Summary of Symposium by Plato

Plato – Symposium

1 – Introduction

  • Apollodorus is asked to recount the events of a Sympoisum – a drinking party. Agathon had just won a prize for his play. Apollodorus is telling this story second-hand – he’d heard it from Aristodemus who was actually there but too drunk to remember the details clearly after a certain point in the evening. Aristodemus ran into Socrates who was on his way to Agathon’s house to have a celebratory dinner. Socrates asked him to join even though he wasn’t invited. They’d have to come up with an excuse along the way. Socrates got lost in his own thoughts & told Aristodemus to go on ahead of him. Aristodemus showed up alone & was welcomed in. He explained that Socrates was on his way. He ended up showing up in the middle of dinner.
    • After dinner, the guests sat down on couches to hold a Symposium – a drinking affair. They decided to fill the evening with speeches instead of heavy drinking. Agathon wanted Socrates to sit next to him so he could absorb some of his wisdom. If only it worked like that… The drinks were poured. Then Pausanias asked that they take it easy with the drinking because he was still hungover from the night before. Aristophanes agreed & Eryximachus, a doctor, told them heavy drinking was bad for the health as well as for the quality of conversation. They sent away the flute girls & each one of them would drink as much as he liked.
    • Eryximachus proposed a topic for each to speak about: In Praise of Love.

2 – Phaedrus’s Speech

  • The god of love was the oldest & most honored. Hesiod said – at first, there was chaos & then there was love & the earth. Philosopher, Parmenides agreed with this notion.
    • Because love was the oldest, it was the source of the greatest benefits. There’s no greater benefit for a young man than a good lover, & the greater benefit for a lover than a boyfriend. Family bonds, public status, wealth – none of these provides as good of a guidance as far as how to live your life. The shame of acting disgracefully & the pride of acting well is formed by romantic love. Without these, no city can have a good reputation.
    • If a man in love was caught acting badly because he is a coward, it would more pain to him to be revealed as such to his lover than to his father, friends or family, or anyone else. If we could use that to enforce social behavior, honor of the city’s individuals would be astounding. If you could use that force for military discipline, the army could conquer the whole world. The last thing a man would want is to risk being seen by his lover to be a deserter & a coward, & likewise would be inspired to heroic feats in order to avoid this.
    • It’s only the lovers who are willing to die for others, including men & women. Only Alcestis was willing to die for her husband – not even his family or friends would do it. The gods saw this act as great & they allowed her to stay alive. The gods didn’t allow Orpheus the same privilege because they thought he was too soft & lacked the courage that Alcestis had. He was even punished for his attempt to cheat death.
      • The gods honor Achilles for this bravery and honor. He had a choice: 1- Kill Hector, avenge the death of his lover (The Iliad does not say that the 2 were lovers at all). Patroclus & die himself – or, 2- Go home & live to an old age. So he chose vengeance for the death of his love. The gods saw this & gave him the highest honors for the extraordinary courage he showed out of love.
      • A lover is more god-like than a boyfriend because he’s more divinely inspired. That’s why Achilles was more honored than Alcestis. But love is the most of effective tool of the gods in enabling humans to acquire courage & happiness in both life & death.

