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Plato, Symposium Essay

Love or greek Eros, Philia was in the ancient Greece often theme to talk about between philosophers. Same as it is very spoken theme now so as it was a lot of years ago. This theme is very difficult to explain. Every one has different interpretation of it and think that it is the right one. Every one of us has its own definition of who is loved one and who is lover and how they should behave to each other. Love in according to the ancient Greeks has two different meanings. By this word they use to describe love between men and women as affectionate marital relationship and also pederastic love between older men and young boys.

By reading Symposium we found out that love between older and younger men was not only about phisycal attraction but also about „sharing wisdom“ – „the adult male‘s role as ethical and intellectual educator of the adolescent that was traditional among the Athenians in the latter sort of relationship, whether accompained by sex or not. “ ( Symposium, p. 457). This interpretation is in todays world very controversial. Many of us when just even think about pederastic love in this context as it should be something good and normal and then when they even presented it as educating of young men would be disgusted.

But of course Symposium had been written in times of ancient Greece when young men were seeking older educated men to be beloved for them, they saw it as honor. When we talk about love we also should mention more interpretations of this word so we can compare them. For example according to Plato , love or Eros is concerned with phisical pleasure, it is understanding in context of erotics. But in accordance to Aristitle, love or Philia is love more concerned with friendship which he subdivided in 3 parts.

In my essay I try to describe the first one, definition of love according to Plato that is in my opinion more difficult to explain because of different interpretations that were given by men who attended Symposium. Conception of Eros became a main issue in the analyssis of Greek philosophers. Platos conception of love is passionate but chaste love of man for youth. In Symposium is loved examined in a few speeches by 7 men attending the drinking party at Agathons house. All of them gave a speech in praise of Love. I will try to analyze only two of them which were the most interesting to me.

First I will write about Aristophaneses speech, which is probably one of the most known one even to people who have not read Symposium. Aristophanes thinks that human beings do not know what the power of Love is anymore. According to him ,this god deserves worship the most. We should „built the greatest temples and altars to him and made the greatest sacrifices. “(Symposium, p. 473, 189c) because „he loves the human race more than any other god, he stands up by us in our troubles, and he cures those ills we humans are most happy to have mended. “(Symposium, p.473, 189d)

Aristophanes thinks that Love is the one who cares about us and helps us when we need it so we should praise him the most. If we want to understand to his power we have to go back to the human nature. Back then was our nature completely different. There were three „parents“. Sun, Earth and Moon. They were parents of three kinds of creatures. These creatures were human beings which did not look as they do now, they were not separated only into two genders – male and female but there was also the third kind – androgynous, combination of male and female elements in one creation.

The male kind was an offspring of the Sun, female was an offspring of the Earth and androgynous was from the Moon because it shares both – the sun and also the earth. Creatures were twice that strong and twice that fast as human beings are now because their bodies were round, they had two legs, two arms, two sets of genitals but what is interesting they had only one head but with two faces. One day these powerful but stupid creatures decided to climb up to the heaven and attack the gods. This made Zeus and other gods angry.

Their punishment was to cut them in two halfs so they loose their strength and now they are more profitable for gods. Zeus also tell other god to moved their genitals around to the front so by this he allowed reproduction. Interesting about this speech is the way by which Aristophanes shows us how we came to have homosexual and heterosexual soul mates. Because creatures had one head – they had only one mind. So since Zeus splitted them up they are now condemned to look for their other halfs for the rest of their lives.

Men and women who were from doubleman and doublewoman creatures seek for the same gender and humans who were part of androgynous seek for the other gender. I think that this is a very nice story about how it could be before, why people are so obsessed about looking for someone who is our other half, someone who fit for us just like a puzzle. We all want to find our soul mate to become a whole again. „The two are struck from their sense by love, by a sense of belonging to one another, and by desire, and they don’t want to be separated from one another, not even for a moment“(Symposium, p.475, 192b,c)

We search for our other half and one day if we will find him or her we will never let them go. He or she will stay with us for the rest of our lives and we will not want to find anyone else anymore, because this will be the one and only, our other half of our mind and we will be satisfied, because according to Aristophanes, „Love is the name for our pursuit of wholeness, for our desire to be complete“(Symposium, p. 476, 192e). By this speech Aristophanes wants to learn us that if we will treat the gods well, respect them and praise them, Love will „restore to us our original nature“(193d).

