the symposium philosophy 190: plato fall, 2014 prof. peter hadreas course website:...

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  • The Symposium Philosophy 190: Plato Fall, 2014 Prof. Peter Hadreas Course website:
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  • copy of portrait bust of Plato by Silanion
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  • Platos Academy: Mosaic Siminius Sephanus Pompeii
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  • The Complex Framing of the Symposium 1. The dialogue begins with a companion asking Apollodorus to tell him about the speeches that Socrates and others made at a dinner party a decade or so before. The companion remarks: So it was really a long time ago, (p. 459, 173B) 2. Apollodorus says thats odd he was asked the same thing a few days before by Glaucon. 3. Apollodorus says he was not there, but he heard the speeches from a fellow called Aristodemos... a real runt of a man who always went barefoot. He went to the party because, I think, he was obsessed with Socrates one of the worst cases at that time. Naturally, I checked part of his story with Socrates, and Socrates agreed with his account, Apollodorus says. (p. 459; 173B). 4. Apollodorus proceeds to recount the party to the companion allegedly as he heard it from Aristodemos.
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  • The Readers of Platos Time Would Know the World had Greatly Changed From the Time of the Famous Dinner Party to When the Party was Recounted: 1. The dinner party took place a few months before the sailing of the great armada to Sicily in 415 B.C. E. The conquest of Sicily was (wrongly) confidently anticipated. It was imagined Sicily would be a stepping stone to further Athenian expansion. 2. Alcibiades notorious career had yet to unfold. 3. Aristophanes was at the height of his comedy-writing powers. 4. It was the first victory of a new poet, Agathon. Agathon in the interim would befriend a despotic tyrant and emigrate. 5. In the interim, Phaedrus and Eryximachus would be exiled.
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  • A. E. Taylor remarks: Not only is the occasion itself, the first public victory of the new poet, a festive one, but the year is one in which the temper of the Imperial city itself was exceptional joyous and high. The date is only a few months before the sailing of the great Armada which was confidently expected to make the conquest of Sicily a mere stepping stone to unlimited expansion, possible to the conquest of Carthage; the extraordinary tone of hubris characteristic of Alcibiades in the dialogue becomes much more explicable when we remember that at the moment of speaking he was commander-designate of such an enterprise and drunk with the ambitions Thucydides ascribes to him quite as much as wine. Taylor, A. S., Plato: The Man and His Work, (London: Methuen & Co Ltd., 1926/1978), p. 210.
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  • Mikhail Bakhtin in 1920, (1895-1975) Russian philosopher of language, semiotician, and literary critic
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  • Bakhtin on Socratic Dialogues We possess a remarkable document that reflects that simultaneous birth of scientific thinking and of a new artistic prose-model for the novel. These are the Socratic dialogues. For our purposes everything in this remarkable genre, which was born just as classical antiquity was drawing to a close, is significant. Characteristically it arises as apomnemoneumata [recollections], that is, as a genre of the memoir type, as transcripts based on personal conversations among contemporaries... 1 1. M. M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, Holquist ed., Emerson and Holquist trans. (Austin, TX: The University of Texas Press, 1981), p. 24,
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  • Cooksey applies Bakhtins theories to the Symposium (continued) Whether it be the mad obsessiveness of Apollodorus narrative, the limits of Aristodemus memory, or the disagreements, ironies, and humor among the various speakers at Agathons party, the Symposium challenges Platos readers to engage actively and passionately with the text, not just to accept it as the same thing forever. In this way, Plato breaks out of the hermeneutic bind. The markings on the page may be fixed, but not their subsequent readings. In the end, the text of the Symposium itself becomes daimnic, neither divine nor human, but the messenger between them. Cooksey, Thomas L., Platos Symposium: A Readers Guide, (London: Continuum International Publishing Group. London, 2010), p. 130.
