Symposium by Plato
PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE
Apollodorus: the narrator of the symposium
Aristodemus: the person who told Apollodorus about the symposium
Glaucon: the unknown man
Phaedrus: the person who suggested that everyone has to make a speech about love
Pausanias: Agathon’s Lover
Eryximachus: a doctor/physician
Aristophanes: comedic playwright
Agathon: a tragedian
Socrates: the protagonist of the symposium
Alcibiades: Socrates’ admirer
THE HOUSE OF AGATHON (416 BC.)
Apollodorus was chased and asked by an unknown man (probably the unknown man is Glaucon) about what happened to the banquet.
That man, asked him about the speeches regarding the concept of Love or the god Eros, which were basically based on the accounts of Socrates, and all the other speakers who were present in the symposium.
The symposium occurred in Agathon’s house, this is when a celebration was held in honor for the victory of Agathon.
Apollodorus started his discourse about love with his companion based on the dialogues and accounts of Aristodemus.
ARISTODEMUS’ conversation with APOLLODORUS
According to Aristodemus, he met Socrates fresh from bath, and asked him whether he was going to the banquet or not. But Socrates said that he was not invited; but he said “To the feast of inferior men the good unbidden go”.
Aristodemus received a warm welcome from Agathon. Agathon asked him about Socrates, he asked if Socartes will come. Aristodemus then was asked to find Socrates and bring him to the place, but he said that, “I believe that he will soon appear”, and as expected, all of a sudden, when the supper was on its halfway, Socrates entered.
The highlight of the banquet is hard drinking. But, Pausanias said if they could drink with at least, least effect. “How can the drinking be made easiest?” They should avoid drinking so hard. Which in turn, they all agreed that the drinking would be voluntary.
All of a sudden, Exryximachus proposed that all of them would have to give their speeches regarding their insights about love to honor and praise their god, Eros.
THE SPEECHES ABOUT EROS
Phaedrus stated that Eros is an almighty God, a noble one and considered as the eldest among all of the gods.
He explained his proposition based of the account of Hesiod, that, once there was a chaos that brought the Earth and Eros to existence.
He also stated that Eros is matter of self-sacrifice of the lover for his beloved, that, the lover is ready to sacrifice himself and die for his beloved. In order to prove things right, he had mentioned several notable events which may serve as proofs that love is sacrifice, he associated the concept of love by taking the accounts on happened in the story of “The Iliad” and “Eurydice”, that, the lovers died for their beloved ones.
He stated that Eros and Aphrodite were inseparable, and in line with this, he also spoke that there were two goddesses, because if there is not Phaedrus’ statement about love is enough. He told to his comrades that Eros should get the praises he deserves.
According to him, there were to gods; the Heavenly Aphrodite and the Common Aphrodite. The Heavenly Aphrodite is whom he called the elder one, who has no mother and Uranus’ daughter. While, the Common Aphrodite is whom he called the younger, and the offspring of Zeus and Dione.
He emphasized that, the action varies depending upon its manner of performance, he said that it could either be good or evil as per what has been performed.
He also pointed out that the Common Aphrodite is way far different from the Heavenly Aphrodite. That, those people who believed in and affected by the love of the Common Aphrodite appears to become the most foolish, ill-mannered, and senseless beings, because of they are much more concern solely to accomplish only the end but not the noble end. On the other hand, those beings who are greatly affected and inspired by the Heavenly Aphrodite would be the more greathearted, courageous and intelligent in nature, because she is clean, divine and has no wantonness within.
According to Eryximachus who is a physician that time, the concept of love could somehow be associated with the use of his own art, which is his art of medicine.
He also emphasized that, in being unlike or having the concept of opposites, love could be in its outmost presence and achieve harmony within.
He emphasized his concept of achieving harmony, that, harmony could be achieved if it is in the state of being discord. “Harmony is discord.”
He also said that love is good, love is accompanied by temperance and justice, and love is the source of our harmonious life and happiness.
The comedian Aristophanes commenced his speech in a way of telling an ancient story about the origins of the mankind.
He stated that, in the beginning, originally, there are not one, not two, but three sexes present in mankind. There is the feminine one (woman), the masculine one (man), and the union of the two, which is also called as “Androgynous”.
He explained the physical characteristics of what we called Man. According to him which is based on a tale, “His back and sides forming a circle; and he had four hands and four feet, one head with two faces, looking opposite ways, set on a round neck and precisely alike; also four ears, two privy members, and the remainder to correspond”. He also pondered on the abilities of this creature, that, this creature “could walk upright as men now do, backwards or forwards as he pleased, and he could also roll over and over at a great pace, turning on his four hands and four feet, eight in all, like tumblers going over and over with their legs in the air; this was when he wanted to run fast”.
Aristophanes associated the description of the three sexes to the earth, the moon and the sun. He said that, the original formulation of all of these is that, man is the offspring of the sun, woman is the offspring of earth and the united two which is the man-woman creature is believed as the offspring of the moon.
According to the tale of Otus and Ephialtes. Zeus thought of a clever way of making this matter organized. He then said that, man will continue experiencing life, but in separate ways, so that they could live independently. In order to make things happen, Zeus used his lightning to strike and split them into two.
