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Love in Plato's Symposium

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Love in Plato's Symposium

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  • December 2005
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The underlying notion of Plato's Symposium is that love lies in the metaxy between good and evil and therefore, contains properties of both. An understanding of this concept will lead to an understanding of love. One must feel the pain that goes along with the pleasure in order to actually be in love. In Plato's Symposium, Alcibiades cannot understand his love for Socrates because he has only felt the pleasures of love and has never experienced the pain of it. Plato's Symposium is a recollection of conversations between Socrates and a group of friends about the spirit of Love. Socrates asks if "love is of that which a man wants and has not?" (Plato 25) to which Agathon agrees. Then, Socrates asks "[is it] true that love is the love of the good?" to which Agathon also agrees. It is then deduced that Love, since he wants the good and cannot be what he desires, cannot be good. Socrates asks Diotima of Mantineia, "…is love then evil and foul?" (Plato 26) Diotima answers this by telling us of love's true nature. "Do not infer that because love is not fair and good he is therefore foul and evil; for he is in a mean between them." This shows that love cannot be characterized as either good or evil, but is rather a mix or mean of the two. This duality of good and evil in love translates to the feelings of nirvana and pain. In Amor and Psyche, Psyche is overwhelmed by the beauty of her husband, Amor. "Her passion for passion's lord burned her even more and more, she cast herself upon him in an ecstasy of love, heaped wanton kiss on kiss with thirsty hastening lips." (Apuleius 26) But later on, she feels love's wrath. He hurts her in the only way he can. "I will punish you thus," Amor yells to her, "by flying from you." (Apuleius 28) These actions reveal the duality of Love.

Love can make us feel amazing, but love's wrath burns deep. Many people would do anything, even risk a broken heart, for the good feeling that comes from love. But, since love is in the metaxy...