The Symposium

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...

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Title:The Symposium
Author:Plato
Rating:
ISBN:0140449272
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Paperback
Number of Pages:131 pages

The Symposium Reviews

  • Trevor
    Jul 07, 2007

    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?

  • Ian
    Aug 12, 2013

    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):

  • Steve
    Sep 04, 2013

    HEADLINE: This is priceless!

    When I was a young man, I and my friends certainly had some strange conversations, possibly aided by some substances of questionable legality in certain countries, but we never quite managed to attain the heights of strangeness reached at this banquet/drinking party(*) held in 416 BCE when Socrates was approximately 53 years old, once again the principal figure in this "dialogue" written by Plato between 12 and 15 years after Socrates' death by poisoning in 399 BCE. P

    HEADLINE: This is priceless!

    When I was a young man, I and my friends certainly had some strange conversations, possibly aided by some substances of questionable legality in certain countries, but we never quite managed to attain the heights of strangeness reached at this banquet/drinking party(*) held in 416 BCE when Socrates was approximately 53 years old, once again the principal figure in this "dialogue" written by Plato between 12 and 15 years after Socrates' death by poisoning in 399 BCE. Plato was 11 years old when the banquet took place, so, as in

    and

    , all the speeches are Plato's invention, though he may well have listened to stories about the banquet from participants. The general topic of the speeches: love in all of its forms.

    Each of the participants in the banquet is, in turn, to deliver a speech about Love. And deliver they do...

    Eryximachus, first up to bat, laments that so little poetry has been dedicated to the topic of Love. Phaedrus, in honorable Greek tradition, reaches into the past and recalls what Hesiod and Parmenides, among others, had to say. Love is the eldest and most beneficent of the gods. Then he launches into an explanation why the love between men fosters and supports honor and virtuous behavior. (A common theme at this banquet, which makes me wonder why the Christians permitted this text to survive. Thank goodness the Christian crusade against "sodomy" is ebbing into impotence.) Phaedrus unfavorably contrasts Orpheus' love for his wife with Achilles' love for Patroclus (and can't resist asserting that Achilles was the bottom, not Patroclus, because he was the fairer, beardless and younger; he doesn't use "bottom", but in the Greco-Roman world, those are the attributes of the "passive" partner in a homosexual relationship - I've heard some conversations like this at drunken parties, but Achilles usually wasn't the subject of the gossip).

    Pausanias then holds forth on the distinction between noble Love, expressed for youths who are "beginning to grow their beards", and common Love, whose object is women and boys. (At this point I'd be wondering if somebody had slipped something into the wine. But I'd be listening closely.) He gives a lengthy and closely reasoned moral argument in favor of this. I wonder how it would go over in the House of Representatives?

    Eryximachus, in a return engagement, is a physician and reinterprets Pausanias' moral distinctions in terms of the concepts of "healthy" and "diseased". In a process of what appears to be free association (was Plato smirking while he was writing this?), the good doctor throws in music, agriculture, astronomy, divination (OK, pass the blunt over here again), ... .

    Finally, he turns the floor over to the playwright Aristophanes, who clearly had brought his private stash to the party. For he commences to explain that originally mankind had three sexes. Moreover, primeval man was round, had four hands and feet, two faces on one head, etc. etc. In his LSD dream, this primeval man was so powerful that Zeus was envious and smote primeval man in twain. With some cosmetic work by Apollo, which is described in fascinating detail, and after a few false starts,

    , mankind as we know it. Which explains, of course, why we are always looking for our other half. Instead of being helped away to a sanatorium, Aristophanes goes on to explain how the original three sexes of primeval man fit into the picture. Enjoy! I know I did.

    After this gobsmackingly strange speech (which would have had me trying to figure out where he hid his stash), the boys engage in some good natured banter, and then Agathon takes the floor. He makes a bad start, and then it goes downhill from there. Let's just say that Love had better not drop the soap in the shower when Agathon is around. (I know Plato was laughing up his sleeve on this one.)

    Now it is The Man's turn - Socrates steps to the plate. He goes into his usual "Ah, shucks" routine and then starts asking Agathon questions. Please see my review of Plato's

    to see how that goes. After Agathon agrees with everything Socrates says, Socrates launches into a long story, the upshot of which is: the only true love is Love of the Absolute! (This sounds more like Plato than Socrates, but no surprise there.)

    Upon which Alcibiades comes staggering into the room. After a brief argument with Socrates about which of the two has the greater hots for the other, Alcibiades stumbles up to the plate. He sings the praises of Socrates' virtue, nobility, fortitude and pedagogy. This speech, if authentic, is one of the most detailed glimpses into Socrates' life we have and is fascinating.

