The Accounts of Eros in the "Symposium"
The word love carries with it many, many different interpretations. In modern day, our views on what is appropriate love is much different from the views from the time of Socrates and Plato. To them love was eros, a direct translation of the word love.
However, the word itself wasn't the only thing that was different about love. In Plato's "Symposium", there is a celebration for Agathon. He had just won a dramatic contest in Athens, Greece two nights ago. It is customary to drink much wine at these gatherings, however, every one present is too weak from the night before. (Nehamas & Woodruff, pg. xiii) So a proposition is made, by Phaedrus, to properly give praise to the god Eros, and speak on the topic of love. It was their opinion that no poet has yet been able to properly do so. (Nehamas & Woodruff, pg. 7) There were a total of seven accounts given in praise of eros, by seven different people who are present at the party. Of these accounts, the one that made the most sense was the speech of Socrates when he quotes Diotima. This account is practical, and shows love not as a heavenly creature, but as a mortal being, where we can interact with him. It also has answers that most of the other accounts could not even question. This is what stands the speechof Socrates and Diotima apart from most of the others. But, there were two other speeches that were also impressive and brought about points that Socrates did not make. These accounts were given by Aristophanes and Agathon. Through these three speeches, we can get a good picture of what eros is. Starting with the most complete account: Socrates and Diotima; and moving through Aristophanes and then Agathon, this paper will show why these accounts are superior, and why Socrates' makes the most sense.
After Agathon's speech, it was Socrates' turn to present his account of eros. But before he does, he tells Agathon that his speech was marvelous and that at one time, Socrates also believed in what Agathon believed. That was until a women named Diotima taught him the real truth in eros. It is however, believed, that Socrates made up the character of Diotima, the reason, though, is unknown. In spite of this, Socrates gives a remarkable speech that is truly complete. One of the first misconceptions among all the speakers was the age of the god Love. Many believed him to the oldest of the gods, thus making him ancient. Diotima knows this is not true. She speaks of the way Love was conceived, a clever scheme by a god to escape her misfortunes. It seems the goddess of poverty, Penia laid down beside Poros and became pregnant with Love (Nehamas & Woodruff, pg.48) This makes Love unique. Love is good, though, because he is a lover of wisdom, that is, he pursues the notion of philosophy. But, he is in between wisdom and ignorance (Nehamas & Woodruff, pg. 49), according to Diotima, which is much different an account from the other speakers. Phaedrus had placed Love at the top of all gods, describing ways in which Love "breathes might into some of the heroes," (Nehamas & Woodruff, pg. 10). This is untrue. However, Diotima speaks of ways in which love helps human beings. This happens when the love for things like sports or poetry helps a person create something from nothing. Love is a word used to describe the whole, where there are special parts of love used to describe specific passions and possessions. (Nehamas & Woodruff, pg. 51). And love is wanting to posses the good forever (Nehamas & Woodruff, pg. 52) Finally we see the main points in Diotima's argument when she accurately describes the real purpose of love. It is almost like a natural instinct. All animals, including humans, have a need to reproduce. The real purpose in love is giving birth in beauty, whether in body or soul (Nehamas & Woodruff, pg.53). This means that the pregnant person causes the baby, or new born idea if the birth resulted from the soul, to be beautiful because...
Bibliography: Nehamas, A. & Woodruff, P. "Symposium", Hackett Publishing Company,
Indianapolis, Indiana, 1989
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