Plato’s Symposium : Analysis and Commentary


Symposium is central in Plato’s philosophy, since it talks about Love and Ideas.

Commentary on Plato Symposium

Socrates and Aristodemus will attend a banquet at Agathon, with Aristophanes, Appolodore, Pausanias and Eryximachus. The guests decide not to get drunk, but drinking a little and discuss about love.

The proposed theme of the discussion is love. Specifically, it is “pronounce a eulogy of love, from left to right, the highest possible praise”.

Phaedra begins. According to him, the greatest good for a man is to have a lover. Love is the best guide in life, because it makes us flee the ugly actions and do only good deeds. An army of lovers would be invincible because no men would be cowardly and evil warrior.

He notes that lovers do exceptional things for love. For example, Alcestis dying for her husband and rewarded by the gods, resurrected.

Pausanias takes his turn. In his view the problem is ill-posed. He was asked to sing the love as if it were a single thing, then there are several types of love. We must look what kind of love is worthy of praise.

Any action is neither good nor bad in itself is beautiful or ugly the way we practice it. For example, drinking in excess is an action that we are ugly, while drinking in a reasonable honors us.

The same goes for love: “It is wrong to yield to a man wretched and miserable way, and it is nice to give a big way to a man of value.” Pausanias praises the “Heavenly Aphrodite”, which takes place between men who love both of body and mind, as opposed to “popular Aphrodite,” which takes place between people of the sexes opposite sex simply for the purpose.

Love the body is less than the love of the mind, because the first is ephemeral, “as soon as the flower of this body is faded he loved, he flies to pull wings, betraying all speeches and promises. ” While “one who loves the soul is the lover all his life, because it adheres to something constant.”

After this speech, Eryximachus said he would consider the love of a perspective more generally. This is not only man, but characterized the relations of all beings, both animate and inanimate.

And medicine has discovered that a disease can come from the presence in the bodies of two contrary principles, so hostile. Cure, this amounts to instill love and harmony in these conflicts.

Similarly, the music seeks harmony (eg, between high and low) music is a kind of love “music is also for the harmony and rhythm, a movement science in love. ”

Even natural disasters (floods, frosts, epidemics …) come from a “disruption in the movement love linking all these elements.”

Thus with Eryximachus show “the multiple, or rather the immense power of universal love, universal unifier.”

Aristophanes is looking for his part on the origin of love: how is it that you like? Where does this feeling that drives us to unite with someone else? He used to answer this question a myth, still famous as the “myth of Aristophanes.”

Originally, man was androgynous, both male and female, and was shaped like a sphere, which moved by tumbling, rolling on itself. Their ambition led them to want to become the equal of the gods. Zeus punished them for their temerity, not by killing but by weakening: he cut each into two halves, one male and one female.

But everyone, regretting the original unity, looking for his half and wanted to join:

“Embrace, entwined with each other, from being a hot, they were starving and inaction because they did not do anything without each other.”


Zeus took pity, place their sex so that there is enjoyment when they get together, knowing that satiety, it “might bring them to stop and turn to the action and the other centers interest of existence ”

Hence the definition of love: “uniting our old nature, he tries to do one of two people and heal human nature.”

It is this myth that led to the conception of love as a search of his half or as a desire to feel at one, “when someone found the perfect half of himself, they are just flabbergasted , struck by a feeling of friendship and love, a sense of familiarity, and they do not admit of being, so to speak, detached from each other, even for moment ”

The two lovers ask Hephaestus to forge a single person to achieve “what they have long desired: to meet, blend in with the love of two people to do more than”.

Love acquires great importance because “our race affect happiness if we realize our love and each one met the beloved rightful and brings him back to his old nature.”

This highly acclaimed speech gives way to that of Agathon, which depicts love as the most beautiful of the gods, escaping old age and wanting the youth and beauty.

That the following speech, that of Socrates, who manages to reach the level of that of Callicles, to overcome, and to the Banquet a masterpiece.

Socrates thinks that the other guests were a praise “forced” rather than a true praise. By this he means that we must not seek to give all the qualities of love but praise for the qualities that really.

It replaces the monologue through dialogue, questioning Agathon. This is an example of the famous Socratic dialogue, which proceeds by question and answer (the dialectic) to contact the birth of a truth he bears (or midwifery: midwifery minds ).