    As literature, Plato really surpassed himself in this dialogue - even the weakest speeches (from the point of view of content and wit) were most savorously eloquent. And all were entertaining, each in a very distinct way. While I personally find Plato's physics, metaphysics and epistemology to be absurd and his politics to be frightening, the man could turn a phrase and draw a convincing characterization through speech. While I am completely unconvinced by claims that the

    can be viewed as a novel, one can, nonetheless, read it with great pleasure as a purely literary product.

    By the way, is any of that wine left?

    (Re-read in Benjamin Jowett's translation.)

    (*) A possibly amusing sidenote: The participants take a vote and decide "that drinking is to be voluntary, and that there is to be no compulsion" (they decided this only because so many of them were hung over from the previous evening!). One pauses at the idea that some of the brightest lights of Western culture comported themselves in their middle age like frat boys on a Saturday night... One of Socrates' many reported virtues was he could drink everybody else under the table and walk away into the dawn perfectly sober.

  • Riku Sayuj
    Jan 05, 2014

    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
    May 06, 2014

    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
    Jul 27, 2014

    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
    Aug 31, 2014

    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.»

  • David Sarkies
    Aug 23, 2015

    26 August 2015

    You've really got to love the way Plato writes philosophy. Whereas everybody else simply writes what is in effect a work of non-fiction explaining some ideas, Plato seems to have the habit of inserting them into a story. Okay, he may not be the only philosopher that uses a story to convey his philosophical ideas, but he certainly stands out from his contemporaries, who simply wrote treatises. I've read a few of his works, and he always seems to structure it in

    26 August 2015

    You've really got to love the way Plato writes philosophy. Whereas everybody else simply writes what is in effect a work of non-fiction explaining some ideas, Plato seems to have the habit of inserting them into a story. Okay, he may not be the only philosopher that uses a story to convey his philosophical ideas, but he certainly stands out from his contemporaries, who simply wrote treatises. I've read a few of his works, and he always seems to structure it in a similar way, usually beginning with a conversation that has absolutely nothing to do with the ideas that he is trying to explore, but rather idle chit-chat.

    The Symposium stands out from his over works because the discussion occurs during a party (nice one Plato). In fact as I was reading this I could almost imagine the exact same scenario happening today. A group, who had had a pretty heavy night of drinking the night before decide to take it a little easier tonight, order a pizza, grab a couple of six packs of beer, and sit in the lounge room for a quiet one while still nursing the remnants of a hangover. Instead of turning on the television they decide to have a conversation. However, as the night wears on there is a knock at the door, and upon opening it we find the guy that we all know with two bottles of Jack Daniels in his hands who invites himself into the discussion. However this guy is hardly the philosophical type, and his discussion simply turns into how wonderful he thinks this other guy happens to be. Then there is another knock at the door, and as it happens he has invited all his friends over, and that quiet night ends up turning into another free-for all. Come morning, one of the guys from the original group picks himself off the couch, and in the haze of a hangover sees that three of the original group are still up and are talking about something completely different. However he is way too hungover to join in so he makes his way home.

    That's basically the plot of the Symposium.

    However Plato simply isn't telling a story about the party, he is exploring the idea of love. In fact it is suggested that what he is actually doing is recounting the discussion that occurred during an actual Symposium years before (and from the last couple of paragraphs it appears that the person who was telling the story was Aristodemus – whoever he happens to be – but he is telling it to another guy named Apollodorus, who I suspect is then telling Plato). This book is really interesting on so many levels. Not only are we allowed to listen into a discussion between Greeks about the nature of love, we are also given a pretty detailed glimpse of what went on during a symposium (or at least one that initially wasn't supposed to be a drunken free for all, but then again I'm sure we have all experienced something similar in our lives). Not only is it a work of philosophy, it is a work that gives us a very clear picture of the Ancient Athenian culture.

    Before I continue I must say one thing – Socrates is a freak. The book opens with Aristodemus meeting up with Socrates and then Socrates invites himself along to a party at Agathon's house. However when they arrive Socrates doesn't enter, he just stands outside staring into space. The ensuring conversation goes a little like this:

    Come to think of it, he sound's like that cat that stands at the open door, but really has no intention of going inside, or even staying outside.

    However, as I have indicated (and as many of you probably already know) this book is more than a story about what happened at Agathon's party (though I am sure many of us have had the experience where somebody we know comes along and gives us a detailed account of the party they went to the other night – though it is no where near as good as actually being there) but an exposition of love. Each of the main characters gives a dissertation of their idea of love, and as is expected, Socrates' dissertation is left until last. However I am sort of wandering whether the conversation occurred how it has been reported, or whether Plato is altering the events to suit his own purpose (I can't remember the intricate details, or the philosophical discussion I had at any of the parties I went to – all I can remember is talking about George Bush). For instance, we have Pausanius talk about how there are two kinds of love – physical and celestial. In a way there is the base love that we humans experience, a love that is expressed in physical actions (such as sex). However there is also spiritual love, that which is expressed in spiritual actions (such as self-sacrifice).