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  • Cooksey applies Bakhtins theories to the Symposium [continued] Bakhtins conception of the novel, inspired by the Platonic dialogue, offers us in retrospect, insight into the working of the Symposium, If in the Phaedrus, Socrates complains that written words go on telling you just the same thing forever (275E), then the Symposium gives the answer. The deliberate ambiguities that Plato inserts into his work by means of the successive narrative frames and the foregrounding of textual transmission raise the issue of authority in the minds of the attentive reader. Made conscious of the limits of the text, the reader is invited to rethink and reinterpret what he or she has read. Cooksey, Thomas L., Platos Symposium: A Readers Guide, (London: Continuum International Publishing Group. London, 2010), p. 130.
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  • Leo Strauss (1899 1973) a political philosopher who specialized in classical political philosophy. He spent most of his career at the University of Chicago. Strauss returned to the notion that contemporary society suffered from types of nihilism. He supported a renewed reflection on classical political philosophy as a starting point for judging political action.
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  • Strausss overview of the six speeches. I would like to remind you of two things. The first is that there are three speeches in which eros is viewed from a point of view outside of it those of Phaedrus, Pausanias, Eryximachus, who view eros with regard to gain, moral virtue and art [techn]. Eros is sovereign in Aristophanes, Agathon and Socrates. Strauss, Leo, On Platos Symposium, edited and with a Forward by Seth Benardete, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001)], p. 116.
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  • Speech of Phaedrus (This is the same Phaedrus as in Platos dialogue by that name.) Love engenders courage Phaedrus says that Eros is the oldest of the gods so he has no parents. He inspires the admiration of the beloved since nothing shames persons more than to be seen by their beloved committing an inglorious act (178d- 179b). And so love can inspire bravery of a lover on the battlefield. He mentions Aristogeiton and Harmodius, the tyrranicides. Phaedrus also cites women who sacrificed themselves out of love: Alcestis died for her husband Admetus. Phaedrus refers to the erastes/eroumenous or lover/beloved relation. Achilles fought bravely at the death of his lover Patroclus though although he was, because younger, beloved. According to Phaedrus, the tragedian Aeschylus erroneously made Achilles the lover (erastes) (180a), claiming instead that Achilles was the beautiful, still-beardless, younger beloved of Patroclus and citing Homer in his support. (Iliad 23.102)
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  • Interlude: Aristophanes gets the hiccups: (185C-E; p. 469) Perhaps Plato intends to ridicule Aristophanes, whose caricature of Socrates in his comedy Clouds may have offended him. Alternately the comedy may be directed at Eryximachus, as the famous physician is reduced to giving medical advice of a rather trivial sort. A third possibility is that the satire is directed at Pausanias. The latter view takes the suggestion that Aristophanes hiccups may have been from overeating or something else (185C) as involving a hint that the something else was being fed up with bad speeches. The Symposium and the Phaedrus, Platos Erotic Dialogues, trans. and commentary by William S. Cobb, (Albany, NY: 1993), p. 66.
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  • Interlude: Aristophanes gets the hiccups: (185C-E; p. 469) At any rate, the reader should visualize what is going on during Eryximachus speech that follows. Aristophanes holds his breath until he explodes and starts hiccupping again. Then he gargles, no doubt loudly, but still continues to hiccup. Finally, he makes himself sneeze several times. The Symposium and the Phaedrus, Platos Erotic Dialogues, trans. and commentary by William S. Cobb, (Albany, NY: 1993), p. 66.
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  • Video on the Myth in Aristophanes Speech by Pascal Szidon You can see it at:
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  • Aristophanes, comic poet c. 446 BC c. 386 BC
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  • Now here is why there were three kinds, and why they were as I described them: The male kind was originally an offspring of the sun, the female of the earth, and the one that combined both genders an offspring of the moon, because the moon shares in both. They were spherical, and so was their motion, because there were like their parents in the sky. p. 473, 190B.
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  • They [Zeus and the other gods] couldnt wipe out the human race with thunderbolts and kill them off as they did the giants, because that would wipe out the worship they receive, along with the sacrifices we humans give them. On the other hand, they couldnt let them run riot. At last, after great effort, Zeus had an idea. p. 473, 190C-D
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  • VI. Speech of Agathon (194E-197E; pp. 477-80) Love is a god. According to Agathon, the god Eros 1)is youngest of all 2)is soft 3)is pliant 4)is comely 5) has all the virtues
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  • A fresco taken from the north wall of the Tomb of the Diver (from Paestum,


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