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October Book of the Month - Plato's Symposium

Discussion in 'The Philosopher' started by Nile577, Oct 6, 2006.

  1. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    Symposium
    by Plato (427-347 BC)

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    "Plato's retelling of the discourses between Socrates and his friends on such subjects as love and desire, truth and illusion, spiritual transcendence and the qualities of a good ruler, profoundly affected the ways in which we view human relationships, society and leadership and shaped the whole tradition of Western philosophy." - Amazon

    The Symposium is a Socratic dialogue, meaning that it expounds the teachings of Socrates (470-399 BC). Anything Socrates wrote himself has not survived. What we know of him comes from the writings of his admirers (notably Plato and Xenophon). Caution must be displayed, however, if we seek a literal account of his life, since writers frequently voice their own theories through his character or even project personal traits onto him. In the tradition of most Socratic dialogues, Plato's Symposium features Socrates as the main character.

    Preliminary Reading:

    A short biography of Socrates

    A short biography of Plato

    Main Reading:

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    Symposium: UK USA Online E-text

    Optional Further Reading:

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    Cambridge Companion To Plato: Chapter 8 - Platonic love (G. R. F. Ferrari) UK USA

    The Cambridge Companion series offers introductions to great thinkers. Covering a wide range of topics from the Platonic canon, this compendium of essays is aimed at students beginning study of Plato for the first time. While buying the book might prove expensive, it can doubtless be tracked down in most libraries. Chapter 8, 'Platonic Love' by G.R.F. Ferrari will be of most relevance to 'Symposium.'

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    Plato's Symposium - Richard Hunter UK USA

    This short work offers a focussed introduction to the Symposium, situating its context, exploring its themes and charting its influence on subsequent thinkers.

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    Symposium - Xenophon UK (As 'The Dinner Party') USA (As 'The Dinner Party')

    Opinion is divided as to which scholar first wrote a 'Symposium.' Xenophon's (427-355 BC) Socrates is often quite different from Plato's. In this account, he champions his knowledge of the art of pimping! Witty repartee takes the place of long speeches. In the affordable Penguin Xenophon compilation, this 50 page text is titled 'The Dinner Party' .

    Extra:

    ""Symposium" is the Greek term for a drinking-party. The Greeks did not usually drink at their dinner, and it was not until the conclusion of the meal that wine was introduced. Symposia were very frequent at Athens. Their enjoyment was heightened by agreeable conversation, by the introduction of music and dancing, and by games and amusements of various kinds; sometimes, too, philosophical subjects were discussed at them. The Symposia of Plato and Xenophon give us a lively idea of such entertainments at Athens. The name itself shows that the enjoyment of drinking was the main object of the symposia: wine from the juice of the grape (oinos ampelinos) was the only drink partaken of by the Greeks, with the exception of water. The wine was almost invariably mixed with water, and to drink it unmixed (akraton) was considered a characteristic of barbarians. The mixture was made in a large vessel called the crater, from which it was conveyed into the drinking-cups. The guests at a symposium reclined on couches, and were crowned with garlands of flowers." source
     
  2. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    Reading and discussion of this text will continue throughout October.
     
  3. derek

    derek Grey Eminence

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    Ah! Good!
     
  4. Anvil

    Anvil Brain Bubbled

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    Sweet, I have that book on my "To Read" list. Its at the top of the pile on my bookcase!
     
  5. speed

    speed Member

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    Shall we start with the first speaker Phaedrus' ideas on love?

    Here is what Phaedrus says:


    Phaedrus began by affirming that love is a mighty god, and wonderful among gods and men, but especially wonderful in his birth. For he is the eldest of the gods, which is an honour to him; and a proof of his claim to this honour is, that of his parents there is no memorial; neither poet nor prose-writer has ever affirmed that he had any. As Hesiod says:

    First Chaos came, and then broad-bosomed Earth,
    The everlasting seat of all that is,
    And Love. In other words, after Chaos, the Earth and Love, these two, came into being. Also Parmenides sings of Generation:

    First in the train of gods, he fashioned Love. And Acusilaus agrees with Hesiod. Thus numerous are the witnesses who acknowledge Love to be the eldest of the gods. And not only is he the eldest, he is also the source of the greatest benefits to us. For I know not any greater blessing to a young man who is beginning life than a virtuous lover or to the lover than a beloved youth. For the principle which ought to be the guide of men who would nobly live at principle, I say, neither kindred, nor honour, nor wealth, nor any other motive is able to implant so well as love. Of what am I speaking? Of the sense of honour and dishonour, without which neither states nor individuals ever do any good or great work. And I say that a lover who is detected in doing any dishonourable act, or submitting through cowardice when any dishonour is done to him by another, will be more pained at being detected by his beloved than at being seen by his father, or by his companions, or by any one else. The beloved too, when he is found in any disgraceful situation, has the same feeling about his lover. And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their loves, they would be the very best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonour, and emulating one another in honour; and when fighting at each other's side, although a mere handful, they would overcome the world. For what lover would not choose rather to be seen by all mankind than by his beloved, either when abandoning his post or throwing away his arms? He would be ready to die a thousand deaths rather than endure this. Or who would desert his beloved or fail him in the hour of danger? The veriest coward would become an inspired hero, equal to the bravest, at such a time; Love would inspire him. That courage which, as Homer says, the god breathes into the souls of some heroes, Love of his own nature infuses into the lover.

    Love will make men dare to die for their beloved-love alone; and women as well as men. Of this, Alcestis, the daughter of Pelias, is a monument to all Hellas; for she was willing to lay down her life on behalf of her husband, when no one else would, although he had a father and mother; but the tenderness of her love so far exceeded theirs, that she made them seem to be strangers in blood to their own son, and in name only related to him; and so noble did this action of hers appear to the gods, as well as to men, that among the many who have done virtuously she is one of the very few to whom, in admiration of her noble action, they have granted the privilege of returning alive to earth; such exceeding honour is paid by the gods to the devotion and virtue of love. But Orpheus, the son of Oeagrus, the harper, they sent empty away, and presented to him an apparition only of her whom he sought, but herself they would not give up, because he showed no spirit; he was only a harp-player, and did not-dare like Alcestis to die for love, but was contriving how he might enter hades alive; moreover, they afterwards caused him to suffer death at the hands of women, as the punishment of his cowardliness. Very different was the reward of the true love of Achilles towards his lover Patroclus-his lover and not his love (the notion that Patroclus was the beloved one is a foolish error into which Aeschylus has fallen, for Achilles was surely the fairer of the two, fairer also than all the other heroes; and, as Homer informs us, he was still beardless, and younger far). And greatly as the gods honour the virtue of love, still the return of love on the part of the beloved to the lover is more admired and valued and rewarded by them, for the lover is more divine; because he is inspired by God. Now Achilles was quite aware, for he had been told by his mother, that he might avoid death and return home, and live to a good old age, if he abstained from slaying Hector. Nevertheless he gave his life to revenge his friend, and dared to die, not only in his defence, but after he was dead Wherefore the gods honoured him even above Alcestis, and sent him to the Islands of the Blest. These are my reasons for affirming that Love is the eldest and noblest and mightiest of the gods; and the chiefest author and giver of virtue in life, and of happiness after death.


    Speed's Anaylsis:


    Clearly, Phaedrus has taken a very classical view of love. Love, and only love, inspires sacrifice--which is one of the most blessed things one can do according to Phaedrus--it inspires courage on the battlefield and in life, as nothing is worse to the lover, than being shown a coward or ashamed before his beloved. He also sets the context of the lover and beloved with his story about Achilles: for the lover must be the older and experienced, and the beloved, younger and inexperienced. This theme will be taken up by Socrates later in the dialogue. Thus, to Phaedrus, love is as old as the earth itself (he quotes Hesiod as stating Love was created with the Earth), inspires the noblest qualities of sacrifice and honor in men/women, and is generally done through a pederastic arraingement (old experienced man, teaching the younger man). Clearly, I dont need to remind everyone of the very open-minded Greek views on sex and love.

    One interesting thing I gleaned from Phaedrus, is how similar views on love--divorced from the pederastic element--have persisted and still persist today. Romance today, is stilll perceived as embodying sacrifice. From the medieval times to the Romantics, the idea of honor was also involved. This, I think, has fallen out of favor with our present day society. But, Phaedrus' views, are certiantly conservative, and those of poets and 19th century novels.
     