    I should pause here and state that my view of love unfortunately is tarnished by my Christian upbringing. I say that because the way I view love is that it exists entirely on the spiritual level. To me the love that Pausanius describes as physical love is actually little more than lust. However, Socrates does suggest that love is the desire to possess that which is beautiful, which does fall into the category that Pausanius describes. In my mind, love is not so much a feeling but rather expressed through actions such as self-sacrifice. Love is also unconditional – it doesn't play favourites, which means that it is impossible to love one person and no another (though due to our human nature, and our natural instinct to play favourites, unconditional love is a state that is very difficult to achieve).

    Now I wish to say a few things about my view on desire and sex. In my mind sex has two purposes – a means to stimulate the pleasure centres of the brain (much like a drug) and to procreate. The reason that it stimulates the pleasure centres is because it is a mechanism to encourage us to procreate. However we won't know about its pleasurable aspects unless we actually engage in it, which is why many of us develop this desire for members of the opposite sex. These desires exist to encourage us to have sex so that we might perpetuate the species. Note that I don't speak about 'falling in love' simply because I do not believe that these biological desires have anything to do with love – once again Hollywood is lying to us.

    Anyway, lets get on to Socrates: Socrates describes love as being the desire to possess that which is beautiful. In a way what he is suggesting is that if we possesses that which is beautiful then we are happy. In my mind Socrates is confusing love with happiness, but let us continue. He starts off by suggesting that this love begins on a physical level where we see a single person who we believe is beautiful and we desire to possess that person. This possession is fulfilled in the sexual act. However he suggests that to seek true beauty we simply cannot rest on one person, but we must begin to see the beauty in many people. As such our desire for that one person begins to diminish as we begin to see everybody else as being just as beautiful as this one person. However, he then takes the next step and suggests that we begin to move away from physical beauty to come to see the mental beauty (that is the intelligence) of individual people. As such we begin to lose interest in those whose beauty is not intellectual to focus on those who are. As such physical beauty begins to take a back seat. From there we move on to understand absolute beauty, namely that we can see beauty in everything without differentiation.

    This absolute is quite interesting – Plato rejects relativism. In his mind there must be an absolute because the universe simply cannot exist without one. A relative world is a world that is chaotic and has no form, but by looking at the world he can see that there is an absolute form, but he realises that everybody sees these forms differently. Thus his quest is the search for the absolute, and to move beyond relativism and the world of the opinion to try to understand and grasp the absolute truth. This the the goal of this book, to reject the relativism of physical beauty and to seek out the absolute of the celestial beauty.

    However, he does something really interesting – once Socrates finishes his speech in comes Alcibaides and brings the entire discussion back to reality. Not only does he interject into the discussion, he turns it completely on its head by telling everybody how wonderful he thinks Socrates is (he lusts after Socrates, but Socrates won't have a bar of it). Plato understands the real world, and this is what Alcibaides represents. While we may begin to ascend the ladder towards our grasp of absolute beauty, things will happen that will bring us crashing back down to reality. As I said, Socrates was a freak, which is why he was able to rebuff Alcibaides' advances.

  • Eva
    Nov 26, 2015

    Two points about this book that I didn't enjoy. Firstly the descriptions of intimate relations with persons of a very very young age which although not exclusive to the Greek people in those times were nevertheless disturbing to read about. Secondly, in the last pages he seems to be tooting his own horn a lot. Even though he portrays Socrates as this superhuman human we know that Socrates speaks Platos own words throughout the whole text so he seems to be giving these amazing characteristics to

    Two points about this book that I didn't enjoy. Firstly the descriptions of intimate relations with persons of a very very young age which although not exclusive to the Greek people in those times were nevertheless disturbing to read about. Secondly, in the last pages he seems to be tooting his own horn a lot. Even though he portrays Socrates as this superhuman human we know that Socrates speaks Platos own words throughout the whole text so he seems to be giving these amazing characteristics to himself. Whether he does it consciously or not I don't know. Other than that the whole discussion about the god Eros is very interesting and I enjoyed certain passages a lot. His comparison of love for birth which is physical and love for birth in being creative such that an artist might have is brilliant. As well as the mortality and immortality of love. Here love is something between love and passion as meant by the Greek word Eros.

    It is a truly philosophical text that helps us understand our hearts and our human instincts better.

  • Fatemeh sherafati
    Jul 23, 2016

    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.