Socrates begins by problematizing the subject: we want what we have not. But so Agathon has shown, love wants the Beautiful, “but then love is thus deprived of beauty, it does not have one? “.

Socrates only ask the same questions Agathon Diotima, a woman of Mantinea, he was asked. Socrates to Agathon said the same thing, and asked, “since love lack of beauty is an ugly thing? “.

Diotima cried blasphemy: what is beautiful is not necessarily ugly.

Why? Take the example of the learned and the ignorant. There is a link between these two states, namely to have a true idea, but without knowing why (without being able to rely in making reason).

It is not knowledge (“how indeed something we can not give a reason could it be knowledge?”) Or ignorance (“which reached an accidentally be not indeed be ignorance “).

Also, some things are neither ugly nor beautiful, as is the case of Love. Thus, Love is not a God, (unlike what some guests that Agathon) because God can not know of missing, especially the lack of beauty.

What then? He is an intermediary such as we have seen, intermediate between mortal (human) and immortal (God). Love is “a great devil.” In Greek mythology, the demons submit to the gods the prayers of men and men the messages of the gods. They are therefore intermediaries.

This demon is born of the union of two gods: he is the son of Poros, himself the son of Metis (Goddess of cunning, resourcefulness) and Penia (lack).

This relationship is that love is poor (as the son of a lack), but is still higher (the beautiful and the good) as the son of Poros.

Similarly, it occupies a middle position in the field of knowledge. God is no philosopher, for it is wise to begin with. In contrast, no philosopher is ignorant, because he believes he is already wise. There is an intermediary: the philosopher, because it is not wise but wants to become.

As for love, if his father is wise, it’s not the case with his mother. Love is a philosopher as he wants to become wise.

Love is the possession of a good thing because it makes them happy. It seems that everyone is happy and so is being a magnet. So why do we say “that some like and others do not like” one?

For “every aspiration towards the good and happiness, that’s what love Almighty and cunning.” But one can follow the paths most varied to find happiness. For example: love affairs, sports, science. But it is not clear that these are kinds of love. It does not give the name of love as a particular form: that of men among themselves.

If “human beings do nothing but good,” and he wants to eternity, we can say that “love is related to the everlasting possession of what is good.”

Love thus seeks to “create and give birth in beauty” because “procreation is from eternity and immortality that is accessible to mortal.” Now the generation is possible only in the beauty in ugliness, love “shrinks.”

Hence the paradox: to become immortal (in children), men are ready to fight, so to risk death.

The man is irrational, “see human beings, their irrationality fill you with confusion” because of Love, “they are ready for that purpose to take all the risks, more than ready for their own children to commit their fortune, ready to win a thousand efforts, willing to sacrifice their lives.

Diotima distinguished fertility of mind and body. She notes that the soul can be fruitful: they are poets, artists, inventors, who have children much more beautiful, one of their works, “what they share, they are children more beautiful, more lasting! “.

Love is looking for the absolute beauty. Yet it is not immediately attainable. She can be reached at the end of a long process, during which educates love, to go through various stages to a higher kind of beauty. The steps of this journey.

First of all, love is love of a beautiful body. This is the first step, the lower stage of love.

Love and understands that the beauty of this body is found in others, it is also love of beautiful bodies in the plural. This is progress.

Love then turns to something more spiritual, deeper: it is love of beautiful souls.

Then he turned to what makes the beauty of these souls know. It is love of knowledge.

After this climb, we reach the absolute beauty, which is eternal, not on “it is not beautiful and ugly at one point to another,” has no face and no one in particular being . Diotima gives only a negative definition of absolute beauty (she says she is not, not what it is).

Socrates recapitulates the rise, “we must begin with the beauty of our world to move towards that beauty, rising as always on the basis of levels, from one beautiful body to two, and then two bodies to all bodies, then beautiful bodies to beautiful pursuits and occupations with beautiful science, until, on the basis of science, we finally arrive at the science that is the unique know of no other beauty than that beauty and unique that we know, coming at the end, what is beautiful in itself.

Cite this article as: Tim, "Plato’s Symposium : Analysis and Commentary, April 12, 2012, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, April 12, 2012,

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