a whole and to the citizens is immeasurable, for he compels the lover and his loved one alike to make virtue their central concern All other forms of love belong to the vulgar goddess Makes one wonder if we should really be proud of our modern methods, sans the niceties of elaborate courtship 3 Eryximachus 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 4 Aristophanes Bases Love on the conception of Longing Completion beautifully illustrated in his famous Myth of Soulmates 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 cloudsAristophanes, do you really think you can take a shot at me, and then escape Use your head Remember, as you speak, that you will be called upon to give an account Though perhaps, if I decide to, I ll let you off5 Agathon Decides to stop the praising of Love and focus on the Qualities of LoveFor every praise, no matter whose you must explain what qualities in the subject of your speech enable it to give the benefits for which we praise it So now, in the case of Love, it is right for us to praise him first for what it is and afterwards for its gifts 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 6 Socrates Enough with the Eulogies Socrates sets out with a series of questions, in an attempt to pin down Love You have beautifully and magnificently expounded his qualities in other ways, tell me this, too, about Love Is Love such as to be a love of something or of nothing He proceeds through the same arguments as in Phaedrus and arrives atNo one is in need of those things he already has Whenever you say, I desire what I already have, ask yourself whether you don t mean this I want the things I have now to be mine in the future as wellSocrates Conclusion 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 timeIn a word, then, love is wanting to possess the good forever 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, andcentral to human happiness than any other activity 7 Alcibiades An almost pointless speech, does not contribute much to the dialogue directly, and yet it does, by adding to the context Plato s Political IntentPraise 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 Yet when I leave him I am equally aware that I am giving in to my desire for honor from the public, so I skulk out of his sight like a runaway slave 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 Plato s Philosophical IntentAlso, show how even Socrates teachings are not flawless Even Philosophy is dependent on good students to produce results Symposium A Conclusion 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 Republic , 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 eudaimonia, which may be translated as happiness or flourishing This is ultimately why a dialogue devoted, on the surface, to the nature of erotic relationships is an ethical work at its core, which culminates in the specification of the life which a human being should live And it is this concern that relates the Symposium to a fundamental question that informs a variety of Platonic dialogues How should one live 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.It is by prompting us to reflectdeeply on the relationship between our desires and their real end, and the role that our lovers might play in helping us to achieve it, that the Symposium really makes its mark


  6. Trevor Trevor says:

    In this book Socrates argues that it is not always a good idea to have sex with boys and Aristophanes explains we were once co joined creatures of three sexes either male female, male male or female female and were shaped like balls How could anyone not find this a book worth reading


  7. Roy Lotz Roy Lotz says:

    It has been a long time since I first read The Symposium That was back in university, in my freshman year course Sexuality in Literature I admit I found it all a bit shocking the open tolerance of sexual relationships between men and boys wasn t it pederasty Even now, it is surprising to find that one of the most influential and foundational works on love in Western history is largely focused on relationships that have often been deemed illegal Imagine what the medieval Europeans would have It has been a long time since I first read The Symposium That was back in university, in my freshman year course Sexuality in Literature I admit I found it all a bit shocking the open tolerance of sexual relationships between men and boys wasn t it pederasty Even now, it is surprising to find that one of the most influential and foundational works on love in Western history is largely focused on relationships that have often been deemed illegal Imagine what the medieval Europeans would have thought of this work, had it not been entirely inaccessible to them in Latin Maybe they would have enjoyed the notion of spiritual, Platonic love, but I doubt they would have liked Alcibiades intrusion.Well, after re reading this little dialogue, I can only concur with the verdict of the crowd that this is one of Plato s most perfect works Indeed, it is among the handful of Plato s works that is arguablyvaluable as literature than as philosophy Plato was a writer in perfect control of his craft and even little detail of this short dialogue bursts with life The reader feels as if she is really there, eavesdropping on a bunch of drunken Athenians as they extemporize on love.Further, organizing the dialogue as a sequence of speeches, and not as a dialogue between Socrates and an interlocutor, effectively reduces the sometimes unpleasant aspect of Plato s works of Socrates forcing his way through an awkward argument, as his admirers assent to his every fallacious deduction Plato here shows us a genuine diversity of opinions and styles, proving himself a versatile writer His portrayal of Aristophanes is particularly charming and memorable, a gentle counter to Aristophanes satirical portrayal of Socrates in The Clouds And for anyone who has ever been in love, I suspect that Aristophanes little myth will be farresonant than the ideal love described by Socrates


  8. Elenabot Elenabot says:

    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 beingcomplete 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 thatcomprehensive 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


