The Quarrel Between Philosophy and Poetry in Symposium

Topics: Logic, Rhetoric / Pages: 7 (1696 words) / Published: Oct 15th, 2009
In a close reading of Symposium, we as readers get to browse through an eclectic mix of brilliant and unique minds belonging to poets, philosophers, lovers, play writes, comedians and even war heroes. Each character takes their turn in describing their own ideal of love in this casual setting and the speeches with which we are presented are clearly melded by the life, profession and personality of these speakers. Plato’s success in giving each speech its own character and personality is quite remarkable, and has a considerable effect on how we as readers paint our own mental pictures of each member of the party. While it may seem as though these differing speeches have been placed next to one another in an arbitrary manner, one might find in a closer reading that Plato has a reason for doing this. Plato purposefully has Agathon’s speech prelude Socrates’ speech in order to juxtapose the sturdiness of logical argument with the unreliability and capriciousness of demagoguery.

Symposium was used by Plato to give his students a sense of the different structures and techniques that speeches can exhibit. WWWWWWWWdfdhile each character is trying to adhere to the constitution of a eulogy (except for Socrates, who abandons this method when it is his turn to give a speech) we find that with every narrative, we are presented with a new speech-giving technique; Phaedrus begins his speech with a discussion of Love’s origins and ends it with a retelling of Love’s presence in the lives of historical figures, while Pausanias puts use to categorization—he splits love into two groups: Common Love and Celestial Love—to give his listeners a sort of clear-cut definition of love’s duality. In Eryximachus’ speech, we see for the first time a speaker who relates the nature of Love to some aspects of his own profession, which occurs again in Agathon’s speech.

However, when it is Agathon’s turn to speak, he begins by stating that “all the previous speakers weren’t really praising

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