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The Symposium of Plato

MC Quiz for Understanding the Text Odyssey and Symposium

: Richard David Precht

Core Question: How does Love open our eyes to an Ideal Way of Living?

From Mythos to Logos

Platos Symposium Logos through Mythos

Ancient Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, Aristotle

Socrates (469-399 B.C.E.)

Born in Athens, father Sophroniskos, a scruptor and mother Phainarete, probably a midwife Married with Xanthippe and had three sons Took part in the Peloponnesian War as heavy-armed foot-soldier (hoplite) Held several public offices, refused to execute the order of the Thirty Tyrants to arrest a political opponent

Main occupation: discussed virtues, knowledge and other things with people at the market (agora)
Condemned to death in Athens, refused to go into exile and died in prison

According to the oracle of Delphi, Socrates was the wisest man.

Plato Apology, 21a

Why is Socrates the wisest man?

I am wiser than this man; it is likely that neither of us knows anything worthwhile, but he thinks he knows something when he does not, whereas when I do not know, I do not think I know; so I am likely to be wiser than he to this small extent, that I do not think I know what I do not know.
Plato Apology, 21d

Know thyself (gnthi seauton) inscribed in the

forecourt of the Temple of Apollon at Delphi

The Socratic method

The Elenchos (refutation)

The interlocutor is asked to make clear his viewpoint He will discover that his viewpoint (or definition) is too narrow or self-contradictory (aporia) Inconsistency of speakinginconsistency of thinking He is forced to re-examine the viewpoints he has taken for granted

for the unexamined life is not worth living for men

Plato, Apology 38a

The method of Maieutics (midwifery) The positive side of the Platonic method
Through question and answer the interlocutor is invited to rethink his viewpoint and is thus led to a deeper and clearer understanding of it. He is guided to grasp the correct viewpoint which was latent in him.

Plato (428/427-348/347 B.C.)

Born in Athens, both his father Ariston and his mother Perictione came from prominent families Became Socrates follower at about 20 Refused to join the regime of the Thirty Tyrants

Refused to participate in the Athenian democracy after its re-establishment

Traveled to Megara (Greece), Cyrene (Libya), Sicily (Italy) and maybe even to Egypt Founded the Academy in the northwestern outskirt of Athens at the age of 40 (387 B.C.)

Stephanos pagination
Page 142

Henricus Stephanus (Henri Estienne) Plato edition 1578 142a

142c 142d

a symposium

symposion syn together posis drinking, drink

a symposium a drinking party, an enlightened conversation

A fresco taken from the north wall of the Tomb of the Diver showing the image of a symposium

Anselm Feuerbach, Platos Symposium (1869)

Six speakers, six eulogies of Eros

Phaedrus Pausanias Eryximachus Aristophanes Agathon Socrates and an interloper

Pederasty in ancient Greece

pais = kid, boy erasts = lover

The beloved (the boy): younger, must avoid overready compliance

Lover: older, maybe married, supposed to be the intellectual and ethical teacher of the beloved

I can see nothing better in life for a young boy, as soon as he is old enough, than finding a good lover (erasts), nor for a lover finding a boyfriend (paidika).
Plato, Symposium 178c


The Eros associated with Common Aprodite is, in all sense of the word, common For as start, he is as likely to fall in love with women as with boys. Secondly, he falls in love with their bodies rather than their minds. Thirdly, picks the most unintelligent people he can find, since all hes interested in is the sexual act.
Symposium, 181ab

How about the heavenly Eros?


But I cannot accept his implication that Eros is found only in human hearts, and is aroused only by human beauty. I am a doctor by profession that Eros is aroused by many other things as well, and that he is found also in nature in the physical life of all animals

So great and widespread in fact, universal is the power possessed, in general by all Eros
Symposium, 186a and 188d


Our original nature was not as it is now, but quite different. For one thing there are three sexes, rather than two Secondly, each human being formed a complete whole So he [Zeus] started cutting them into two Each of us is a mere fragment of a man (like half a tally-stick); weve been splite in two Were all looking for our other half Symposium, 189de and 191d

How about Socrates?

Then suddenly he will see a beauty of a breathtaking nature It is eternal, neither coming to be nor passing away, neither increasing nor decreasing. Moreover it is not beauty in part, and ugly in part, nor is it beautiful at one time, and not at another; nor beautiful in some respects, but not in others; nor beautiful here and not ugly there, as if beautiful in some peoples eye, but not in others. It will not appear to him as the beauty of face, or hands, or anything physical
Plato, Symposium 210e-211a

Platos Two-World Theory

The Ideas the Beauty itself, intelligible, changeless, eternal, objects of knowledge Worldly things numerous beautiful things, sensible, always in change, perishable

Immortality, beauty and the pursuit of wisdom

Symposium, 206a-209e Human beings want to be everlasting and immortal

They try to achieve immortality by means of

There are two forms of reproduction, physical and

Mental reproduction is higher than physical one Reproduction, both physical and mental, needs some

beautiful medium
The highest form of mental reproduction is the

attainment of wisdom, i.e. the knowledge of ideas

Climbing up to the ideas Platos ladder of love

Symposium, 210a f.

Beauty itself = the idea of beauty Beauty in knowledges/sciences Beauty in customs and institutions Beauty in mind/character Physical beauty in general

Physical beauty of individuals

Eros ist
Love of physical beauty Love of beauty in character

Universal force of harmony

Finding the other self of us

Pursuing the eternal, absolute beauty itself

and more

Socrates image

The person Socrates

The speech of Alcibiades

The opening scenes the conversation between Apollodorus and his friend and the account of Aristodemus (172a-175e)

Alcibiades: I think hes very like one of those Silenus-figures sculptors have on their shelves You can open them up, and when you do you find little figures of the gods inside. I also think Socrates is like the satyr Marsyas You may not play the pipes, like Marsyas, but what you do is much more amazing
Symposium, 215bc

Drunken Silenus 2nd c. B.C.E.

King Midas asked him: What is the best thing for a man?
Silenos answered

But what you do is much more amazing

Plato, Symposium 215c


Athenian orator, politican and general (450-404 B.C.E.)
415 B.C.E. defects to Sparta, advising Spartans on how to defeat Athens in Peloponnesian War
Around 412 B.C.E. falling out of favour, defects to Persia 407 B.C.E. temporarily returns to Athens 404 B.C.E. murdered

He [Socrates] seduces them, like a lover seducing his boyfriend, and then it turns out hes not their lover at all; in fact, theyre his lovers.
Alcibiades in Symposium, 222b

What kind of lover is Socrates?

What is meant by philosopher, a lover of wisdom?


What are the aspects of love (purpose, feature, function or nature of love) introduced in the speeches of Phaedrus and Pausanias? Put any one of them in the perspective of the ladder of love. nature of love) introduced in the speeches of Eryximachus and Agathon? Put any one of them in the perspective of the ladder of love. nature of Eros, why is reproduction important? What are the levels of ladder and according to the text, how can a person climb up to the top)? (201d-212c) (2 Groups) Socrates a good lover? Is Socrates a lover? What is the relationship between the image of Eros and that of Socrates?

2. What are the aspects of love (purpose, feature, function or

3. Examine Diotimas speech, as told by Socrates (What is

4. How do Socrates and Alcibiades describe each other. Is