  6. ARC150

    ARC150 anodyne

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    A good translation of Phaedrus can be found here.

    Great start, speed.

    I have not read this in over a decade, and I laugh at how much this discourse reads like a pulp-romance novel. The pro-Plato in me views this as a clever metaphor-by-virtue-of-compostion: A play of two people speaking lovingly of love - whether or not they agree as to what love is. The proto-Plato in me wonders how I could have once agreed with statements like:

    If you say that the lover is more to be esteemed, because his love is thought to be greater; for he is willing to say and do what is hateful to other men, in order to please his beloved;-that, if true, is only a proof that he will prefer any future love to his present, and will injure his old love at the pleasure of the new. And how, in a matter of such infinite importance, can a man be right in trusting himself to one who is afflicted with a malady which no experienced person would attempt to cure, for the patient himself admits that he is not in his right mind, and acknowledges that he is wrong in his mind, but says that he is unable to control himself? And if he came to his right mind, would he ever imagine that the desires were good which he conceived when in his wrong mind?

    Not that I do not necessarily agree with this now - but at one point, I think I would have used this idea to justify my feelings (or lack thereof) to another {point in fact, I have - Nota Bene: This does not go over well...}. At this point, however, I think that such ideals are not the point of the matter. That is, I take a more pragmatic view on the idea of love.

    As to your query of sacrafice, I think that the new-world ideal (at least in this western hemisphere) is not so much a sacrificing of self for the benefit of another so much as it is an ideological castration of the self such that the idea of "You complete me" sounds off as romantic.

    At one point, Socrates quotes Homer:

    Mortals call him fluttering love,
    But the immortals call him winged one,
    Because the growing of wings is a necessity to him


    This (although I have been vehemently challenged on this point, in the past), to me, is saying that while some say love is a gift, others see it as a necessary part of the human condition. The aforementioned (read: love is a gift) engenders the idea that the love of another is something above and beyond the self - a thing that benefits, but does not define; the latter (read: necessary to the human condition) speaks to a fantastic hyperbole in which the self is only fully actualized when realized by another.

    It seems to me that this you-complete-me idea of love exists now, and it is something far removed from the conclusions of Phaedrus.
     
  7. speed

    speed Member

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    Next we come to Pausanias' speech on love.

    Pausanias, claims Phaedrus was in error, as love is a complex thing; complex enough, that there are two forms of love: the common, and the heavenly. Common love, is the love of vulgar things: the body, lust, sex, control over another. Heavenly love is virtuous, about imparting wisdom, learning, care.

    Pausanias, goes on to state that action delineates these two forms of love. Honourable and proper actions in love, produce heavenly love; Dishonourable and improper actions in love, produce common love. Thus love, is at its highest, when it inspires wisdom and virtue, and at its lowest when it encompasses sex, tyranny, and the body.

    What can be gleaned from this speech? That love=virtue and knowledge? That's a very Socratic idea. That the body and lust, is inferior? That love can be judged, delineated by ones actions. All very interesting ideas.








    Here is Pausanias' speech:

    This, or something like this, was the speech of Phaedrus; and some other speeches followed which Aristodemus did not remember; the next which he repeated was that of Pausanias. Phaedrus, he said, the argument has not been set before us, I think, quite in the right form;-we should not be called upon to praise Love in such an indiscriminate manner. If there were only one Love, then what you said would be well enough; but since there are more Loves than one,-should have begun by determining which of them was to be the theme of our praises. I will amend this defect; and first of all I would tell you which Love is deserving of praise, and then try to hymn the praiseworthy one in a manner worthy of him. For we all know that Love is inseparable from Aphrodite, and if there were only one Aphrodite there would be only one Love; but as there are two goddesses there must be two Loves.

