Plato's Symposium (drinking party)

The Symposium



  • brings the body back into the center of the discussion (Eryximachus is a physician)
  • agrees that there is a noble love and a bad love:
    • health/good is harmony/balance; the good love causes things to come together in harmony ("I'd like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony. . ."?)
    • strife is what causes things to come apart
  • QUESTION: Does Eryximachus' abstract speculation take the ethical aspect of love/pederasty sufficiently into account? Does he offer physics of love without metaphysics?



  • brings the relationships between individuals back into focus; shifts from the effects of eros to the nature of eros.
  • Speech is original in two respects
    • in its portrayal of reciprocal love between individual (as opposed to the 'one way' love of pederasty
    • strong 'essential' argument for preferences as to gender of object of eros
  • story of origins that accounts for the human condition and for the nature of love as 'longing': the human condition is that we are lacking, that is, we are separated from another 'half' for which we search until we find him/her
    • the gender of the other half for which humans search is determined the gender from which each originated: male/male, female/female, or female/male
    • I point out that this is the only reference in the Symposium to female desire or to female same-sex love.
  • sets up privation view of love, which Socrates picks up
  • QUESTION: Does Aristophanes' story account for the institution of pederasty (a kind of serial bisexuality)?


  • although Agathon is a tragic poet, the effect of his speech is comic because of its unrestrained parody of sophistic style and argument (not to mention use of double-entendre)
  • he proposes to praise Eros first for what he is, and secondly for his benefits
  • Agathon emphasizes aspects of love that relate most to him: love is delicate, of extraordinary beauty, and outstanding in virtue
    • It is here that Socrates will attack his speech!

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