Friday, January 31, 2014

Plato - Symposium


Cooper states that the Symposium is, "Plato's poetic and dramatic masterpiece".  He goes on to explain that while the discussions on Love involve relations between men and women and men and men, the main "focus here is also and especially on the adult male's role as ethical and intellectual educator of the adolescent that was traditional among the Athenians . . ."
As always, I am looking for references to Homer and Achilles, to beauty, the good, and to truth. 
1. Homer reference #1:  Socrates - “Even Homer himself, when you think about it, did not much like this proverb [Good men go uninvited to Goodman’s feast”]; he not only disregarded it, he violated it.  Agamemnon, of course, is one of his great warriors, while he describes Menelaus as a ‘limp spearman.’   And yet, when Agamemnon offers a sacrifice and give a feast, Homer has the weak Menelaus arrive uninvited at his superior’s table.”  p. 460

2. On education – wisdom is not like water:  “Socrates sat down next to him [Agathon] and said, “How wonderful it would be, dear Agathon, if the foolish were filled with wisdom simply by touching the wise.  If only wisdom were like water which always flows from the full cup into an empty one when we connect them with a piece of yarn—well, then I would consider it the greatest prize to have the chance to lie down next to you.”  p. 461

3. Drinking bad for you – from the physician Eryximachus: “If I have learned anything from medicine, it is that following point: inebriation is harmful to everyone.  p. 462

4. Love an ancient god - Lovers make the best teachers and students:  Phaedrus - “All sides agree, then, that Love is one of the most ancient gods.  As such he gives to us the greatest goods.  I cannot say what greater good there is for a young boy than a gentle lover, or for a lover than a boy to love.  There is a certain guidance each person needs for his whole life, if he is to live well; and nothing imparts this guidance—not high kinship, not public honor, not wealth—nothing imparts this guidance as well as Love.”  p. 463

5. Homer reference #2 – On Achilles:  Phaedrus - “The honor they (the gods) gave to Achilles is another matter.  They sent him to the Isles of the Blest because he dared to stand by his lover Patroclus and avenge him, even after he had learned from his mother that he would die if he killed Hector, but that if he chose otherwise he’d go home and end his life as an old man.  Instead he chose to die of Patroclus, and more than that, he did it for a man whose life was already over.  The gods were highly delighted at this, of course, and gave him special honor because he made so much of his lover.  p. 464

6. Achilles was the beloved (the boy and the most beautiful of all heroes):  Phaedrus - “Aeschylus talks nonsense when he claims Achilles was the lover, he was more beautiful than Patroclus, more beautiful than all the heroes, and still beardless.  Besides he was much younger, as Homer says.”  pp. 464-465

 7. Two Aphrodites: Phaedrus - . . . there are two goddesses of that name. . . One is an older deity, the motherless daughter of Uranus, the god of heaven: she is known as Urania, or Heavenly Aphrodite.  The other goddess is younger, the daughter of Zeus and Dione: he name is Pandemos, or Common Aphrodite.   p. 465

8. Love of the Common Aphrodite: Phaedrus - Now the Common Aphrodite’s Love is himself truly common.  As such, he strikes wherever he gets a chance.  This, of course, is the love felt by the vulgar, who are attached to women no less than to boys, to the body more than to the soul. And to the least intelligent partners, since all they care about is completing the sexual act.”  p. 466

9. Love of the Heavenly Aphrodite: Phaedrus – “Contrast this with the Love of Heavenly Aphrodite.  This goddess, whose decent is purely male (hence this love is for boys), is considerably older and therefore free form the lewdness of youth.  That’s why those who are inspired by her Love are attracted to the male: they find pleasure in what is by nature stronger and more intelligent.” p. 466

10. How to tell honorable love from the vulgar:  Phaedrus – I’ll tell you; it is the common, vulgar lover, who loves the body rather than the soul, the man whose love is bounded to be inconstant, since what he loves is itself mutable and unstable.  The moment the body is no longer in bloom “he flies off and away,: his promises and vows in tatter behind him.  How different from this is a man who loves the right sort of character and who remains its lover for life, attached as he is to something that is permanent.”  p. 468