3 – Pausanias’s Speech

  • There isn’t just one Aphrodite but 2. So there are 2 types of love.
    • 1- The older – the daughter of Uranus, who has no mother. She’s called Uranian or Heavenly Aphrodite.
    • 2- The younger – the daughter of Zeus & Dione, called Pandemic or Common Aphrodite.
  • Every activity is neither right nor wrong. It just depends on how it’s done. If done properly, it’s right. If done improperly, it’s wrong. So, not every love is right & deserving of praise – just when it’s done right.
    • Common love is common & undiscriminating in its effects. This is the kind that inferior people feel. They’re attracted to women & boys, to bodies rather than intelligence. The sole aim is to get what they want – whether it’s done rightly or wrongly. This love derives from the younger goddess, who, because of her origin, is partly male & female in character.
    • The other love is from the Heavenly Goddess, who has nothing female in her nature, since she comes from just a male god – so, it’s directed towards boys. Since the goddess is older, it avoids abuse & violence. Those inspired by this kind of love are drawn towards the male, & feel affection for the more vigorous & intelligent.
      • Those attracted to boys only when they start to develop intelligence, around the time they grow beards. Those who begin love affairs here show readiness to spend their lives together & there’s no plan to trick the boy while he’s young & foolish, & then run off with someone else. Laws ought to be on the books to prevent relationships that may be harmful to young boys either mentally or physically. Followers of Common love ought to be prevented from affairs with free-born women as well.
    • Conventions concerning love affairs in most cities in Greece are easy to understand because they’re straightforward. But in Athens & Sparta, they’re more complex. Other places, like Elis & Boetia, are inarticulate about love & there it’s considered good to gratify lovers in all circumstances, & no one says it’s wrong.
      • Most places in Ionia & Persia have the rule that love affairs are wrong. Persia is tyrannical & condemns them as well as intellectual & athletic activities. It wouldn’t suit a tyranny for people to have big ideas, strong friendships, personal bonds – all of which are promoted by love. Athenian tyrants learned this the hard way.
      • Where there’s a general rule that it’s wrong to gratify lovers, it’s probably the rule-makers’ fault. Governments lust for rule & subjects’ cowardice. Where they say it’s right, it’s because of the mental sluggishness of the rule-makers.
    • In Athens, it’s better but it’s harder to understand. It seems better to love openly than secretly, especially if you’re into boys of social distinction. The love receives a lot of encouragement from people which suggests he’s doing nothing wrong. It’s seen as good to get the boy you want & disgraceful not to.
      • Imagine if someone wanted to get money from a person, political office or position of influence, & behaved like lovers. Imagine them begging for what they wanted like suppliants, or swearing oaths, or prepared for a type of slavery that no slave would ever accept. He’d be held back by both his friends & enemies from this kind of behavior. Friends would tell him to be ashamed of himself. Enemies would use the behavior as a point of criticism.
        • But when a lover has this sort of behavior, he’s indulged & escapes criticism, implying that his objective was admirable. The lover is the only person who’s forgiven for not keeping an oath. Gods & humans extend the indulgence to him. You’d think in Athens it’d be admirable to be a lover & respond with affection.
    • When a boy attracts a lover, his father gives him attendants to keep him away from the lover. The boy’s friends mock him mercilessly & the elders do not object to this, nor do they stop the mocking. Looking at it that way, you’d think it was wrong.
      • But it’s complicated… It’s wrong to please a bad man in a bad way & good to please a good man in a good way. With a bad man, it’s common love – one who loves the body, not the mind. It’s not constant because the object of the love isn’t constant. What attracted him will fade & it will bring disgrace to all he said & promised. But the man who loves goodness of character is constant throughout his life since he’ll be united with something constant.
    • One practice aims to test lovers to ensure the boys gratify the good type & stay away from the bad type. We should encourage lovers to choose boys & encourage boys to run away from lovers. It’s considered wrong to be caught quickly & good to have time to test for a good outcome. It’d be wrong to be caught by a lover’s money or political power. He’d be spoiled by money or frightened into submission. None of these is permanent or stable, & so not genuine.
    • The only way, according to the rules, that it’s right for the boy to gratify his lover, is for the lover to undergo a voluntary slavery that aims to produce virtue. If someone wants to put himself in someone else’s service believing the other will help him improve his wisdom & other virtues.
      • These 2 ideas need to be combined to create conditions where it’s right to gratify a lover. The lover is justified in any service he provides. The boyfriend is justified in his gratification of someone who’s making him good & wise.
      • The lover must develop the boyfriend’s understanding & virtue. The boyfriend must want to acquire education & wisdom. In this case, it’s not wrong to be deceived. If a boy thinks his lover is rich & gratifies him based on that, & the lover ends up being poor, the boy still did wrong. It shows something of his character – that he’d do anything for money. If the boy thinks his lover is a good man & gratifies him hoping to become wise & virtuous, & the lover ends up being bad – the boy isn’t disgraced. He showed the will to gain virtue & become better – & there’s no motive more admirable.
        • This is the heavenly love of the Heavenly Goddess. It’s a great source of value to the city & the individual because it forces the lover to pay attention to his own virtue & the boyfriend to do the same. All other loves are common.

