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Session 18 Notes

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Author: David O'Connor
Notes for David O'Connor's 2/26/07 lecture on Plato's Symposium, Socrates and Diotima for PHIL 20214

Symposium, Socrates and Diotima

I. Introduction: Socrates’ speech in context

  1. Bacchus as judge

II. Diotima

  1. The reemergence of the feminine
  2. The desire for immortality through procreation
  3. Love as mediator between human and divine
    1. Eros as a daimon
    2. The erotic life as philosophical

      "The case stands thus--no God philosophizes or desires to become wise, for he is wise; nor, if there exist any other being  who is wise, does he philosophize." ( The Symposium of Plato: The Shelley Translation, ed. David O'Connor, South Bend, IN: St. Augustine's Press, 2002: 204a)

    3. Giving birth in the beautiful: male and female

      "Wherefore, to one pregnant, and as it were, already bursting with the load of his desire, the impulse towards that which is beautiful is intense, on account of the great pain of retaining that which he has conceived." (Symposium 206d-e)

  4. Diotima vs. Aristophanes

    "It is asserted by some, that they love, who are seeking the lost half of their divided being. But I assert, that Love is neither the love of half or of the whole, unless, my friend, it meets with that which is good; since men willingly cut off their own hands and feet, if they think that they are the cause of evil to them." (Symposium 205e)

III. The erotic ascent

  1. Initiation into a divine mystery
  2. "Your own meditation, O Socrates, might perhaps have initiated you in all these things which I have already taught you on the subject of Love. But those perfect and sublime ends, to which these are only the means, I know not that you would have been competent to discover. I will declare them, therefore, and will render them as intelligible as possible: do you meanwhile strain all your attention to trace the obscure depth of the subject." ( Symposium 210a)

  3. From erotic interest in one individual to knowledge as such: an impersonal ascent?
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