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Platonic Love Essay

8992 words - 36 pages

The Platonic Concept of Love: The Symposiumby Dr. David NauglePondus meum amor meus; eo feror quocumque feror. St. Augustine, Confessions, 13. 9. 10.Because of the centrality and power of love in human experience, menand women throughout the ages have felt the compulsion to sing songs, to writeverse, and to tell stories about this ineffable and mysterious force which leadsthem to the peaks of felicity, and to the depths of despair. Love indeed is anultimate, if not the ultimate, human concern. It is the universal principleundergirding all human activity, the object of all human striving, resulting,naturally, in the need to examine and discuss it carefully. Plato™s Symposium isone such example.1 The venerable author in this ancient treatise records thespeeches of some six prominent Athenians who employ both story and verse toconvey a variety of myths and motifs about the nature and function of love (eros).1 Most commentators on the Symposium agree that its subject matter is love. John Brentlinger believes that by giving an account of the nature of love in the Symposium, fiPlato means a description which classifies love (as a kind of object-directed desire) and proceeds from this to characterize and relate the objects desiredfl (8). R. A. Marcus asserts that fithe dialogue as a whole . . . presents in a dramatic way Plato™s view of lovefl (133-34). In a bit more descriptive manner, F. A. Cornford contends that the purpose of the fiSymposium is to explain the significance of Eros to the lover of wisdomfl (120). Thomas Gould™s view of the Symposium is also a bit more philosophical. He writes: fiThe subject of the Symposium is just that: the identity of the pursuit of the truly desirable and the comprehension of the truly realŠthe identity of desire and learning, of love and philosophyfl (23). Noting that others have proposed rather strange views on the central subject matter of the Symposium, Martha Nussbaum asserts forthrightly that fiThe Symposium is a work about passionate erotic loveŠa fact that would be hard to infer from some of the criticism written about itfl (167). An example of what Nussbaum is complaining about is James A. Arieti who flatly says that the Symposium is not fiabout the nature of love; it is, rather, about the process of making pronouncements about the gods,fl that is, fioffhand claims about reality that have no basis in argument or good sensefl (107-08).Nestled together like Chinese boxes, these stories about love, given theirrhetorical power and sublime content, have stirred the thoughts and captured theimaginations of countless readers for centuries. This unique literary work iscertainly one of Plato™s masterpieces, written on one of his most basic themes atthe height of his powers as a philosopher and author.2 The Platonic doctrine of2 A symposium (from the Greek meaning fito drink...

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