4 – Eryximachus’s Speech

  • Eryximachus liked Pausanias’s line of thinking but felt he didn’t follow through to its natural conclusion. There were indeed 2 kinds of love but they aren’t just expressed in emotional responses of humans to beauty. There are also bodily responses of all animals & plants. The gods of love extends his power to all aspects of human & divine life.
    • In medicine, the nature of bodies is that they manifest both kinds of love. Bodily health & disease are different states. When things are dissimilar, the objects of desire & love are dissimilar as well. Love is different in a healthy body & a diseased body. It’s right to gratify the good & wrong to gratify the self-indulgent.
      • This is true with the body. It’s good to gratify the good parts & bad to gratify the bad & diseased parts. Medicine is about filling & emptying forms of bodily love as needed. He should take out antagonistic elements of the body – i.e. opposites (hot/cold, dry/wet, etc.).
    • Medicine, athletics, agriculture & music are all governed by this god. It’s about bringing harmony & concord – forms of agreement, which can’t be created by divergent things.
      • When agreements are difficult to create, you need to bring in a practitioner. You should gratify & promote the love well-ordered people or people who are not yet orderly but may well improve. The love of the good is of the Heavenly Muse. Common love is of the muse Polyhymnia. Using this love requires caution to be sure the recipient receives joy but isn’t made self-indulgent. In Medicine, you want to correct the desires met by cookery to make sure people get pleasure without getting ill.
    • The character of the season is also determined by these 2 kinds of love. When in harmony, they reach a temperature mixture, bringing good harvests, good health to people, plants & animals. Even when the violent love dominates, it causes destruction. These can cause epidemics & droughts. Astronomy is knowledge of love in the stars & seasons.
      • Sacrifices & divination are to maintain one kind of love while curing the other. Impiety to parents & the gods is when people fail to gratify respect or give pride to the well-ordered love. Prophecy sees whose love is the wrong kind & cures it. It produces a friendship between humans & gods by understanding how humans’ love is in good behavior & piety.
      • Love has a great power but its nature is expressed in good actions marked by self-control & justice. It’s the source of all happiness & enables us to associate with & be friends with each other & the gods.

5 – Aristophanes’s Speech

  • People don’t realize the power of love. If they did, temples would be bigger, as would sacrifices be. It helps humans more than any other god. He’s their helper & doctor, & gives happiness to humans.
    • Let’s look at human nature. Things were different in the past. There were 3 genders: male, female & half male/half female (“androgynous”), which doesn’t existence anymore. The shape of a human was round, with the back & front rounded, making a circle, 4 hands, 4 legs, 2 identical faces on each side of the head. They’d have to roll to travel long distances.
    • The male was of the sun. The female was of the earth. The androgynous was of the moon – a combination of the sun & the earth. They were strong & ambitious. So they attacked the gods. As a punishment, Zeus had all of them split in half. It would slow them down, make them weaker, but also make them more numerous – which was good because humans were still useful to the gods in that they made sacrifices to them. If the humans acted up again, Zeus would just split them again, so they’d have to hop around on 1 leg.
    • After cutting them in half, the gods turned their faces to the front & healed their wounds, leaving a gash – the belly button – to remind them to behave.
      • Since their nature had been cut in 2, each half longed for the other half & threw their arms around one another trying to make a single being. They died of hunger because they didn’t do anything else. When one half died, the other looked for someone else & wrapped himself up with that one too. Sometimes it was a woman & sometimes a man. But they kept on dying.
    • Zeus felt bad & moved their genitals around to the front (they had been in the back) so they could reproduce by having the man go inside the woman & then continuing the species. If 2 males came together at least they’d be sexually satisfied & go back to doing other useful things.
      • That’s how the innate desire of humans for one another started, drawing 2 halves of our nature back together. Each one of us is a matching half of a human & we’re looking for our other half. The men of the combined gender are attracted to women & the women of the combination are attracted to men. Many of them are adulterers.
      • Those cut off from other men look for men. While they are boys, they’re attracted to men. These are the best of the generation because they are naturally the bravest, some say shameless. They are brave, bold & masculine. When they become men, they’re attracted to boys & have no interest in marrying & having children – although some are forced to out of convention. They are lovers of boys & the boys who love them welcome their shared character.
    • When a lover of boys, or anyone else, meets his other half, he’s overwhelmed with affection, concern & love. They pair can’t stand to be apart but don’t know exactly what they want from each other. It can’t be just sex. They enjoy each other’s company. If offered by the gods to be fused together, they would accept. That’s because it’s their original nature. “Love” is the name for the desire & pursuit of wholeness.
      • If we don’t keep ordered behavior, Zeus will split us again. We should encourage reverence to the gods to avoid this & also to achieve the reunion of love. This applies to all men & women. The human race can only achieve happiness if love can reach this conclusion – that each one of us can find his loved one & restore his original nature. So reverence for the gods can help in this quest.