11. How to cure the hiccups: Eryximachus – “. . . you should hold your breath as long as you possibly can.  This may well eliminate your hiccups.  If it fails, the best remedy is a thorough gargle.   And if even this has no effect, then tickle your nose with a feather.  A sneeze or two will cure even the most persistent case.” p. 469

12. Power of Love:  Aristophanes – “Love is deity of the greatest importance: he directs everything that occurs, not only in the human domain, also in that of the gods.”  p. 470

13. Love = the pursuit of wholeness: Aristophanes – ““Love” is the name for our pursuit of wholeness, for our desire to be complete.”  p. 476

14. On Digression:   Phaedrus – “Agathon, my friend, if you answer Socrates, he’ll no longer care whether we get anywhere with what we’re doing here, so long as he has a partner for discussion.  Especially if he’s handsome.  How, like you, I enjoy listening to Socrates in discussion but it is my duty to see to the praising of Love and to exact a speech from every one of this group.  When each of you two has made his offering to the god, then you can have your discussion.”  p. 477

15. Love described:  Agathon –

Happiest and most beautiful:  “I maintain, then, that while all the gods are happy, Love—if I may say so without giving offense—is the happiest of them all, for he is the most beautiful and best.”  p. 478

Justice and ArĂȘte (excellence):  “Enough for now about the beauty of the god, thought much remains still to be said.  After this, we should speak of Love’s moral character [arĂȘte].  The main point is that Love is neither the cause nor the victim of any injustice; he does no wrong to gods or men, nor they to him.  If anything has an effect on hum, it is never by violence, for violence never touches Love.  And the effects he has on others are not forced, for every service we give to love we give willingly.  And whatever one person agrees on with another, when both are willing, that is right and just; so say “the laws that are kings of society.” P. 479

Bravery:  “For Ares has no hold on Love, but Love does on Ares—love of Aphrodite, so runs the tale.  But he who has hold is more powerful than he who is held; and so, because Love has power over the bravest of the others, he is bravest of them all.”  p. 479

Wisdom (poetry):  “I must try not to leave out anything that can be said on this.  In the first place—to honor our profession as Eryximachus did his—the god is so skilled a poet that he can make others into poets: once Love touches him, anyone becomes a poet, howe’er uncultured he had been before.”  p.479

16. Love is the inspiration of art:  Agathon – “And as for artisans and professionals—don’t we know that whoever his this god for a teacher end was up in the light of fame, while a man has this god for a teacher ends up in the light of fame, while a man untouched by Love ends in obscurity?  Apollo, for one, invented archery, medicine, and prophecy when desire and love showed the way.  Even he, therefore, would be a pupil of Love, and so would the Muses in music, therefore, would be a pupil of Love, and so would the Muses in music, Hephaestus in bronze work, Athena in weaving, and Zeus in “the governance of gods and men.”  p. 480

17. Love dethrones Necessity: Agathon – Before that, as I said in the beginning, and as the poets say, many dreadful things happened among the gods, because Necessity was king.  But once this god was born, all goods came to gods and men alike through love of beauty.”  p. 480

18. Ends divisiveness: Agathon – “Love fills us with togetherness and drains all of our divisiveness away.  Love calls gatherings like these together.  In feasts, in dances, and in ceremonies, he gives the lead.  Love moves us to mildness, removes from us wildness.  He is giver of kindness, never of meanness.  Gracious, kindly – let wise men see and gods admire!”

19. Love is our savior:   Agathon – “Love is our best guide and guard; he is our comrade and our savior.”

20. Socrates refutes Agathon on Love:  “Come, the,” said Socrates.  “Let us review the points on which we’ve agreed.  Aren’t they, first, that Love is the the love of something, and, second, that he loves things of which he has a present need?”

“Yes,” he said.

“Now, remember, in addition to these points, what you said in your speech about what it is that Love loves.  If you like, I’ll remind you.  I think you said something like this: that the gods’ quarrels were settled by love of beautiful things, fro there is no love of ugly ones.  DIdn’t you say something like that?”

“I did,” said Agathon.