If we will not they will punish us. Love will help us find our other half,so we can be complete which will make us happy. Next speech that I want to write about is speech of Socrates. The most important speech in Symposium. Socrates had his speech after Agathons which was ,as Socrates said, amazing, specially the end of his speech. First he was afraid that he will not be able to say something about Eros, but then he realized that it would be shameful if he wouldn’t give a speech to praise Love since he said he is master of the art of love.

Because Socrates tells only the truth, his speech will not be composed of another eulgies , because he doesn’t know how to do it anyway but he will tell the truth and select the most beautiful of thruths because that is what speaker according to him should do. „You will hear the truth about Love, and the words and phrasing will take care of themselves“(Symposium, p. 482,199b) Socrateses speech is devided in two sections. First, he questions Agathon by which Socrates shows us his method of leading students to knowledge through putting them questions.

Their debate begin with pointing out that love is love of something, of some object. Socrates mentioned that people desire things they need. And when they have it they don’t have desire for it anymore. But what if we say that we want something we we already have? This would mean that things we have now we want to have later also – „I want the things I have now to be mine in the future as well“(Symposium,p. 483,200d) So by this we can say that love is always oriented with future. Human beings seek just more and more of everything.

We love just what we need and don’t have it. Love is necessity and necessity is what we desire. After all his questions Agathon realize that he didn’t know what he was saying. Second part of Socrates‘ speech is speech about love he heard from Diotima. Diotima was, for Socrates, the most wise person. She was the one who showed him this method of questioning and the one who showed him that to think that Love was a great god and of beautiful things as Agathon also thought is not so much true. According to Diotima, Love is not beautiful and also not ugly.

It is not wisdom and not ignorance, not mortal or immortal . Love could be something in between, something between two extremes. Love is a great daimon she said and everything spiritual is in between god and mortal. After this Socrates was interested in who were parents of Love. Diotima told him a story about Poros and Penia and their child Love. Love was conceived on the day when Afrodita was born so it is why he is lover of beauty because Afrodita is beautiful. He was born to serve her. His life is same as his parents. He has his mothers neediness and fathers resourcefulness.

Love is never rich but also never without resources, he is not mortal but also not immortal. She says that Love is lover of beautiful things and so he is lover of wisdom, because wisdom is beautiful. Diotima now showed us that Love is a lover not loved one which was the reason why Socrates and Agathon thought that Love was beautiful in every way. Diotima then talks about what is the point of loving beautiful things. She says that lover has a desire for beautiful and good things because he wants to own them. And point of owning good things that you have desire for is that you become happy.

We want it because happiness is goal of our life. When we have desire for something we are in love with it. But when we say i love this or this it doesn’t always mean the real word – to love. Love as such is different kind of love than we use in every day life. So true lovers are not lovers of sport, or art or anything else, we don’t call them lovers. We use this word to descibe the one special kind of love. People have desire for good things, we love them and when we have them we don’t want them just for some time but forever.

„Love is wanting to possess the good forever“(Symposium, p. 489,206a) So that descrobe that Love is love of immortalitt. Diotima then teach us how is the reproduction important. „ Reproduction and birth in beauty“ is what Love wants because „reproduction goes on forever, it is what mortals have in place of immortality. “(Symposium,p 490,206e) The cause of love and desire which is according to Diotima same for animals as for human being is to protect the things they bring to birth, to protect them even if it will mean to die for them.

We want to live forever and reproduction is the key because „reproduction always leaves behind a new your one in the place of the old. “(Symposium,p. 490,207d) By this Diotima shows Socrates that people want to reach immortality as close as they can and they are able to do it only through giving a birth. But people will do everything for what they want, they will do everything for immortality, they will do everything to have honor, to become famous so by this they really be here forever in some way.

People in desire to become famous will do more for it than to do anything for their children, they will also spend more money to reach this goal than on anything else. Diotima now shows us that there is also an awful side of love. Later on she talks about love of beautiful bodies and soul. Beauty of people’s souls is more important than beauty of their bodies. None of us actually love all the beautiful bodies. Souls are more valuable. That is what we should teach the youths ,that is what will make them to be better.

Diotimas explanation of Love shows us how to become a philosopher, the lover of wisdom. She says that people have desire of giving a birth mentally or phisically because they want to reach immortality. Socrates completely agree with what Diotima said about Love and desire. Love according to him deserves honor, we should praise the power and courage of Love. Sources: History of Political Thought : Ancients. Symposium. Trans. Alexander Nehamas and Paul Woodruff. In Complete Works. Ed. John M. Cooper. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1997, selected and edited byMathew Post.


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