6 – Agathon’s Speech

  • Agathon felt nervous talking about love in front of Socrates, who probably had high expectations based on the prize he’d just won. He was nervous speaking in front of such an intelligent group of people. The previous speakers praised the god of love who’d given us all the good things in life. So he was going to stick to defining the nature of the god & his gifts…
    • While all gods are happy, love is the happiest because he’s the youngest, proved by running from the old, which it hates. It associates with the young because he’s one of them. He’s young & stays that way forever.
      • What the gods did to each other in ancient times, they did out of necessity, not love, They wouldn’t have castrated & imprisoned each other if love had been around. There would’ve been peace & friendship like now.
      • Love is sensitive. Homer described Delusion as a goddess with sensitive feet. She never walked on the ground but on the heads of men, walking on what’s soft, not what’s hard. Love walks not skulls but walks on & lives in the softest of things – in the minds of the gods & humans. When he comes to a tough character, he moves on until he finds a soft one & settles down.
      • Love has a fluid shape. He has to because he has to envelop a mind, & pass in & out unnoticed from the mind. This is clear from the gracefulness – the universally accepted special feature. He spends lots of time in the flowers, not settling on anything without a bloom.
      • Love’s virtue is that it does no injustice & has none done to him. When something is done to him, it’s never by force. He doesn’t use force either – everyone consents to his orders. & whatever is agreed on by mutual consent is what the laws consider just.
      • It is great in moderation – generally the mastery of pleasure & desires. No pleasure is stronger than love. The pleasures were weaker, they must be mastered by love. If he masters pleasures & desires then he must be moderate.
      • Love is also courageous. It wasn’t Ares who captured love but love who captured Ares. The capturer is the master of the captured. Whoever masters the bravest of the others must be the bravest of them all.
      • Love is also the wisest. As a poet, he knows that love is so skilled a poet that he turns other into poets. Everyone touched by love becomes a poets. In fact, he’s the most skilled in every type of artistic production because you can’t give to or teach someone what you don’t have or know. All living things are produced through it. Anyone who becomes famous or conspicuous is touched by love.
      • It was by following his desires & love that Apollo discovered archery, medicine & prophecy. The muses learned music. Hephaestus learned metalwork, Athena weaving, & Zeus steering gods & humans. The gods’ activities were only organized through love. Before, the gods did terrible things out of Necessity, not love.
  • So love is supreme in beauty & excellence, & is responsible for those qualities in others. It brings people together in gatherings, festivities, choruses & sacrifices. It induces mildness & good-will. He’s gracious, kind, gazed on by the wise, admired by the gods, craved by those without him & treasured by those who enjoy him. All should sing his praise.