“And that’s a suitable thing to say, my friend,” said Socrates.  “But if this is so, wouldn’t Love have to be a desire for beauty, and never for ugliness?”

He agreed.

“And we also agreed that he loves just what he needs and does not have.”

“Yes,” he said.

“So Love needs beauty, then, and does not have it.”

“Necessarily, “ he said.

“So Love needs beauty, then, and does not have it.”

“Necessarily,” he said.

[I will interject here that I think Agathon is far to compliant to Socrates arguments.  I would disagree with Socrates, that only those without beauty would want beauty.  I have eleven grandchildren from whom I derive great joy.  I am, however not satisfied with only these, nor will I have to take the love I have for the eleven I have and subdivide it when I get the twelfth – for as I have learned, not just with grandchildren, but with children and friends as well, one only gains more love and joy and beauty the more one has of each.]

“So! If something needs beauty and has got no beauty at all, would 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 didn’t know what I was talking about in that speech.”

“It was a beautiful speech, anyway, Agathon,” said Socrates.  “Now take it a little further.  Don’t you think that good things are always, beautiful as well?”

“I do.”

“Then if Love needs beautiful things, and if all good things are beautiful, he will need good things too.”

“As for me, Socrates,” he said, “I am unable o contradict you.  Let it be as you say.”

“Then it’s the truth, my beloved Agathon, that you are unable to contradict,” he said. “It is not hard at all to contradict Socrates.” 

[I would have to contradict Socrates that he has presented a truth – I do not accept his premise that the beautiful cannot love the beautiful, or even the more beautiful.  That having something makes it so you do not want more of what you have.]  pp. 483-484.

21. Diotima sets Socrates right (judgment is as close to knowledge as one can get): “But she said, “Watch your tongue!  Do you really think that, if a thing is not beautiful, it has to be ugly?”

“I certainly do.”

“And if a thing’s not wise, it’s ignorant?  Or haven’t you found out yet that there’s something in between wisdom and ignorance?”

“What’s that?”

“It’s judging things correctly without being able to give a reason.  Surely you see that this is not the same as knowing—for how could knowledge be unreasoning?  And it’s not ignorance either—for how could what hits the truth be ignorance?  Correct judgment, of course, has this character: it is in between understanding and ignorance.”  pp. 484-485

22. Love is the Great Spirit: Diotima –  “He’s [Love] a great spirit, Socrates.  Everything spiritual, you see, is in between god and mortal.”  p. 485

23. Love the son of Resource and Poverty: Diotima – “As the son of Poros and Penia, His lot is life is set to be like theirs.” P. 486

24. Love dies and come back to life: Diotima – “He is by nature neither immortal nor mortal.  But how he springs to life when he gets his way; now he dies—all in the every same day.  Because he is his father’s son, however, he keeps coming back to life, but then he is his father’s son, however, he keeps coming back to life, but then anything he finds his way to always slips away and for this reason Love is never completely without resources, nor is he ever rich.” p. 486

25. More on the parents of Love: Diotima –This, too, comes to him from his parentage, from a father who is wise and resourceful a mother who is not wise and lacks resourced.”  p. 487

26. Happiness is the Terminal Value: Diotima – “That’s what makes happy people happy, isn’t it—possessing good things. There’s no need to ask further, ‘What’s the point of wanting happiness?’  The answer you gave seems to be final . . . That’s how it is with love.  The main point is this: every desire for good things or for happiness is ‘the supreme and treacherous love’ in everyone.”  p. 488

27. On Art – all creation is poetry: Diotima – “Well, you know, for example, that ‘poetry’ has a very wide range.  After all, everything that is responsible for creating something out of nothing is a kind of poetry; and so all the creations of every craft and profession are themselves a kind of poetry, and everyone who practices a craft is a poet.”  [So much of Harold Bloom’s argument that Socrates (Plato) is at war with poetry.] p. 488

28. Love defined by Diotima: Diotima – “In a word, then, love is wanting to possess the good forever.”  p. 489

29. How one pursues Love: Diotima – “This, then, is the object of love,” she said.  “Now how do lovers pursue it?  . . . Well, I’ll tell you,” she said.  “It is giving birth in beauty, whether in body or in soul.”  p. 489