    And am I not right in asserting that there are two goddesses? The elder one, having no mother, who is called the heavenly Aphrodite-she is the daughter of Uranus; the younger, who is the daughter of Zeus and Dione-her we call common; and the Love who is her fellow-worker is rightly named common, as the other love is called heavenly. All the gods ought to have praise given to them, but not without distinction of their natures; and therefore I must try to distinguish the characters of the two Loves. Now actions vary according to the manner of their performance. Take, for example, that which we are now doing, drinking, singing and talking these actions are not in themselves either good or evil, but they turn out in this or that way according to the mode of performing them; and when well done they are good, and when wrongly done they are evil; and in like manner not every love, but only that which has a noble purpose, is noble and worthy of praise. The Love who is the offspring of the common Aphrodite is essentially common, and has no discrimination, being such as the meaner sort of men feel, and is apt to be of women as well as of youths, and is of the body rather than of the soul-the most foolish beings are the objects of this love which desires only to gain an end, but never thinks of accomplishing the end nobly, and therefore does good and evil quite indiscriminately. The goddess who is his mother is far younger than the other, and she was born of the union of the male and female, and partakes of both.

    But the offspring of the heavenly Aphrodite is derived from a mother in whose birth the female has no part,-she is from the male only; this is that love which is of youths, and the goddess being older, there is nothing of wantonness in her. Those who are inspired by this love turn to the male, and delight in him who is the more valiant and intelligent nature; any one may recognise the pure enthusiasts in the very character of their attachments. For they love not boys, but intelligent, beings whose reason is beginning to be developed, much about the time at which their beards begin to grow. And in choosing young men to be their companions, they mean to be faithful to them, and pass their whole life in company with them, not to take them in their inexperience, and deceive them, and play the fool with them, or run away from one to another of them. But the love of young boys should be forbidden by law, because their future is uncertain; they may turn out good or bad, either in body or soul, and much noble enthusiasm may be thrown away upon them; in this matter the good are a law to themselves, and the coarser sort of lovers ought to be restrained by force; as we restrain or attempt to restrain them from fixing their affections on women of free birth. These are the persons who bring a reproach on love; and some have been led to deny the lawfulness of such attachments because they see the impropriety and evil of them; for surely nothing that is decorously and lawfully done can justly be censured.

    Now here and in Lacedaemon the rules about love are perplexing, but in most cities they are simple and easily intelligible; in Elis and Boeotia, and in countries having no gifts of eloquence, they are very straightforward; the law is simply in favour of these connexions, and no one, whether young or old, has anything to say to their discredit; the reason being, as I suppose, that they are men of few words in those parts, and therefore the lovers do not like the trouble of pleading their suit. In Ionia and other places, and generally in countries which are subject to the barbarians, the custom is held to be dishonourable; loves of youths share the evil repute in which philosophy and gymnastics are held because they are inimical to tyranny; for the interests of rulers require that their subjects should be poor in spirit and that there should be no strong bond of friendship or society among them, which love, above all other motives, is likely to inspire, as our Athenian tyrants-learned by experience; for the love of Aristogeiton and the constancy of Harmodius had strength which undid their power. And, therefore, the ill-repute into which these attachments have fallen is to be ascribed to the evil condition of those who make them to be ill-reputed; that is to say, to the self-seeking of the governors and the cowardice of the governed; on the other hand, the indiscriminate honour which is given to them in some countries is attributable to the laziness of those who hold this opinion of them. In our own country a far better principle prevails, but, as I was saying, the explanation of it is rather perplexing. For, observe that open loves are held to be more honourable than secret ones, and that the love of the noblest and highest, even if their persons are less beautiful than others, is especially honourable.

