This paper explores ways in which Socrates’ prayer at the end of The Phaedrus reflects Plato’s ideas of love. (7 pages; 3 sources; MLA citation style)
The ancient philosophers seem far more accessible to me than some of their later comrades; it’s easier to understand Plato and Socrates than Hegel and Kant. And who can imagine one of our solemn moderns being interrupted by an attack of the hiccups?
The speeches in The Symposium are clearly written, and yet each reflects the character of the speaker. As usual, Socrates can’t resist the opportunity of picking an “opponent” to pieces when he takes Agathon through a series of questions and answers about whether love is the love of something or of nothing.
The point is that these men are quite obviously enjoying their debate, and because of this, and their quest for understanding of basic human issues, they retain a great deal of relevance for us today.
At the end of The Phaedrus, a companion piece to The Symposium, Socrates utters a prayer. It’s very short, but it sums up Plato’s ideas of Love as expressed by Socrates in The Symposium.
I’m using the Jowett translation found on-line, and this is the prayer as given in that text:
“Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who haunt this place, give me beauty in the inward soul; and may the outward and inward man be at one. May I reckon the wise to be the wealthy, and may I have such a quantity of gold as a temperate man and he only can bear and carry. — Anything more? The prayer, I think, is enough for me.” (The Phaedrus, PG).
Whoever made the statement, "Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars," clearly knew what he was talking about. Males and females are taught differently from the beginning of their lives, which result in them feeling different about sex and love. Men are commended for their strong attitude and aggressiveness towards sex. When it comes to the subject of sex, females are taught to be discreet and ...
We can break this into several “sections” that will help us understand how it contains Plato’s idea of Love. The first section is the salutation to Pan; the next the mention of the other gods; the third, the idea of the duality of man; and the fourth the connection between wealth and wisdom. It is the third section, which considers the dual nature of man, that is the most important.
There is something else to consider briefly, and that is the capital “L” on the word “Love.” Love, to the ancient Greeks, was not an emotion but an entity: Cupid (Eros).
Later generations have done him a disservice by turning him into a chubby cherub with wings, but that is not his origin: he is a god, powerful and beautiful.
We might logically conclude, then, that Cupid/Love is one of the “other gods” to whom he is praying in addition to Pan. But why pray to Pan in the first place? Pan is most familiar to us as a satyr, but he is also widely known as the god of nature, including human nature. (“The Great God Pan,” PG).
It seems fitting that a philosopher would direct his prayer to such beings.
By far the most important section here is Socrates’ mention of the inward soul and the inward and outward man. This reflects Plato’s comments about Love, when he says that he began by proving that Love “was a mighty god, and likewise fair” but then proved that Love was neither fair nor good. The actual proof that he speaks of is the catechism he put Agathon through at the end of his (Agathon’s) speech. In that question-and-answer session, Socrates leads Agathon to contradict himself by saying that Love wants beauty but doesn’t have it; that something that wants beauty but doesn’t have it is not beautiful; and therefore that Agathon cannot say Love is beautiful. Agathon says “I fear that I did not understand what I was saying.” (Symposium 8, 201C).
Aristophanes' Theory Of Love In Symposium Essay, Aristophanes' Theory Of Love In Symposium Aristophanes' Theory of Love in the Symposium 2. Aristophanes' Theory of love: from Plato's Symposium The love as discussed by the characters in the Symposium is homosexual love. Some assumed that homosexuality alone is capable of satisfying? a man? s highest and noblest aspirations? . Whereas heterosexual ...
After having put Agathon in a corner, Socrates begins his speech as I noted above, showing that Love was neither beautiful nor good. (At this point, Socrates is quoting Diotima, an intelligent and powerful woman.) It is actually she who begins the exploration of duality by asking Socrates if he believes that anything that is not fair is foul, and anything that is not wise, ignorant? When he says yes, these things are true, she scolds him and asks if he doesn’t understand that there is a “mean between wisdom and ignorance”—in other words, someone might not be wise, but still be intelligent. Likewise, someone might not be fair, but that wouldn’t necessarily mean they were ugly; they might simply be plain.
She then says that this “mean” is where Love dwells: “Do not then insist,” she said, “that what is not fair is of necessity foul, or what is not good evil, or infer that because love is not fair and good he is therefore foul and evil; for he is in a mean between them.” (Symposium 9, 202b).
She continues by explaining that Love is a spirit, an intermediary between men and the gods. He is an interpreter of sorts, “conveying and taking across to the gods the prayers and sacrifices of men, and to men the commands and replies of the gods.” (Symposium 9, 202e).
