Plato’s Symposium – Love & Friendship

Question: Describe how Plato conceive of love (and/or friendship).

What makes Plato’s Symposium so different from other texts is the many different perspectives that Plato provides with regards to the issue of love and it’s purpose. In the text, different Athenian individuals have a drinking party and every single one gives a speech on love. Phaerus starts off the text by talking about how he believes love exists for the purpose of allowing individuals to gain rewards from the gods by sacrificing themselves for the ones they love. Pausanias speaks next and mentions that there are two types of love, the base kind based around sex and a noble type of love based around affection. The second type is the one he approves of and is the type of love that is similar to the one that Phaerus spoke of prior.

Eryxicamus speaks about love next, discussing how it is everywhere in society and allows people and the gods to be in harmony with each other. After that, Aristophanes speaks about love, making up a ridiculous story about how men and women were originally one being, separated by the gods and love is the desire to become one being again. Agathon and Socrates speak next, with Agathon discussing the associations with love and beauty and then Socrates proceeding to dismantle his claims and bring up Platonic love in the form of a dialogue. Alcibiades goes last and doesn’t speak much about love as much he talks about his love for Socrates. While the text obviously did not happen in real life, it could serve to show that Plato used the perspectives of multiple characters to talk about love being it being such as broad and varied topic.

One thought on “Plato’s Symposium – Love & Friendship

  1. Although there are varying perspectives in Plato’s Symposium, it appears to be a unanimous idea that the highest order of love is the love of wisdom. Pausanias’ idea of two loves: Heavenly and Common, puts Common Love under Heavenly Love because it involves women and young boys, who are considered unintelligent. In Common Love, there is no achievement of wisdom. When Diotima and Socrates judges whether Love is wise or ignorant, Diotima concludes that Love is neither wise nor ignorant, but in between, because Love is a lover of wisdom; he is “in love with what is beautiful, and wisdom is extremely beautiful.” Diotima believes that love is about realizing one’s ignorance and not being satisfied with it, therefore pursuing more wisdom to better oneself.

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