    Consider, too, how great is the encouragement which all the world gives to the lover; neither is he supposed to be doing anything dishonourable; but if he succeeds he is praised, and if he fail he is blamed. And in the pursuit of his love the custom of mankind allows him to do many strange things, which philosophy would bitterly censure if they were done from any motive of interest, or wish for office or power. He may pray, and entreat, and supplicate, and swear, and lie on a mat at the door, and endure a slavery worse than that of any slave-in any other case friends and enemies would be equally ready to prevent him, but now there is no friend who will be ashamed of him and admonish him, and no enemy will charge him with meanness or flattery; the actions of a lover have a grace which ennobles them; and custom has decided that they are highly commendable and that there no loss of character in them; and, what is strangest of all, he only may swear and forswear himself (so men say), and the gods will forgive his transgression, for there is no such thing as a lover's oath. Such is the entire liberty which gods and men have allowed the lover, according to the custom which prevails in our part of the world. From this point of view a man fairly argues in Athens to love and to be loved is held to be a very honourable thing. But when parents forbid their sons to talk with their lovers, and place them under a tutor's care, who is appointed to see to these things, and their companions and equals cast in their teeth anything of the sort which they may observe, and their elders refuse to silence the reprovers and do not rebuke them-any one who reflects on all this will, on the contrary, think that we hold these practices to be most disgraceful. But, as I was saying at first, the truth as I imagine is, that whether such practices are honourable or whether they are dishonourable is not a simple question; they are honourable to him who follows them honourably, dishonourable to him who follows them dishonourably. There is dishonour in yielding to the evil, or in an evil manner; but there is honour in yielding to the good, or in an honourable manner.

    Evil is the vulgar lover who loves the body rather than the soul, inasmuch as he is not even stable, because he loves a thing which is in itself unstable, and therefore when the bloom of youth which he was desiring is over, he takes wing and flies away, in spite of all his words and promises; whereas the love of the noble disposition is life-long, for it becomes one with the everlasting. The custom of our country would have both of them proven well and truly, and would have us yield to the one sort of lover and avoid the other, and therefore encourages some to pursue, and others to fly; testing both the lover and beloved in contests and trials, until they show to which of the two classes they respectively belong. And this is the reason why, in the first place, a hasty attachment is held to be dishonourable, because time is the true test of this as of most other things; and secondly there is a dishonour in being overcome by the love of money, or of wealth, or of political power, whether a man is frightened into surrender by the loss of them, or, having experienced the benefits of money and political corruption, is unable to rise above the seductions of them. For none of these things are of a permanent or lasting nature; not to mention that no generous friendship ever sprang from them. There remains, then, only one way of honourable attachment which custom allows in the beloved, and this is the way of virtue; for as we admitted that any service which the lover does to him is not to be accounted flattery or a dishonour to himself, so the beloved has one way only of voluntary service which is not dishonourable, and this is virtuous service.

    For we have a custom, and according to our custom any one who does service to another under the idea that he will be improved by him either in wisdom, or, in some other particular of virtue-such a voluntary service, I say, is not to be regarded as a dishonour, and is not open to the charge of flattery. And these two customs, one the love of youth, and the other the practice of philosophy and virtue in general, ought to meet in one, and then the beloved may honourably indulge the lover. For when the lover and beloved come together, having each of them a law, and the lover thinks that he is right in doing any service which he can to his gracious loving one; and the other that he is right in showing any kindness which he can to him who is making him wise and good; the one capable of communicating wisdom and virtue, the other seeking to acquire them with a view to education and wisdom, when the two laws of love are fulfilled and meet in one-then, and then only, may the beloved yield with honour to the lover. Nor when love is of this disinterested sort is there any disgrace in being deceived, but in every other case there is equal disgrace in being or not being deceived. For he who is gracious to his lover under the impression that he is rich, and is disappointed of his gains because he turns out to be poor, is disgraced all the same: for he has done his best to show that he would give himself up to any one's "uses base" for the sake of money; but this is not honourable. And on the same principle he who gives himself to a lover because he is a good man, and in the hope that he will be improved by his company, shows himself to be virtuous, even though the object of his affection turn out to be a villain, and to have no virtue; and if he is deceived he has committed a noble error. For he has proved that for his part he will do anything for anybody with a view to virtue and improvement, than which there can be nothing nobler. Thus noble in every case is the acceptance of another for the sake of virtue. This is that love which is the love of the heavenly godess, and is heavenly, and of great price to individuals and cities, making the lover and the beloved alike eager in the work of their own improvement. But all other loves are the offspring of the other, who is the common goddess. To you, Phaedrus, I offer this my contribution in praise of love, which is as good as I could make extempore.

    Pausanias came to a pause-this is the balanced way in which I have been taught by the wise to speak; and Aristodemus said that the turn of Aristophanes was next, but either he had eaten too much, or from some other cause he had the hiccough, and was obliged to change turns with Eryximachus the physician, who was reclining on the couch below him. Eryximachus, he said, you ought either to stop my hiccough, or to speak in my turn until I have left off.
     
