The Symposium Philosophy 190: Plato Fall, 2014 Prof. Peter Hadreas Course website: http://www.sjsu.edu/people/peter.hadreas/courses/Plato.

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  • Slide 1
  • The Symposium Philosophy 190: Plato Fall, 2014 Prof. Peter Hadreas Course website: http://www.sjsu.edu/people/peter.hadreas/courses/Plato
  • Slide 2
  • copy of portrait bust of Plato by Silanion
  • Slide 3
  • Platos Academy: Mosaic Siminius Sephanus Pompeii
  • Slide 4
  • 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.
  • Slide 5
  • Slide 6
  • 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.
  • Slide 7
  • 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.
  • Slide 8
  • Mikhail Bakhtin in 1920, (1895-1975) Russian philosopher of language, semiotician, and literary critic
  • Slide 9
  • 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,
  • Slide 10
  • 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.
  • Slide 11
  • 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.
  • Slide 12
  • 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.
  • Slide 13
  • 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.
  • Slide 14
  • 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)
  • Slide 15
  • 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.
  • Slide 16
  • 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.
  • Slide 17
  • Video on the Myth in Aristophanes Speech by Pascal Szidon You can see it at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4paSMqKYXtY
  • Slide 18
  • Aristophanes, comic poet c. 446 BC c. 386 BC
  • Slide 19
  • 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.
  • Slide 20
  • 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
  • Slide 21
  • 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
  • Slide 22
  • A fresco taken from the north wall of the Tomb of the Diver (from Paestum, Italy, c. 475 BCE): a symposium scene
  • Slide 23
  • Strauss on Agathons Speech (194E-197E; pp. 477-80) Love is a god. According to Strauss: Eidos, shape, which is the word for the Platonic idea, occurs here only in the sense of visible shape. The eidos, the essence, of Eros himself does not become the theme of Agathon. . Now let us summarize what Agathon says about the beauty of Eros; Beauty here is the beauty of the body of Eros. He is young, delicate, of pliant shape, and of beautiful color. If we look at Greek concepts of beauty in Aristotles Rhetoric, we find that there are also two other elements of bodily beauty which Agathon omits: strength and size.... One could say that Eros, as described by Agathon, has the beauty of a serpent or a butterfly rather than the beauty of human shape. Strauss, Leo, On Platos Symposium, edited and with a Forward by Seth Benardete, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001)], p. 160.
  • Slide 24
  • Socrates criticism of Agathons speech: In my foolishness, I thought you should tell the truth about whatever your praise, that this should be your basis, and that from this a speaker should select the most beautiful truths and arrange them most suitably... But now it appears that this is not what it is praise anything whatever; rather, it is to apply to the object the grandest and the most beautiful qualities, whether he actually has them or not. And if they are false, that is no objection; for the proposal, apparently, was that everyone here make the rest of us think he is praising Love and not that he actually praises him. p. 481, 198Dff. [my emphasis]
  • Slide 25
  • Socrates refutes two main theses of Agathon. Love is most beautiful and the best. Agathon had said (480, 1978C). Principle I: Love is in need:. ... Ask yourself whether it is necessary that this be so: a thing that desires something of which it is in need; otherwise if it were not in need, it would not desire it. 200B, p. 482. Principle II: When something desires something it does not have what it desires. Socrates quotes Agathon: for there is no love of ugly ones. (p. 483, 201A) So! If something needs beauty and has got no beauty at all would you still say that it is beautiful? Certainly not. Then do you still agree that Love is beautiful, if those things are so? Then Agathon said, It turns out, Socrates, I didnt know what I was talking about in that speech. p. 484, 201B
  • Slide 26
  • Diotima of Mantinea Jadwiga uszczewska, who used the pen name Diotima, posing as the ancient seer in a painting by Jzef Simmler, 1855.
  • Slide 27
  • Two Principles Applied and the Character of Love 1. Love is somewhere between the beautiful and the ugly. 202B. Following Diotima, Socrates compares Love to correct belief, that is, it is between ignorance and knowledge. 202B 2. Love is a daemon. (Daemons were the way that gods entered into people in Homer.) 202E 3. He [Love] is between mortal and immortal. (p. 485, 202D)
  • Slide 28
  • Myth of Birth of Love He was a son born on Aphrodites birthday of the parents: Resource, [Poros], and Need, [Penia]. Love is described as hard, parched and barefoot, not soft and delicate. QUESTIONS 1. Love is described as hard, parched and barefoot. Who fits these qualities in the Symposium? 2. How is Socrates characterization of love incompatible with Agathons? 3. What might be point of Platos saying that Love was born on Aphrodites birthday, but is not her son?
  • Slide 29
  • What is the point of loving beautiful things? 204D-E, p. 487 Diotimas asks: What will this man have, when the beautiful things he wants have become his own? I [Socrates] said there was no way I could give a ready answer to that question; Then she said, Suppose someone changes the question, putting good in place of beautiful, and asks you this: Tell me, Socrates, a lover of good things has a desire, what does he desire? That they become his own, I said. And what will he have, when the good things he wants have become his own? This time its easier to come up with the answer, I said. Hell have happiness.
  • Slide 30
  • Love and in love and lovers are a special case of loving the good. Diotima: The main point is this: every desire for good things or for happiness is the supreme and treacherous love in everyone. But those who pursue this along any of its many waysthrough making money, or through the love of sports, or through philosophy we dont say these people are in love, and we dont call them lovers. Its only when people are devoted exclusively to one special kind of love that we use the words that really belong to the whole of it: lover and in love and lovers. 205D, p. 488. Rejection of Aristophanes myth: Now there is a certain story, she said,: according to which lovers are those people who seek their other halves. But people will cut off their their own arms or legs if they are diseased. These extreme actions are determined because belonging to me means good. pp. 488-9, 205E.
  • Slide 31
  • Love wants the 1) good + 2) it is be theirs + 3) that they possess it forever = love is wanting to possess the good forever. Diotima: That is because what everyone loves is really nothing other than...

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