7 – Dialogue between Agathon & Socrates

  • Socrates mentioned how well Agathon’s speech was given & how he’d have difficulty matching it. He’d make a fool of himself trying to eulogize love & claiming expertise in its ways. Before he felt he could give a good speech on the subject because he knew how to give a eulogy on a subject.
    • The best way to praise something is to claim your subject has the greatest possible qualities – whether it actually has them or not. It doesn’t seem to matter if you tell the truth. The point of these speeches was to appear to praise love without actually doing it, & to ascribe great qualities to it to make it look good. He didn’t want to give another eulogy but would try to get to the truth. Socrates had a few questions for Agathon:
  • Socrates: Is it in love’s nature to be “love of” something? Like someone is the “father of someone”?
    • Agathon: Yes.
  • Socrates: Does love desire what it is “love of”?
    • Agathon: Yes.
  • Socrates: When love desires & loves, does he have in his possession what he desires or loves?
    • Agathon: Probably not.
  • Socrates: Surely, it’s not just probable but necessary for desire to be directed at something you need & if you don’t need something, you don’t desire it.
    • Agathon: I agree.
  • Socrates: So, no one is in need of qualities he already has?
    • Agathon: Correct.
  • Socrates: Suppose someone was healthy & wanted to remain healthy. He already has what he desires. Perhaps what is meant is he wants to remain healthy.
    • Agathon: Right.
  • Socrates: So he desires what isn’t available to him & what he doesn’t have – continued presence in the future of what he has right now.
    • Agathon: Yes.
  • Socrates: So this, & the other case of desire, is the desire for what isn’t available to him & actually there. Desire & love are directed at what you don’t have, what isn’t there & what you need.
    • Agathon: Correct.
  • Socrates: So… 1- Love is “of something”, & 2- It’s “of something” he currently needs but doesn’t have… Let’s go back to your speech, Agathon, to see what love is “of”. You said the affairs of the gods were organized through love of beautiful things, since it’s impossible to love ugly things, right?
    • Agathon: Yes.
  • Socrates: So love must be of beauty & not ugliness.
    • Agathon: Yes.
  • Socrates: But we agreed that a man loves what he needs & doesn’t have. Love needs beauty & doesn’t have it. Would you say something needs beauty & wholly without beauty is beautiful?
    • Agathon: No.
  • Socrates: So, is love still beautiful?
    • Agathon: I guess I didn’t know what I was talking about.
  • Socrates: But still, it was a lovely speech. But one more thing… Do you think that good things are also beautiful?
    • Agathon: Yes.
  • Socrates: If love needs beautiful things & good things are beautiful, would he need good things?
    • Agathon: Yes, I can’t argue with you. Let’s just say you’re right.
  • Socrates: It’s the truth you can’t argue against, Agathon. It’s not hard to argue against me.