  8. speed

    speed Member

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    Very interesting. You've gone beyond Phaedrus though! Hm...does not Aristophanes' speech perhaps address this very topic? The union of two souls into one? This fantastic hyperbole of Aristophanes (who in his non-dramatised real life, was the greatest comic dramatist ever) essentially promotes the idea that the self is only fully actualized when realized by another--or in union with another--as you state. We'll (well, I will) get to this wonderful part of the dialogue in a few days.

    So, again, I think we come back to Plato's wonderful literary and philosophical skill. He never really plays his hand. He argues every idea with a different character, and we never really know which one he really believed in. I also think there is a presumption that whenever Socrates speaks, this signifies Plato's true intentions; but Im not so sure. Maybe he was smart enough not to place faith in any of them.
     
  9. Justin S.

    Justin S. Member

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    What perfect timing for the Symposium, as I was assigned it this past week for my Plato course. Unfortunately, I am totally bogged by midterms (I think I have to average 5-7 pages per day this week) and so wont be posting on this until next week at the earliest (hopefully Ill get something up by the end of the month, before we move on).

    There certainly is a lot to discuss in this work...
     
  10. speed

    speed Member

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    On to Eryximachus' portion of the dialogue (Aristophanes came down with a case of hiccups).

    (and please, I am not a Plato expert, professor, or am I using any guide here. I'm sure I may miss a few things, or people may disagree with my interpretation. Thus, I implore everyone to contribute. Its a short dialogue--really).



    Eryximachus begins his speech praising Pausanias' delineation of love into the vulgar and the heavenly. However, this physician, claims love is what guides medicine, music, and the seasons; love is the symphony and harmony between harsh and sweet, long and short, bad and good. Thus the aim of love is to produce this harmony in whatever area or aspect of life.

    Eryximachus goes on to say that love can be heavenly and good, or vulgar and destuctive, as love is found and guides everything, it just must be directed towards heavenly things: the good, justice, temperance, etc, and it will produce happiness, good society and the like; if directed towards vulgar things, the opposite will occur.

    Personally, Eryximachus' speech reminds me of Heraclitus, who he mentions in his speech:

    "the meaning, of Heracleitus, although, his words are not accurate, for he says that is united by disunion, like the harmony-of bow and the lyre. Now there is an absurdity saying that harmony is discord or is composed of elements which are still in a state of discord. But what he probably meant was, that, harmony is composed of differing notes of higher or lower pitch which disagreed once, but are now reconciled by the art of music; for if the higher and lower notes still disagreed, there could be there could be no harmony-clearly not. For harmony is a symphony, and symphony is an agreement; but an agreement of disagreements while they disagree there cannot be; you cannot harmonize that which disagrees."

    Yet, unlike Heraclitus, he clearly claims that just because two things are opposite, does not make them one. There has to be a symphony. Heraclitus in many of his fragments, implies or takes for granted the symphony or harmony required for two opposites to join into one. They just are. To Eryximachus, this oneness and harmony so beautiful to Heraclitus and to music, medicine, nature, requires work and dilligence. It is the work of a great physician, composer, mother nature, that allows such unions. Thus, to Eryximachus, heavenly love not only the symphony or harmony itself, but the work of forming such a harmonious union.








    Eryximachus' Speech:

