Unless you’ve studied the classics, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. These days there is a great deal of talk about diversity and equality, in both gender and preferences. A discussion held well over a thousand years ago can teach us more than we might suspect.
In this work, Love is examined in a sequence of speeches by men attending a symposium, or drinking party.
Basically, party-goers celebrating Agathon’s first victory in a drama contest decide to do something besides drink themselves into a stupor because they are still paying for such activity the night before.
Socrates joins the group on this second night, and it is decided that each man in turn will offer his praises to love. Each of six men offer their interesting, diverse thoughts on the matter, ranging from the conventional to the Socratic ideal.
Symposium is one of the major works of Plato, and one of the works that laid a foundation for the entire history of Western thought. In a way, it’s a romantic discussion, filled with zeal towards the beauty, the passion for philosophy as a search for truth. It is a romantic text written more than two thousand years before romanticism.
The Symposium is inarguably one of Plato’s most influential, most important texts and is required reading for anyone seriously interested in philosophy as it has existed and continues to exist in Western society.
The discussion of the Form of Beauty is particularly useful in terms of understanding Platonic thought. It would seem that this dinner party and the speeches we read are very likely fictitious and represent Plato’s thoughts much more closely than Socrates’ own views, but it is impossible to tell to what extent this is true.
And, as all romantic texts of great importance do, this one also puts forward the positive idea – one of those that produced the concept of ‘humanity’, one of those that will for ever be debated and interpreted and whose ‘truth’ will always be a mystery.
It is not religious text in any way – as far as it goes. It is very precise piece of work, somewhat more mystical and allusive than works of Aristotle. In an inspirational sort of way, it goes far above any of Aristotle’s works.
It’s main interest lies in a process of defining what love is.Of course, for Greeks of those age, love doesn’t come with all the baggage of modern myths – it is more a question of what Eros is – is it a God, a power, a demon is it good in any way. In a way it’s a quest for identity. Following the argumentation in the book, to search for an answer for what Eros is one should already be possessed with it.
In Symposium Plato is, as always, an idealist, and that is saying that debate in Symposium doesn’t draw out from all of the possible angles. This text speaks to all of the blue-eyed idealists out there, they are establishing connection of interest over twenty centuries long, and it is showing that humans are capable of doing truly wondrous stuff.
Why You Should Read This Book (Again.)
It’s not a feel-good literature if for a second you thought it is, but upon reading it good feeling emerges. Together with call to continue on debating. And for the beginning, that is all what we need.
It is another short read, a jumping-off point for other discussions and studies.
However, it may be one of the best basic books for understanding the various genres of Romance that exist today. For a reader (and especially a writer) of Romance works, this might just explain some of the questions that our modern novels raise.
Or, it’s just a chance to get another feel-good read in during an afternoon.
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