Diotima of Mantinea

8 – Socrates’s Speech

  • I wish to tell you about the conversation that I had once with a woman named Diotima of Mantinea. She had been able to delay a plague in Athens for 10 years by telling them how to sacrifice. She taught me about the ways of love & I am going to share.
    • When I met her, I shared my ideas on love, which were along the same lines as Agathon has just told us – Love was a great god & was beautiful. She picked my argument apart as I just did to his:
  • Socrates: Is love ugly & bad, then?
    • Diotima: Blasphemy. As if anything not beautiful must be ugly. Or anything not wise is ignorant. There is a space between. Having the right opinions without being able to give reasons for having them. This isn’t knowing because you don’t have knowledge unless you can give reasons. But it isn’t ignorance either, because ignorance has no contact with the truth. Right opinion falls between knowledge & ignorance.
  • Socrates: Right.
    • Diotima: I don’t think what isn’t beautiful must be ugly. If it’s not beautiful or ugly, then it must be somewhere between.
  • Socrates: But everyone says love is a great god.
    • Diotima: Do you mean everyone who doesn’t know, or those who do?
  • Socrates: Everyone.
    • Diotima: How could people agree that love is a great god if they deny that he’s a god at all.
  • Socrates: Who says that?
    • Diotima: Both you & I do. Do you think all gods are happy & beautiful, or unhappy & ugly.
  • Socrates: Happy & beautiful.
    • Diotima: Do you call those who have the good & beautiful things happy?
  • Socrates: Yes.
    • Diotima: But you have already agreed that it’s because love needs good & beautiful things that he desires those things that he needs.
  • Socrates: Yes, I did.
    • Diotima: So, how could he be a god if he doesn’t have good & beautiful things?
  • Socrates: It seems impossible.
    • Diotima: So you can’t believe love’s a god.
  • Socrates: What is he, a mortal?
    • Diotima: Far from it. He’s between mortal & immortal.
  • Socrates: What does that make him?
    • Diotima: A great spirit. Everything between mortal & immortal is a spirit. They interpret & carry messages between humans & gods. They convey prayers & sacrifices from humans, & commands & gifts from the gods. As an intermediate between the 2, they fill the gap & enable the universe to be interconnected. They are a medium for divination, & priestly expertise. Gods don’t directly contact humans. They communicate & converse with them via spirits. A man with expertise in spirits is like those with expertise in wisdom, craftsmanship – but they are mechanics. There are many different spirits & love is one of them.
  • Socrates: Who are his parents?
    • Diotima: After Aphrodite’s birth, the gods had a feast. The god, Resource (son of Innovation) got drunk & fell asleep. Poverty sneaked in & slept with him & had his child, Love. Because he was conceived at her feast, love is a follower of Aphrodite.
      • His Condition: always poor. He’s not sensitive & beautiful as people believe. He’s tough, shoeless & homeless. He sleeps rough in the road or in doorways. Like his mother, he’s always in need. But like his father, he schemes to get beautiful & good things. He’s brave, impetuous & intense. He desires knowledge & can get it. He’s a lover of wisdom, is good at magic, drugs & sophistry.
      • He’s neither mortal nor immortal. Some days he shoots into life, when he’s successful, & then dies. Then he comes back to life again. The resources he always seems to get, he usually squanders – so he’s neither rich nor poor.
      • He’s also between knowledge & ignorance. None of the gods loves wisdom or wants it because they already have it. They don’t want what they’ve already get. The problem with the ignorant man is that despite the fact he’s not good or intelligent, he feels himself satisfactory.
  • Socrates: Who are the lovers of wisdom (philosophers), if they aren’t wise or ignorant?
    • Diotima: Those somewhere between wisdom & ignorant. Love is a love of beauty & it must be a lover of wisdom because it’s a beautiful thing. So he’s somewhere between ignorant & wise – his father was wise & his mother was ignorant.
  • Socrates: If love is like this, what use is he to humans?
    • Diotima: According to you, he is “of beautiful things”. Suppose someone asks if a lover of beautiful things has a desire, what is it?
  • Socrates: To have those things.
    • Diotima: That raises another question: What will he get when he gets those beautiful things?
  • Socrates: I don’t know.
    • Diotima: Suppose you changed “beautiful” for “good”. What would a lover of good things desire?
  • Socrates: That good things become his own. & when he gets them, he’ll be happy.
    • Diotima: So it’s ownership of good things that makes people happy & you don’t need to ask: Why does someone want to be happy?
  • Socrates: Correct.
    • Diotima: Do you think this desire & form of love are common to all humanity? & that everyone wants good things to be his for all time?
  • Socrates: Yes.
    • Diotima: Why don’t we just call everyone a lover? If everyone always loves the same thing? Why do we call some lovers & others not?
  • Socrates: I’ve often wondered that myself.
    • Diotima: What we’re doing is picking out one kind of love & applying the name “love” which applies to the whole class, while using different names for other kinds of love.
  • Socrates: Can you give another example?
    • Diotima: Composition forms a general class. When anything that comes into being & didn’t exist before, the cause of this is always composition. The product of all the crafts are compositions & craftsmen are composers, right?
  • Socrates: Right.
    • Diotima: But they aren’t called “composers”. They have different names based on what they compose. So we give a name to the subdivision. The same is true with love. Every type of desire for good things or happiness is what constitutes “powerful & treacherous love”. There are many ways of approaching this & those who do this via money-making, athletics or philosophy aren’t “loving” or “lovers”. As only those with an enthusiasm directed at a specific thing can be called lovers.
  • Socrates: Sounds right.