    Eryximachus spoke as follows: Seeing that Pausanias made a fair beginning, and but a lame ending, I must endeavour to supply his deficiency. I think that he has rightly distinguished two kinds of love. But my art further informs me that the double love is not merely an affection of the soul of man towards the fair, or towards anything, but is to be found in the bodies of all animals and in productions of the earth, and I may say in all that is; such is the conclusion which I seem to have gathered from my own art of medicine, whence I learn how great and wonderful and universal is the deity of love, whose empire extends over all things, divine as well as human. And from medicine I would begin that I may do honour to my art. There are in the human body these two kinds of love, which are confessedly different and unlike, and being unlike, they have loves and desires which are unlike; and the desire of the healthy is one, and the desire of the diseased is another; and as Pausanias was just now saying that to indulge good men is honourable, and bad men dishonourable:-so too in the body the good and healthy elements are to be indulged, and the bad elements and the elements of disease are not to be indulged, but discouraged. And this is what the physician has to do, and in this the art of medicine consists: for medicine may be regarded generally as the knowledge of the loves and desires of the body, and how to satisfy them or not; and the best physician is he who is able to separate fair love from foul, or to convert one into the other; and he who knows how to eradicate and how to implant love, whichever is required, and can reconcile the most hostile elements in the constitution and make them loving friends, is skilful practitioner. Now the: most hostile are the most opposite, such as hot and cold, bitter and sweet, moist and dry, and the like. And my ancestor, Asclepius, knowing how-to implant friendship and accord in these elements, was the creator of our art, as our friends the poets here tell us, and I believe them; and not only medicine in every branch but the arts of gymnastic and husbandry are under his dominion.

    Any one who pays the least attention to the subject will also perceive that in music there is the same reconciliation of opposites; and I suppose that this must have been the meaning, of Heracleitus, although, his words are not accurate, for he says that is united by disunion, like the harmony-of bow and the lyre. Now there is an absurdity saying that harmony is discord or is composed of elements which are still in a state of discord. But what he probably meant was, that, harmony is composed of differing notes of higher or lower pitch which disagreed once, but are now reconciled by the art of music; for if the higher and lower notes still disagreed, there could be there could be no harmony-clearly not. For harmony is a symphony, and symphony is an agreement; but an agreement of disagreements while they disagree there cannot be; you cannot harmonize that which disagrees. In like manner rhythm is compounded of elements short and long, once differing and now-in accord; which accordance, as in the former instance, medicine, so in all these other cases, music implants, making love and unison to grow up among them; and thus music, too, is concerned with the principles of love in their application to harmony and rhythm. Again, in the essential nature of harmony and rhythm there is no difficulty in discerning love which has not yet become double. But when you want to use them in actual life, either in the composition of songs or in the correct performance of airs or metres composed already, which latter is called education, then the difficulty begins, and the good artist is needed. Then the old tale has to be repeated of fair and heavenly love -the love of Urania the fair and heavenly muse, and of the duty of accepting the temperate, and those who are as yet intemperate only that they may become temperate, and of preserving their love; and again, of the vulgar Polyhymnia, who must be used with circumspection that the pleasure be enjoyed, but may not generate licentiousness; just as in my own art it is a great matter so to regulate the desires of the epicure that he may gratify his tastes without the attendant evil of disease. Whence I infer that in music, in medicine, in all other things human as which as divine, both loves ought to be noted as far as may be, for they are both present.

    The course of the seasons is also full of both these principles; and when, as I was saying, the elements of hot and cold, moist and dry, attain the harmonious love of one another and blend in temperance and harmony, they bring to men, animals, and plants health and plenty, and do them no harm; whereas the wanton love, getting the upper hand and affecting the seasons of the year, is very destructive and injurious, being the source of pestilence, and bringing many other kinds of diseases on animals and plants; for hoar-frost and hail and blight spring from the excesses and disorders of these elements of love, which to know in relation to the revolutions of the heavenly bodies and the seasons of the year is termed astronomy. Furthermore all sacrifices and the whole province of divination, which is the art of communion between gods and men-these, I say, are concerned with the preservation of the good and the cure of the evil love. For all manner of impiety is likely to ensue if, instead of accepting and honouring and reverencing the harmonious love in all his actions, a man honours the other love, whether in his feelings towards gods or parents, towards the living or the dead. Wherefore the business of divination is to see to these loves and to heal them, and divination is the peacemaker of gods and men, working by a knowledge of the religious or irreligious tendencies which exist in human loves. Such is the great and mighty, or rather omnipotent force of love in general. And the love, more especially, which is concerned with the good, and which is perfected in company with temperance and justice, whether among gods or men, has the greatest power, and is the source of all our happiness and harmony, and makes us friends with the gods who are above us, and with one another. I dare say that I too have omitted several things which might be said in praise of Love, but this was not intentional, and you, Aristophanes, may now supply the omission or take some other line of commendation; for I perceive that you are rid of the hiccough.
     
