From laws to pots to parties
Solon’s laws: a model of justice, balance between rich and poor. Decorated pots: a care for the beauty of objects around them The standing Kouroi: the beauty of the human body. Even the gods share our form.
The Symposium—a dialogue Background: Plato (428-348 BCE) Student of Socrates (died 399 BCE) Culture of Athens in the 5th-4th century BCE ¡ ¡ ¡ ¡
Skipping ahead to the following era Age of Pericles Persian War to Peloponnesian War Upper class life
Life for the Wealthy in Athens Private education for young men Democracy in action Marriage arrangements Homosexuality as model of friendship/mentorship— set duration Erastes Eromenos ÷
the boy, passive
Three Forms of Love Agape-- love of a spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity [note Christian use] Eros—sexual love Philia--an affection that could denote either brotherhood or generally non-sexual affection
The Symposium as a literary form As drama– a lived account As rhetoric– individuals compete with their speeches As dialectic—the Socratic method of working through a problem. PROBLEM: What is love and how it is central to the human experience?
Symposium as story The Chinese box character of this dialogue: Apollodorus tells person X about a previous exchange with Glaucon that occurred several days past when he had shared the story from Aristodemus who attended the party 10 years ago (but had fallen asleep during it anyway!) Everyone get that?
Imagery The Path of story telling on the road--Journeys, places gatherings
Some Greek Vocabulary concepts Skolia—poems at symposiums that zigzag around Enkomia—formal eulogies of praise Eros/eros—love, erotic love (God/concept) Erastes—older pursuing lover Eromenos—younger, receiving beloved Paideia—pedagogy, educationèliterary and cultural accomplishments Sympotic literature—words around and about the table
Decoding the Stories I Characters and order of their speeches: Phaedrus (1) and Eryximachus (3) Agathon (5) and Pausanias (2) Aristophanes (4) Socrates (6) Alcibiades (7) Each speech has two levels: the surface story in mythic narrative and the internal meaning
Decoding the stories II As each character offers his speech in honor of love, we explore the essential nature of love and relationships, an account of what matters—through the lens of concrete individuals, each of whom defines love from the perspective of his own interests. How might you see “beauty” factoring into the discussion topic?
The story begins… Describe the opening scene: Who is throwing the party and why? What is Socrates doing? When the guests all arrive what do they decide to do (or not do!) and why?
Phaedrus Love is the oldest of Gods The power of love to bond people together in insurmountable ways We become good, better people, because we want to be worthy of those we love His examples of lovers include?
Phaedrus’ pairs Love is the oldest of gods and inspires us to be better people so as to live up to the expectations of our lover. Alcestis and Admetus Orpheus and Eurydice Achilles and Patroclus Love and virtue go together. Would you rather love or be loved?
Pausanias’ Speech Two kinds of love: heavenly and earthly The better kind of love- heavenly love, dedicated to the improvement of the beloved. Outlining the proper lover-beloved relationship: scripting relationships Do we have scripts for “proper love?”
Interlude Aristophanes has the hiccups– why? Eryximachus offers medical advice and offers to go before him.
Eryximachus’ speech The doctor Eryximachus offers his view on love The scientific view of love: ¡ ¡ ¡ ¡
Love as the organizing principle of life: balance and repletion Love in medicine, music, seasons, religion Note how “love” is moving beyond the interpersonal experience towards a more abstracted notion Love is in every aspect of human affairs, governing and balancing
How do scientists describe love?
Aristophanes’ speech Before we can understand love, we have to understand humans Three kinds of humans: male-male, sons of Helios female-female, daughters of Mother Earth male-female (androgyne), children of the moon
The Origins of Love 19
Aristophanes speech- Zeus’ decision What does Zeus decide to do to humankind and why? The result: distraught and unhappy, incomplete beings The solution? The consequence: longing for and looking for our “missing half”
Aristophanes’ conclusion Aristophanes concludes that Love represents the completion of a whole. We are only partial beings without our special partner. Do you believe in soul mates?
Agathon’s Speech Agathon is the celebrated poet; the party is in his house and in his honor. Love is the youngest of the gods --the most beautiful in looks and demeanor --delicate, supple, flowery --character of moral excellence: just, temperate, brave and wise --love makes us poets Read his culminating summary, 197 d-e
A Kouros 23
Socrates- interlude Socrates expresses dismay that the speeches are not about truth but simply glossy showcases He questions Agathon about his description of love on a number of points.
What is wrong with Agathon’s claims? Love is love of something not obtained, a yearning Love seeks the beautiful and the good, therefore must not already have those! Agathon is deflated. Does that mean love must be ugly and lacking in goodness if it desires it?
Socrates account of Love Socrates as a student of Diotima: Between wisdom and ignorance, lies --? Between beauty and ugliness lies --? Love as a spirit, neither god nor human. Daimons bind the universe together…
Part I--The story of Love Love is the child of Wherewithal (handsome young man) and Want (needy young woman) By nature neither mortal nor god Love is between wanting and having Those who seek wisdom are like Love, between knowing and ignorance… the Philosopher
Part II-What does Love do for us? The universal desire among humans Our limited concept of “love” is analogous to our concept of ‘art” We think that “art” means pictures whereas it can really include any creative work just as we think “love” refers only to how we feel about a person How does Diotima expand “love” beyond the sexual? ---Love of business, money, sports, etc. “Love is the desire for permanent possession of the good..” (206b)
Part III- What is love’s aim and what does it accomplish? Love and beauty, desire to create, to be god-like Love is our yearning for immortality, preservation bodily/animal urges to pro-create yearning to learn, to “replenish” what has disappeared
Evidence for love as yearning for preservation 1. Parents caring for their young; their ambitions for their children 2. Pursuit of honor, glory, fame– the hero Potency in physical creation, fame, art, wisdom…
Ascent of Love Beautiful body- the lover Beautiful soul, person Giving birth to virtuous ideas Appreciation for human beauty Beauty of laws, cultures, customs Beauty of the branches of knowledge Beauty of knowledge itself
Ascent upward leads to… The Form of beauty itself: eternal, infinite, whole, independent The metaphor of a ladder: 211b-212a What might this search for beauty/love possibly be?
Alcibiades enters The flirtation with Agathon… and Socrates His speech in praise of Socrates ¡ ¡ ¡ ¡
How does he upend the tradition of lover/beloved? What attracts Alcibiades about Socrates? What stories of Socrates does Alcibiades share? What image of Socrates do we receive?
The End What do we learn about Socrates at the very end of the dialogue? How does love, beauty, wisdom convene into a sense of universal human search for Truth? How does Philosophy ultimately represent our search for understanding, beauty and consolation in our lives? What does this dialogue reveal about the nature of the Athenians?