    • Diotima: The idea has been put that lovers are people who are looking for their other halves. But I think love is neither directed at their half, nor whole unless that turns out to be good. People even have limbs amputated if they feel they’re diseased. I don’t think anyone is so attached to his own characteristics unless you say the good is “his own” & “what belongs to him” & the bad as what doesn’t belong to him. The only object of people’s love is the good.
  • Socrates: Yes.
    • Diotima: So we can say people love the good. But we should also add that the object of their love is that they should have the good & have it forever. Since love’s always had overall goal, we should ask: How should people pursue this goal if the enthusiasm & intensity they show in its pursuit is to be called “love”? What purpose does love serve?
  • Socrates: I don’t know.
    • Diotima: Love’s function is to give birth to beauty in body & mind.
  • Socrates: I don’t understand.
    • Diotima: All humans are pregnant in body & mind, & once we reach adulthood, we want to give birth. We can’t give birth to the ugly but only to the beautiful. Sex between men & women is a kind of birth. There’s something divine in how mortals can birth to achieve immortality. But it can’t happen in disharmony. The ugly is out of harmony with the divine & the beautiful is in harmony with it. So beauty is a goddess who presides over childbirth. That’s why when a pregnant creature comes close to something beautiful, it becomes gentle & relaxed, & gives birth & reproduces. When it comes close to something ugly, it frowns & contracts in pain, & doesn’t reproduce. That’s why the pregnant get excited about beauty. So the object of love isn’t beauty but reproduction & birth in beauty. Why? Reproduction is the closest that mortals can come to immortality. & so love must be the desire for the good & immortality.
      • What do you think is the cause of this love & desire? You can see how excited animals get when they feel the urge to reproduce. It’s the excitement of love. They want to have sex & raise their young. Even the weakest animals are willing to go hungry to feed their young. What was said about humans also applies to animals. The older generation becomes immortal by begetting a newer generation. The period we call “being alive” is the same for all – childhood to adulthood to old age. While we call him the same person, he’s always experiencing renewal & loss in skin, hair, bone, blood, etc. This is also true of the mind: character traits, beliefs, desires, pleasures, pains, fears, etc. They never stay the same. Some emerge & others are lost. Knowledge changes. Studying adds to it & forgetting subtracts from it.
      • This is how mortals maintain existence – by not remaining the same because everything that grows old & goes away leaves behind another new thing of the same type. So, it’s no surprise when everything & everyone values its offspring because they are their ticket to immortality.
  • Socrates: That sounds good. But is it true?
    • Diotima: You can see the same principle at work when you see how people love honor. They love becoming famous & being immortal that way. They’re even more willing to risk danger for fame than for their children. They’ll spend money, suffer ordeal & die for honor. It motivates everything they do. It’s just another way to become immortal.
      • Men pregnant in body are more drawn to women to reproduce for immortality. Some are pregnant of men & find wisdom & virtue. These are brought to life by poets. Wisdom connected to cities & households is called justice or moderation.
      • One pregnant of mind with virtues from childhood will reach adulthood. If he’s without a partner, he still wants to reproduce. He goes looking for beauty & never for ugliness. If he’s lucky enough to find a noble, beautiful & naturally gifted mind, he’s attracted to this combination. They can talk about virtue & what a good man should be like & do.
      • When someone’s made contact & formed a relationship with beauty of this sort, he gives birth & reproduces a child of the mind. Their friendship has a strong bond than parents do with their children because their “children” are more beautiful & immortal. These children are more preferable to human ones.
      • Many cults have been set up for this. Perhaps you, Socrates, could be initiated into one. You could reach the final vision of the mysteries. It’s best to begin when you’re young & drawn towards beautiful bodies. If the guide leads the youngster right, he should love one body & the relationship will produce good discourses. He’ll then realize the beauty of one body is like the beauty of others, & that it’s foolish not to think of them as all the same. Once he’s seen that, his passion will relax, & he’ll think it’s petty. He’ll see the beauty of minds is greater than that of  bodies. When you see someone with a good mind, you should be content with him, love him & give birth to discourse with him, especially the kind that helps young men become better. Then he’ll be forced to see beauty in practices & laws, & how all beauties are related. The guide must lead him to knowledge so he sees its beauty & no longer be slavishly attached to a boy’s beauty, or anyone else’s. He’ll turn towards knowledge & give birth to many discourses & ideas.
      • When he’s developed enough, he’ll catch sight of an object that always is & never isn’t, never grows or shrinks, is always beautiful & never ugly, never appearing in a body or face. Going through the following stages, loving boys in the correct way, seeing beauty, he will get to the goal:
        • Stages: Loving a beautiful body Loving 2 beautiful bodies Loving all beautiful bodies Loving beautiful practices Loving beautiful forms of learning Loving the form of learning of nothing other than beauty itself.
        • This is how human life should be lived, gazing on beauty itself – much more than anything else – pure, unmixed, beyond mortal rubbish. Divine beauty in its singular form.
      • Only when a human looks on & gazes at that object with the right part of himself & share its company can a man give birth to images of virtue & to true virtue. Only then does he stand a chance to become loved by the gods & the immortals.