  11. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    Interesting points raised so far. Great efforts by Speed and ARC150.

    I first read Symposium without taking any notes and quickly realised that I had forgotten the thread of the argument and in particular the order and subject matter of the speeches that preceded Socrates'. Before offering my own thoughts and engaging with what has already been written above, I thought it might be wise to have a re-read. This time through I took notes with the aim of summarising what is said by each speaker. I don't know if the below will be helpful and by posting it I certainly don't intend to derail the order of discussion which Speed has so dilligently driven forward, but here is my attempt at a summary of the arguments outlined in the Symposium.

    While reading the book is essential to appreciate the nuances of Plato's argument and my notes are intended mostly as a simple reminder for people who have already finished the text, perhaps people who have been unable to read it might be able to glance through and feel more able to contribute to the discussion.

    Not including Alcibiades' drunken ramblings, we are given accounts of six speeches at the symposium. The speakers are Phaedrus, Pausanias, Eryximachus (gah! how to pronounce?), Aristophanes, Agathon and Socrates. Here are summaries of their arguments:

    (I will post my thoughts on them and what has already been said in this thread later)
     
  12. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    Phaedrus

     
  13. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    Pausanias

     
  14. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    Eryximachus

    'Greek Doctor' Image courtesy of www.i-claudius.com, by and (c) PETER MANGIARACINA
     
  15. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    Aristophanes

     
  16. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    Agathon

     
  17. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    Socrates

     
  18. Nile577

    Nile577 Member

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    I will disagree with this. Or rather, if it is true, I do not think Romance has much to do with most modernity. Modern relationships seem to be investment strategies in which one leaves if he is 'not getting enough' out of it. The 'New Woman,' emerging from Greenwich Village in the 1920s and the Bloomsbury movement in England (Virginia Woolf once said that 'on around December 1910 human character changed forever), was far more self-centred, prone to undergo Chopinian 'awakenings' and either not marry or walk out on their family at the first sign of boredom or discontent. I think this view prevails in the present age, where (not a judgmental comment) marriages fail because women are more empowered to leave. The notion of sacrifice in love has become archaic in such circles; sacrificed itself to the behest of perceived strength in independence and career success.
     
  19. speed

    speed Member

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    I dont know. I stated perceived. Do not the Romance novels, movies, etc. still promote this sacrifice if you will? This might not be what is actually occurring, but I think its still the ideal--albeit an archaic one.

    But I agree with your observation; so... I dont know. I mean our culture has not yet accepted as it idealism this new self-centered female-centric reality, perhaps because its still somewhat unsavory.
     
  20. ARC150

    ARC150 anodyne

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    Interesting...the idea of romance as an "investment strategy" is phraseology I would use to describe the past, in opposition to the present; mind you, I am thinking of the past as further back than the 1920s (as to which you, Nile577, made reference).

    Once was the day when most marriages were arrangements based on status and politics; many times these arrangements were not even made by those to be wed, but rather, by their families. Some of the more famous stories (written in past eras) of romantic sacrifice concern the sacrifice of love itself (Romeo and Juliet) or the sacrifice of one's freedom to choose love (Hades and Persephone).

    I think one of the cornerstones of modern romance is the right to love.

    Speaking to Nile577's statement that "one leaves if he is 'not getting enough' out of it:" This is an exertion of one's right to love; once love does not exist between two people, neither person should need to sacrifice their livelihood for the sake of the nominal union - this would not be a sacrifice for love, but for the institution of the union.

    Phaedrus's idea of sacrifice for love is a sacrifice of the self for the benefit of another. He goes further to say that love is the force capable of inspiring sacrifice. To my understanding (and I may be incorrect on this point - this is the first time I have taken the opportunity to discuss these writings with anyone), when Phaedrus speaks of love, it is the love of one person for another as opposed to something more allegorical that might encompass love for (e.g.) a cause or a nation.

    The ultimate force of one's love for another is something that is downplayed in later years with the rise of Rome and the concept of Roman Piety (wherein the importance of the self is degraded).

    I think it is only in relatively recent times (and still, at this point, only in certain parts of the world) that we have come back to Phaedrus' idea of love and, subsequently, the sacrifice of self for the sake of love.
     
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