30. Giving birth the creation of Love, the way to immortality: Diotima –All of us are pregnant, Socrates, both in body and in soul, and, as soon as we come to a certain age, we naturally desire to give birth.  Now no one can possibly give birth in anything ugly, on in something beautiful. That’s because when a man and a woman come together in order to give birth, this is a godly affair.  Pregnancy, reproduction—this is an immortal thing for a mortal animal to do, and it cannot occur in anything that is out of harmony, but ugliness is out of harmony with all that is godly,  Beauty, however, is in harmony with the divine.  p. 489

31. Reproduction is immortality: Diotima – “Now, why reproduction?  It’s because reproduction goes on forever; it is what mortals have in place of immortality. A love must desire immortality along with the good, if what we agreed earlier was right, that Love wants to possess the good forever.  It follows from our argument that Love must desire immortality.”

32. On “Natural Selection”: Diotima – “First they are sick for intercourse with each other, then for nurturing their young—for their sake the weakest animals stand ready to do battle against the strongest and even to die for them, and they may be racked with famine in order to fee their young. They would do anything for their sake.  Human beings, you’d think would do this because they understand the reason for it; but what causes wild animals to be in such a state of love?  . . . For among animals the principle is the same as with us, and mortal nature seeks so far as possible to live forever and be immortal.  And this is possible in one way only: by reproduction, because it always leaves behind a new young one in place of the old.”  P. 490

33. All living things are always changing, different editions constantly regenerating: Diotima – “Even while each living thing is said to be alive and to be the same—as a person is said to be the same from childhood till he turns in to an old man—even then he never consists of the same things, though he is called the same, but he is always being renewed and in other respects passing away, in his hair and flesh and bones and blood and his entire body.  And it’s not just in his body, but in his soul, too, for none of his manners, customs, opinions, desires, pleasures pains, or fears ever remain the same, but some are coming to be in him while others are passing away”  p. 490

34. Dying for our love of what is immortal (example – Achilles): Diotima – “Do you really think hat Alcestis would have died for Admetus, she asked, “or that Achilles would have died after Patroclus, or that your Codrus would have died so as to preserve the throne for his sons. If they hadn’t expected the memory of their virtue—which we still hold in honor—to be immortal?  Far from it,” she said.  “I believe that anyone will do anything for the sake of immortal virtue and the glorious fame that follows, and the better the people, the more they will do, for they are all in love with immortality.”  [Even as I took exception to Socrates claims about Love’s lake of beauty and wisdom, I feel that Diotima’s definition of fame needs clarification.  Achilles may well have gained immortality through his deeds of justice, but as Diotima implies, life without honor is worse than oblivion.]  p. 491

35. The beautiful children of Homer and Hesiod (also of Lycurgus and Solon):  “Everyone would rather have such children than human ones. And would look up to Homer, Hesiod, and other good poets with envy an admiration for the offspring they have left behind—offspring, which, because they are immortal themselves, provide their parents with immortal glory and remembrance.  For example,” she said, “those are the sort of children Lycurgus left behind in Sparta as the savior of Sparta and virtually all of Greece.  Among you the honor goes to Solon for his creation of your laws.  Other men in other places everywhere, Greek or barbarian, have brought a host of beautiful deeds into the light and begotten every kind of virtue.  Already many shrines have sprung up to honor them for their immortal children, which hasn’t happened yet to anyone for human offspring.”  p. 492

36. The stages of learning to recognize beauty: Diotima – “So when someone rises by these stages, through loving boys correctly, and begins to see this beauty ,he has almost grasped his goal.  This is what it is to go aright, or be led by another, into the mystery of Love: one goes always upwards for the sake of this Beauty, starting out from beautiful things and using them like rising stairs: from one body to two and from two to all beautiful bodies, then from beautiful bodies to beautiful customs. And from customs to learning beautiful things, and from these lessons he arrives in the end at the lesson, which is learning of this very Beauty, so that in the end he comes to know just what it is to be beautiful.”   p. 493

37.  Socrates never lost an argument:  Alcibiades – I didn’t honor him even though he has never lost an argument in his life.”  p. 495