  • Socrates was congratulated on his speech. Then came a loud knock at the door. It was Alcibiades & his entourage. He was wearing a garland of ivy & violets, & sporting many ribbons.
    • He greeted everyone asking if he was too drunk to join int the Symposium. He was visibly hammered. They invited him in & gave him a drink. Agathon sat him down next to him. At first Alcibiades was too drunk to notice that the 3rd person on the couch was Socrates.
    • Socrates stated that Alcibiades would routinely get jealous of him whenever he spoke to any attractive men. Eryximachus told Alcibiades it was his turn to praise love. Since a few people had already gone, he would just talk about Socrates.
      • He promised to tell the truth & if he strayed from it, he welcomed any interrupting corrections.

9 – Alcibiades’s Speech

  • Socrates is like one of those statues of ugly satyrs, like Silenus or even Marsyas. When you open him up there are many statues of the gods inside (like Russian Dolls). & like one of the common versions of the outside statue, Marsyas, Socrates bewitches people. But while Marsyas does it with his flute, Socrates can do it with words. Whenever someone, even the most skilled orators, speaks, it’ll have no effect on people. But one word from Socrates & anyone would be beguiled.
    • Whenever I hear him, I go into a frenzy. My heart pounds & tears flow. Many others have felt this. Often he makes me think my life isn’t worth living. I have to admit my faults & the fact I ignore my own self when I’m involved in Athenian politics. I have to stop up my ears & close my eyes when he’s near so I don’t follow him around.
    • Whenever Socrates was around, I felt a tremendous sense of shame. I realized I couldn’t argue against him & I ought to do whatever he tells me to do. He’s so exhausting to be around that sometimes I wish he were removed from the human race – But I don’t really want that at all.
    • The fact is that most people don’t really know him. He’s attracted to young men & is always around them. He claims to know nothing but that’s just an act he puts on. He looks at physical beauty, wealth & privilege with contempt. It’s all worthless to him & he hides that fact from everyone.
      • But has anyone ever seen inside of him? I saw inside of him once & it seemed so divine, golden, beautiful & amazing that I had to do whatever he told me to do. I thought he was interested in my good looks. That seemed like a blessing because if I pleased him, I’d get to hear everything he knew.
      • But I’d never seen him alone. I got the idea to get rid of his attendants so I could be alone with him. Once we were alone, I thought we would have the kind of conversation that lovers have with their boyfriends. But he had the same kind of conversation that he has with everyone. Later on, I invited him to the gym to wrestle but he was just the same. I brought him to my house for dinner & nothing happened. I was determined to get something out of him. So I invited him over for another dinner. I kept him late enough so I could insist that he stay the night. He slept on the couch next to mine.
        • What happened next filled me with bitterness of heart & mind. When the lamp went out & the slaves left, I asked Socrates if he was still awake. He was. I told him he was the only love good enough for me. I offered to gratify him any way that I could – physically, with money or property. I told him I wanted to be as good of a person as I could & I would be ashamed if I couldn’t gratify him.
      • Socrates told him if what I had said was true, & he had a way to make me a better person, I must have been seeing a beauty in him beyond looks. He said I was trying to exchange one type of beauty for another & that the exchange wouldn’t be fair. I should make sure that I wasn’t over-valuing him.
        • I told him of my plans & left the decision up to him. Socrates gave me a non-committal answer. Then I got up & lied down next to him wrapping myself around him. Nothing happened. I had prided myself in my appearance & felt Socrates was being arrogant. I was insult by him not taking advantage of my offer.
      • I was humiliated but I admired his self-control & courage. He had more understanding & tough-mindedness than I had thought. I couldn’t find fault with him or stay angry with him. I’ve never seen anyone so strong-willed or disciplined.
        • After that, he & I fought together in the Athenian army at Potidea. I notice how well he dealt with starvation but ate well at banquets. He was reluctant to drink but when he did, he drank us all under the table. During the winter campaign, he dealt with the cold better than anyone, even walking around barefoot in the snow.
        • We all watched Socrates examine problems standing still for hours & hours, sometimes overnight. He was also the bravest soldier. He saved my life, weapons & armor. I recommended him for a prize for honor but the generals gave it to me because he convinced them so much that I deserved it more. When we were forced to make a disorderly retreat from Delium, I saw him leading a watchful & well-defended retreat, ready for any enemy ambush.
      • There’s more I could say about him. But there’s never been anyone else like him. He’s so peculiar in his speech. When you talk to him, his arguments seem so ridiculous. He talks about pack mules, blacksmiths, etc. If you didn’t know him, you’d laugh at how silly it sounded. But once you look inside, you see that they’re the only arguments that make any sense. They’re most divine because they contain virtue.

10 – The Symposium Ends

  • Socrates suspected Alcibiades’s motive – trying to make him look bad to Agathon. Agathon noticed that Alcibiades was, in fact, sitting between him & Socrates – perhaps trying to come between the 2 & spoil Socrates for him.
    • But at this point the party degenerated into silly arguments & drunk-talk. Aristodemus who had originally recounted the story had fallen asleep at this point & couldn’t tell any more about the evening.

Author: knowit68

Leave a Reply