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Symposium And Republic Essay

1385 words - 6 pages

The ancient words of Socrates have laid the foundation for many modern-day ideals, laws, and forms of government. However, though he has many wise words to offer, there appear to be fundamental inconsistencies between some of his discussions and allegories. The words of Socrates in the Symposium and Republic were written by his mentee, Plato, who uses Socrates’ persona to reflect his own thoughts (though, not necessarily all of his proper beliefs). Therefore, the apparent inconsistencies between Plato’s works may be reconciled when the disposition of Socrates in these texts is considered: he is a character. Socrates and other characters are purely vehicles of Plato’s thought-provoking ...view middle of the document...

In his myth, he illustrates the original human beings as looking round with twice as many faces, organs, and appendages as human have today. They were comprised of three sexes – male, female, and androgynous (simultaneously male and female). These people were strong, whole, and happy. This golden age came to an end, however, after the human attempt to overthrow the gods was thwarted. They were each torn in half, creating the human physique as we know it today. Today, according to this myth, every person is literally lacking his or her other half; this is the source of desire, the desire to be complete. Aristophanes proposes that Love is a powerful god who draws people toward what belongs to them – that is, their other half. Love should not be neglected because he promises to restore humankind to its original nature, so long as the gods are praised and treated with reverence (Symposium 193).
While Aristophanes’ notion of Love as a loved god is eventually denied by Socrates’ Diotima, his encomium is not without use to Plato’s main argument of the nature and purpose of eros. His speech serves to underline the idea of complete lacking and the human condition of the need to be whole. Though, Plato spins Aristophanes’ point to expose that an essential part of the nature of eros is being in a state of deficiency – being the lover, not the loved. A person desires because he is lacking something, and he undergoes a process of finding what it is that will complete him – this is Love: an attempt to negate the fact that all humans are incomplete. Love is the lover. With this in mind, Love cannot be a god because all gods are fundamentally beautiful and happy. Because Love desires good and beautiful things, he must be lacking them, instead, Love is a mediating spirit that lies somewhere in between god and mortal. (Symp 202d). Beautiful things are to be loved because what is beautiful is good, and good things will bring happiness (Plato makes an axiomatic assumption that all people want to be happy). Love, then, loves wisdom because it is extremely beautiful, yet he desires it because he lacks it – meaning, love is a philosopher, similar to Socrates, he is in between wise and ignorant.
Ultimately, the purpose of love in the Symposium is to seek the good and possess it forever (Symp 206a) – love is always directed toward the good. Because reproduction is an immortal thing (and immortality is the one thing that all humans are ultimately lacking), reproduction of the good and beautiful is the closest thing mortals have to immortality and, therefore, possessing the good forever. When a person desires, he is pregnant and attempts to “give birth to” – or, to reproduce – the good. It is important to note, however, that Diotima distinguishes between being pregnant in the body and being pregnant in the soul. Pregnancy of the soul is far superior to pregnancy of the body, as the body gives birth to physical, mortal beings, while the soul gives birth to virtue,...

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