38. The powerful music of Socrates’ words: Alcibiades – “The only difference between you and Marsyas [Satyrs who tried to compete in music with “Apollo – he got skinned alive.] is that you need no instruments; you do exactly what he does, but with words alone. You know, people hardly ever take a speaker seriously, even if he’s the greatest orator; but let anyone—man woman, or child—listen to you or even to a poor account of what you say—and we are all transported, completely possessed.” P. 497

39. Socrates has tried to talk Alcibiades out of politics: Alcibiades – “He always traps me, you see, and he makes me admit that my political career is a waste of time, while all that matters is just what I most neglect: my personal shortcomings, which cry out for the closest attention.”  p. 498

40. Can’t live with him – can’t live without him”  “Alcibiades – I can’t live with him, and I can’t live without him!  What can I do about him?”  p. 498

41. Socrates’s interest in boys: Alcibiades –To begin with, he’s [Socrates] crazy about beautiful boys; he constantly follows them around in a perpetual daze. . .  I wonder, my fellow drinkers, if you have any idea what a sober and temperate man he proves to be once you have looked inside.  Believe me, it couldn’t matter less to him whether a boy is beautiful.  You can’t imagine how little he cares whether a person is beautiful, or rich, or famous in any other way that most people admire. He considers all these possessions beneath contempt and that’s exactly how he considers all of us as well.”  p. 498

42. Bacchic frenzy of philosophy: Alcibiades – “Now, all you people here, Phaedrus, Agathon, Eryximachus, Pausanias, Aristodemus, Aristophanes—I need not mention Socrates himself—and all the rest have all shared in the madness, the Bacchic frenzy of philosophy.”  p. 500

43. Alcibiades propositions Socrates:  Alcibiades – “I think,” I said, “you’re the only worthy lover I have ever had—and yet look how shy you are with me!  Well, here’s how I look at it.  It would be really stupid not to give you anything you want: you can have me, my belongings, anything my friends might have.  Nothing is more important to me than becoming the best man I can be, and no one can help me more than you to reach that aim.  With a man like you, in fact, I’d db much more ashamed of what wise people would say if I did not take you as my lover, that I would of what all the others, in their foolishness, would say if I did.” P. 500

44. No sex:  Alcibiades – “I slipped underneath the cloak and put my arms around this man—this utterly unnatural, this truly extraordinary man—and spent the whole night next to him . . .  he turned me down!  He spurned my beauty, of which I was so proud . . .   I swear to you by all the gods and goddesses together, my night with Socrates went no further than if I had spent it with my own father or older brother!”  p. 501

45. Socrates can’t get drunk: Alcibiades – “Still, and most amazingly, no one ever saw him drunk (as we’ll straightaway put to the test).  p. 501

46. Socrates not effected by the cold: Alcibiades – “Well, Socrates went out in that weather wearing nothing but this same old light cloak, and even in bare feet he made better progress on the ice than the other soldiers did in their boots.”  pp.  501-502

47. Socrates habit of mediation: Alcibiades – “One day. At dawn, he started thinking about some problem or other; he just stood outside, trying to figure it out.  He couldn’t resolve it, but he wouldn’t give up.  He simply stood there, glued to the same spot. By midday, many soldiers had seen him, and quite mystified, they told everyone that Socrates had been standing there all day, thinking about something.  He was still there when evening came, and after dinner some Ionians moved their bedding outside where it was cooler and more comfortable (all this took place in the summer), but mainly in order to watch if Socrates was going to stay out there all night.  And so he did; he stood on the very same spot until dawn!  He only left next morning, when the sun came out. And he made his prayers to the new day.”  P. 502

48. He saves Alcibiades:  “You know that I was decorated for bravery during that campaign: well, during that very battle, Socrates single-handedly saved my life!  He absolutely did!  He just refused to leave me behind when I was wounded, and he rescued not only me by my armor as well” p. 502

49. Socrates argues that authors should be able to write comedy and tragedy (that that Bloom):  Aristodemus – “. . . Socrates was trying to prove to them that authors should be able to write both comedy and tragedy: the skillful tragic dramatist should also be a comic poet.”  p. 505 

 

 

 

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