  9. Ian "Marvin" Graye Ian "Marvin" Graye says:

    I Never Met a Physician Who Wasn t Descended from a GreekThis 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 I Never Met a Physician Who Wasn t Descended from a GreekThis 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 beaccurately attributed to Socrates, butlikely to Diotima.In fact, I wonder whether this work proves that the Greek understanding of Love as we comprehend it actually owesto women than men.The Epismetology of the Word Symposium Despite being familiar with the word for decades, I had no idea that symposiumor 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 wayA sausage fest with douchebag frat boys who let a lot of girls in and hardly any guys so they can slip date rape drugs into the girls drinks and have sex with them because obviously they can t rely on their charm 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.Alcohol Free DazeI 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 wastalking 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.An Artist in Comedy as Well as TragedyOne 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 partyAristodemus was only half awake, and he did not hear the beginning of the discourse the chief thing which he remembered was Socrates compelling the other two to acknowledge that the genius of comedy was the same with that of tragedy, and that the true artist in tragedy was an artist in comedy also 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 The Mocking Socrates Easy TouchOK, 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 on Reciprocity 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,than the love shown by the Lover for the Beloved.Paradoxically, this is because the love shown by the Lover isdivine, 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 on the Heavenly and the Common 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 youthsthey love not boys, but intelligent beings whose reason is beginning to be developed, much about the time at which their beards begin to grow and in choosing young men to be their companions, they mean to be faithful to them, and pass their whole life in company with them 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 on the Healthy and the Diseased 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 on The Origin of Love 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 Zeusthe intense yearning which each of them has towards the other does not appear to be the desire of lover s intercourse, but of something else which the soul of either evidently desires and cannot tell, and of which she has only a dark and doubtful presentiment human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called love Agathon on Beauty 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 on Good 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.The Pizmotality of DiotimaDiotima, 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 ishonourable than the Beauty of the outward Form She advocates the contemplation of Beauty Absolutea Beauty which if you once beheld, you would see not to be after the measure of gold, and garments, and fair boys and youths, whose presence now entrances you and you and many a one would be content to live seeing them only and conversing with them without meat or drink, if that were possible you only want to look at them and to be with them you would not be clogged with the pollutions of mortality and all the colours and vanities of human life 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 Alciabades on Indifference 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 solicitationsI 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.The Pompatus of LoveAnd 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 whathe has to say about Socrates, this mentor of frat boys who was so muchthan a picker, a grinner, a lover and a sinner Only then will I be able to speakdefinitively of the Pompatus of Love.VERSE The Object of Love According to Aristophanes I would loveTo find One,An Other,So we couldEach love oneAnother,In divineUnity.SOUNDTRACK Steve Miller Band The Joker and the Angry Inch The Origin of Love Scroll to 3 57 for video and the Angry Inch The Origin of Love Spanish subtitles Cameron Mitchell on The Origin of Love Zou Animation of The Origin of Love Animation of The Origin of Love Animation of The Origin of Love Monsoon The Origin of Love Live with cocktail glass Starts at 2 50 but the intro is fun Monsoon The Origin of Love Live at the 2013 Capital Pride Festival Wainwright The Origin of Love Hitchcock Intricate Thing Velvet Undergound Nico Femme Fatale Reed Sweet Jane Live with Steve Hunter Junkies Sweet Jane Official Video Junkies Sweet Jane Live on Japanese TV


  10. 7jane 7jane says:

    I m glad I chose this translation by Robin Waterfield , and this publisher Oxford World s Classic the introduction is of great help, and the text flows easily and is very understandable, and doesn t feel stiff and such.This book s subject is a series of speeches praising Love both of sexual and of mind kind the former producing sometimes children, the latter creative works and learning the latter isimmortal and superior in author s opinion The book ends with useful notes and a n I m glad I chose this translation by Robin Waterfield , and this publisher Oxford World s Classic the introduction is of great help, and the text flows easily and is very understandable, and doesn t feel stiff and such.This book s subject is a series of speeches praising Love both of sexual and of mind kind the former producing sometimes children, the latter creative works and learning the latter isimmortal and superior in author s opinion The book ends with useful notes and a name index that shines light on the party guests and names popping up in conversations Plato wrote the book between 385 378 BC most likely around 380 BC.Plato sets this imagined high society dinner part in Athens, 416 BC, which is told about to others just after the death of one of the guests, Alcibades, in 404 BC Other guests include the comic poet Aristophanes who of course gets the funny hiccups that is cured with sneezing , and Plato s teacher, Socrates, who gets to be the giver of Plato s opinion on the subject Socrates himself gets it from not certain if existed person that is Diotima, a wise woman.I liked this quote On the other hand, ignorant people don t love knowledge or desire wisdom either, because the trouble with ignorance is precisely that if a person lacks virtue and knowledge, he s perfectly satisfied with the way he is If a person isn t aware of a lack, he can t desire the thing which he isn t aware of lacking. Seven speeches are heard Socrates turn comes at the end, but when Alcibades bursts into the part, he gives onespeech, praising Socrates, and clearly showing that to him, the mind part of Love isof a stranger he doesn t really get why Socrates rejects his advances Alcibades comes to a bad end in exile, murdered by the Persians Socrates, as we know from history, gets a death sentence, having to drink poison But all ends well in this story people leave the party, some sleep to the next morning, and Socrates goes back to the Lyceum gymnasium and public baths in the morning as usual he has a good alcohol tolerance We get a great dinner party conversation about love, that hold surprisingly noble, interesting thoughts to carry with us to life