The concept of love here occurs within the creatures themselves, they will part their ways and try to seek for their other halves for the sake of wholeness. But, Zeus dared, that, if they remain in their state of insolence and impertinence, he would split them again would have to live with a single leg.
In line with this, he also said that they must praise the god Eros for he had helped them a lot in all aspects of human nature.
According to him, he has a different way of acknowledging the god Eros, for he was really sincere when it comes to praising Eros. He has a different overview when it comes to Eros. His idea of the god Eros was contradictory to the fact of Phaedrus who claimed that Eros as the eldest among all gods, but for him, he considered Eros as the youngest among all gods, a youthful one forever, and Eros is the most blessed and the fairest.
Eros is also tender, that, in order to understand the essence of his tenderness somebody has to rely on Homer.
Eros tenderness was able to touch the hearts and souls of the gods and men and make his home and space in it.
Eros was able to focus on the moral and virtuous character of love where courage, justice, temperance and wisdom were fully acknowledged.
Socrates’ speech is based on the account of a Diotima wise woman from Mantineia. She is his instructress in understanding what love really is. He went to Diotima because of his ignorance and consciousness, that, he wants to know the mysteries of love.
According to Diotima of Mantineia, Love is not good as it is and is not fair at all. She said that Eros appears to be a great god for those who are not aware.
Diotima stated that Eros is just a great spirit or also known as a daimon, wherein he mediates between the mortal and the divine.
For Diotima, gods are not philosophers or wisdom seekers, because gods are wise by nature. She said that Eros is also a lover of wisdom, for he is a love of the beautiful.
Love is expressed through procreation, but this procreation must be beautiful. Why beautiful? Because beautiful is considered to be harmonious, while ugliness is considered to be the inharmonious. However, with respect to divinity, this procreation should only be undertaken between a union of a man and a woman.
Diotima said that, love is immortality, because, for the people, generation is something that is immortal and eternal, and by that people would desire for immortality coupled with goodness.
Both the body and the soul could be pregnant.
People who are pregnant in the body concerns of having blessed offspring in the future.
People who are pregnant in the soul concerns of having eagerness to have wisdom and virtue.
He said that his words could be called as an “encomium of love”.
(The company made a huge applause after the speech of Socrates. Then, suddenly Alcibiades’ voice was heard, he was so intoxicated and kept on shouting and roaring “Where is Agathon? Lead me to Agathon.” He came then with an intent to crown Agathon, even if he was in a great state of intoxication. He also crowned Socrates. He joined the conversation as permitted by Eryximachus, and said that he would only speak about the truth.)
Alcibiades expressed how he praises Socrates.
According to Alcibiades, Socrates is like the busts of Silenus, and elsewhere like Marsyas the satyr, because of he had a face that looks like a satyr. (Socrates is a satyr and a siren.)
He stated the resemblance of Socrates to Marsyas. He said that both of them were so influencial but of different ways. In the case of Marsyas, he uses instrument and make melodies or music to captivate the souls of men. While, on the other hand, a Socratic way of making influence uses only himself and his words to charm and captivate the souls of men. For him, Marsyas and Socrates are worthy to listen to because they are believable compared to other speakers that he had heard of.
He said that he was in love with Socrates and yet stated that they have had a great understanding and he tried to seduce Socrates but it did not work on his favor.
He also emphasized “In vino veritas” which typically means, “In wine, truth”.
He ended his talk saying to Agathon that “Be not deceived by him; learn from me and take warning, and do not be a fool and learn by experience, as the proverb says.”
Symposium by Plato profoundly introduced the diverse overview of the speakers about the concept of love in the form of making a speech. This dialogue embodied the maxim of the philosophical interpretations with respect to Eros. The propositions of each speakers vividly described that love has no distinct sense and has no specifications at all, because of its in-depth meaning.
Each speech unfolds hidden truths on how love may be absorbed, which in turn, brought the readers to the extent of questioning which one is believable or plausible. The storyline also highlighted that, “In wine, truth” or “In vino veritas”, because the symposium itself explains that through a hard way of drinking of wine, shocking revelations and truths about love were pronounced and suddenly came out to be some sort primary basis in understanding the underlying meaning of love itself.
This account of Plato tries to widen the readers understanding of what love is, its origins, its competing ends, and so on. There are so many sentiments which may trigger the mind through understanding the in-depth meaning of love. It could be the concept of love by Phaedrus, which entails that Love is a matter of sacrifice, it could be of Pausanias’ account which describes that love could be heavenly or common, it could also be by Eryximachus’ dialogue which explains love could be associated to the art of medicine, it could also be of Aristophanes, who once told a tale about the origins, it could be Agathon’s speech which explains that Eros is the most blessed and the fairest god, or on the dialogue of the exceptional Socrates, who explains that love is beautiful.
In a nutshell, Symposium by Plato explains love in different ways and helps in understanding the grasps of the complexity of love. And, it showcases variety of aphorisms in different accounts which could be absorbed and reflected on.
PLATO. DIALOGUES OF SOCRATES. S.l.: ARCTURUS PUBLISHING, 2018.