Love is the “mediator” who spans the vast chasm between men and gods, and therefore, she says, “all in him is bound together.” That is, Love has the attributes of both men and gods, which goes back to Socrates’ prayer about the outward and inward man. Likewise, all the discussion about whether or not Love is also beautiful relate to the idea in the prayer of “beauty in the inward soul.” For if Love is something that is important to man, is indeed part of his nature (soul), then he wants it to be beautiful.
A bit further on, Diotima continues to explore the dual nature of love (outer and inner man) when she describes the circumstances of Love’s conception, and his characteristics. In the mythology Diotima quotes, Love is the son of Penia (Poverty) and Poros (Plenty).
Plenty drank too much nectar and fell deeply asleep in Zeus’ garden; Poverty found him there and decided to take advantage of the situation; she conceived Love. (This differs from other myths that say he is the son of Aphrodite.) Born of two direct opposites, Love is seen here as conflicted. He is a natural lover of beauty and follower of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, but he also takes after his mother: he’s “always in distress”, “rough and squalid and he has no shoes.” But he also takes after his father and is “bold, enterprising, strong, a mighty hunter…” (Symposium 9, 203d).
Why Women Love Men by Rosario Ferr from The Oxford Book of Latin American Short Stories I found particularly interesting and beautifully crafted. Its a story of two women, Isabel Luberza, Ambrosios wife, and Isabel la Negra, his lover. When he died, he left each of them with half of his inheritance. At first they thought that he did it on purpose, to push [them] both downhill, to see which one of ...
Thus he is both plentiful and impoverished at the same time. Diotima goes on with one of the most startling comparisons in the speech:
“He is by nature neither mortal nor immortal, but alive and flourishing at one moment when he is in plenty, and dead at another moment, and again alive by reasons of his father’s nature. But that which is always flowing in is always flowing out, and so he is never in want and never in wealth…” (Symposium 9, 204a).
This is an interesting idea, since it states quite clearly that wealth can have a direct impact on whether or not Love survives. If someone loses all their money they’re often likely to lose their friends and romantic partners as well; if they regain their fortune, the same people who left will come flocking back.
We can relate this to Socrates’ prayer, when he says, “May I reckon the wise to be the wealthy.” For as Diotima says, Love’s father was both wise and wealthy; these are important points in Plato’s concept of love.
Symposium 9 is “The Nature and Origin of Love”; in Symposium 10, Socrates goes on to discuss “The Cause and Effect of Love.” I continue to be struck by the way in which Socrates’ comments reflect Plato’s ideas about man’s dual nature. In this speech, which is still a dialogue between Socrates and Diotima as reported by him, they shift now to an attempt to understanding the duality inherent in man’s need to procreate or, as Diotima puts it, to “birth in beauty, whether of body or soul.” (Symposium 10, 206b).
The differentiation of body and soul, again, is a good indication that the prayer reflects Plato’s sense of the dual nature of men. In this discussion, Diotima reflects that when men procreate, they wish to do so in beauty, not in deformity; in fact, this procreation in beauty is “a divine thing, for conception and generation are an immortal principle in the mortal creature…” (Symposium 10, 206d).
Plato’s Symposium contains several intriguing accounts of the nature of love. Describe in detail either the account of love offered by Aristophanes or Socrates/Diotima. What arguments could be given for thinking that this is the correct conception of love? DO you find this account compelling? Be sure to explain you reasons for taking the position that you do. The Symposium, written by Plato, is an ...
However, Love is not the love of the beautiful only, for it’s demonstrably false to believe that plain or ugly people are never loved. Instead, the Love of which they speak encompasses generation. When Socrates asks why generation, she replies:
“Because to the mortal creature, generation is a sort of eternity and immortality … and if, as has been already admitted, love is of the everlasting possession of the good, all men will necessarily desire immortality together with good: Wherefore love is of immortality.” (Symposium 10, 206a).
Thus, we find that for Plato, love encompasses beauty, goodness, procreation and immortality; the first two might well be considered as part of the “outward man” and the latter part of the “inward”; the very things Socrates mentioned in his prayer.
Plato’s concept of love is a fabulous mix of mortals and immortals, gods and men, the purest affection and the basest lust. It is love that has many facets, and when Socrates prays to Pan and the other gods, he exposes its complexity to us and to the world.
Plato. The Phaedrus. Trans. Jowett. [On-line]. Undated. Accessed: 3 Nov 2003. http://plato.evansville.edu/texts/jowett/phaedrus.htm
The Symposium. Trans. Jowett. [On-line]. Undated: Accessed: 3 Nov 2003. http://plato.evansville.edu/texts/jowett/symposium.htm
“The Great God Pan.” [Web page]. Undated. Accessed: 8 Nov 2003. http://www.lugodoc.demon.co.uk/pan.htm