In the Symposium, written by Plato, Socrates and others engage in a dialogue in the home of Agathon on love. Instead of "singing the honours" (94) of love like the other participants, Socrates uses a retelling of a discussion that he had with a woman named Diotima to tell the audience of what he perceives to be the truth of love.
He first speaks to Agathon in order to be on the same wavelength with him. Socrates asks Agathon a series of questions - which leads to Agathon being thoroughly confused and completely re-thinking his entire speech he just made. Agathon is no longer sure if Love is beautiful and good, which was his primary definition of it before.
Socrates has Agathon confirm that when one does not have the thing that he desires and loves, that is when he desires and loves it. They agree that one "loves what he lacks and has not" (96). In Agathon's view of love that he expressed earlier, love is always of beautiful things. Therefore, if one loves what he lacks, then "Love lacks and has not beauty" (96), Socrates says. Agathon says this must be the case and no longer has any idea of his previous statements. If Love loves beautiful things, then it is not itself beautiful. And if everything beautiful is good, then love also lacks goodness.
Socrates tells Agathon that Diotima, a woman who advised him on the matters of love, had asked him the same series of questions before. This leads Socrates to ask Diotima, `if Love is neither beautiful nor good, is it ugly and bad?' Diotima says no, because the nature of love is in between the opposites of ugly and beautiful, good and bad.
"He is not good and not beautiful, as you admit yourself, but do not imagine for that reason any the more that he must be ugly and bad, but something between these two (97)," Diotima says.
The reason for this is that Love, as a mythical creature, was conceived of Poverty and Plenty at Aphrodite's birthday party. Therefore, Love is a mixture of the blessings of Plenty and tragedy of Poverty.
Because all gods are happy and beautiful, Diotima says Love cannot really be a god. She insists that Love is a great spirit, "for all spiritual is between divine and mortal" (98). Love, as a spirit, serves like a middle man between the gods and humans on Earth.
The only way gods communicate through humans is through these spirits, Diotima insists, because these spirits have the wisdom to intercede for the gods. The gods do not love wisdom because they are already wise and the foolish do not love wisdom because they are ignorant of the fact that they are ignorant of wisdom.
Diotima tells Socrates that philosophers (lovers of wisdom) are in between the gods and the ignorant. She says Love is one of the philosophers, because he is in between wisdom and ignorance. This is because his father Plenty has wisdom but his mother does not. Diotima, who says wisdom is one of the most beautiful things, believes "Love is a love for the beautiful, so Love...