Plato fully expressed his craft when he wrote one of his most renowned works, the Symposium. The speeches are characterized by highly commendable experiences with a mixture of comic relief and intellectual depth. The setting of the discourses’ delivery is at the banquet of Agathon where the elite guests include Socrates, Aristophanes, and Alcibiades. It was agreed that the evening of merry-making be spent in praise of love and investigating its nature. Each of them offered their thoughts on the matter, and as personality and consensus clash, the dialogue comes to its highlight, where the climax is ushered with the storming of drama of ideas.
When we turn our attention to the speech of Phaedrus, the texts foreground an aspect of Love as a being. Phaedrus affirms that Love is a mighty god and that Love is the eldest of the gods. He further avers that the best incentive to virtue is an honorable love, a love that has dared man to do transcend the impossible, to test the limits of life, and to challenge the powers of heavens, all for the sake of their beloved. Phaedrus elaborated that man will do anything for the sake of love. He told the story of Alcestis, who exchanged her life for her husband’s.
The tenderness and true love for her beloved spouse. The story of Orpheus also exemplified the tenacity of passionate love within a person’s heart. Unlike Alcestis, Orpheus did not face death but instead he descended into the underworld and rescued his Eurydice. Another plausible example is that of Achilles and Patroclus. Eventhough Achilles is aware that he will die in war against the Trojans, he chose to do so in order to avenge the death of his beloved Patroclus. The speech of Phaedrus affirms reasons that Love is the eldest and noblest of the gods, giving and providing virtues and happiness in life.
Pausanias negates the idea of Phaedrus and asserted that there are two kinds of Love, the spiritual love and the common love. He says that common love is not bias, it depends on the manner of performance or actions. When love is done for the benefit of those concerned, then it is good, but if it is done for the opposite purpose, only then that love becomes evil. On that context, only love which has a selfless purpose is worthy of praise. On the other hand, spiritual love is the love of the soul, which endures any form of pain and is not blinded by the physical appearance of things.
Pausanias continues further through his assertion that the higher love is of the male. Those who belong to the masculine gender are regarded to have a superior nature especially in terms of intelligence, strength, and spirit. In addition to that, when one displays the affection, it is more honorable than when it is concealed. Custom allows those people who are in love to do strange things. Eryximachus also has a different stand on the issue. He provides answers about love in terms of the principles of medicine.
Eryximachus supplies the deficiency in Pausanias’s speech by proclaiming that love is not an affection of the soul of man towards the beautiful but to anything that the earth possesses.. the harmony of the true and false love may be found in men, animals and the whole province of divination. For him, medicine is the knowledge of love and the needs and wants of the physical being. Aristophanes follows the discussion. For him, man has not understood the power of love. He says that human nature is composed of man, woman, and the union of the two. Zeus cut man in two to diminish their strength and increase thir number.
The two halves then wander about longing and seeking after one another. Men are a section of a double nature and they are dependent from which they were severed. Following him is Agathon, the host of the celebration. He comments that the other speakers are not praising or unfolding the nature of love but congratulates mankind for the benefits that love has given them. He states that the god love should be praised in his own account only and not for what he offers mankind. Moreover, he defies the statement of Phaedrus that love is not old but young and tender.
the audience appreciate the words and thinks that he is worthy of himself and of the god. The most interesting part of the conversation is the turn of Socrates. At first, he excuses himself from speaking but eventually he professes his side on matter. He congratulates Agathon in his proposition of presenting the first the nature of Love and then of his works. He states that love is consist of something and wants something that he does not have for himself. Love in its nature is beautiful and it seeks beauty in the goodness of the heart. Love is a great spirit that acts as a medium between gods and men.
Alcibiades then, rescues the evening from being solemn, in his drunkenness. He indirectly implies that Agathon is the beloved of Socrates. because of this, Socrates aids the protection of Agathon from the violent Alcibiades. Socrates would have changed him only if the love of popularity in him is not strong. Beyond this humor of characterization of Socrates brings the connection that Socrates speaks the truth. Alcibiades seems incapable of deviating the look of desire of those with whom he comes into contact, although it still fails to bring out from them tangible reactions of sexual interest.
His desire finds a ready statement in Socrates qualities. On the other hand, Socrates is only mindful of the improvement of the soul that underlies both his interest in young men and his moderate drinking. Socrates and Alcibiades agree with the different aspects of the human personality. Both suggest that beauty, in its physical and spiritual indication, is difficult to define and can only be most appreciated in the milieu of a private relationship. Beauty should be viewed absolutely and not relatively. In Socrates’s view, love leads to the perfection of man.
The reason is that it unites man with others. In the light of openness and self-giving, the “I’ and the “You” commune and becomes one. Furthermore, man transcends self, selfishness, isolation and despair, and finds happiness in his interpersonal relationships with others. Man’s capacity for love appears to be infinite since it cannot find rest in any finite good. Unless his will is without purpose, eventhough it is the goal of it, then God must exist as the infinite and absolute good sought after by that will.
Aside from the drama that arise in the context of Love, different kinds of love are also presented to praise, define and illustrate. Various manners of presentation in which the speeches were delivered included Alciabiades’s humorously indecent language and unrequited lust for Socrates, Agathon’s lofty sentiments, Eryximachus’s cold restraint and analytical distance, and Socrates’s confession of ignorance. Plato knows the manifestation of all the characters’ love. Their topic in the symposium is a reflection of the significant experiences of the persons doing the dialogue.
It is about their love concealed as stories of love itself. For Phaedrus and Pausanius- true love, for Eryximachus- beloved craft, Aristophanes-comedy, agathon-lofty tones of tragedy, Alcibiades-to please the crowd, Socrates-talking philosophy. In this dialogue, the different facets of love were encompassed and were discussed in such an intense and passionate discourse. Different stories mirrored the degrees and forms of love experienced by human regardless of race, of religion, and of gender.
Kaplan, Justin D. (Ed. ). (1950). Dialogues of Plato. New York: Washington Square Press.