The Symposium by Plato
"The Symposium" by Plato is a masterpiece of philosophical thought that has had a profound impact on generations of thinkers and artists. This outstanding work of literature explores the themes of love and beauty through a series of speeches given by various characters during a banquet hosted by Agathon, a renowned tragedian in Athens.
The story opens with a conversation between the narrator, Apollodorus, and his friend, who asks about a recent conversation Apollodorus had with Aristodemus, a man who had attended the banquet. Aristodemus recounts the events of the evening, where the guests were all intellectuals, including famous Athenians like Socrates, Aristophanes, and Alcibiades.
The first speech is given by Phaedrus, who argues that love is the most significant virtue and the source of all great achievements. He states that love can inspire people to achieve great things, and it should be the primary focus of life. He also argues that the love between men is superior to that between women because men have a higher nature.
Next, Pausanias gives a speech that distinguishes between two types of love: Common and Heavenly. Common love is based on physical attraction and is considered inferior to Heavenly love, which is based on intellectual and spiritual qualities. Pausanias argues that society should promote Heavenly love, which is based on mutual respect, friendship, and virtue, rather than Common love, which is based on lust and desire.
Aristophanes, a famous comic playwright, gives an entertaining and amusing speech that explains the origin of love. He argues that humans were once doubled creatures, with two faces, four legs, and four arms. These creatures were so powerful that the gods feared them and split them in half, creating two beings who were incomplete without their other half, and thus, they longed to reunite with their other half, which is the origin of love.
Eryximachus, a physician, gives a speech that discusses the role of love in maintaining health and balance in the body. He argues that love is a fundamental force in the universe that governs all things, including the human body. He also argues that love should be approached in a balanced and moderate way, and excess or deficiency of love can cause harm.
Agathon, the host, gives a speech that describes love as a gentle and tender force that brings happiness to people. He argues that love is the source of all beauty and that it is the most important thing in the world. Agathon's speech is the most poetic and lyrical of all the speeches, and his understanding of love emphasizes its tender and nurturing aspects.
Finally, Socrates, the philosopher, gives a speech that questions the assumptions of the previous speakers. He argues that love is not a god, as they have been suggesting, but a spirit that is always seeking wisdom and knowledge. He believes that true love is the desire to obtain wisdom, and that it is only through knowledge that one can achieve happiness. Socrates' speech is the most philosophical and abstract of all the speeches, and it questions the very nature of love and its relationship to wisdom and knowledge.
In conclusion, "The Symposium" by Plato is a work that explores the nature of love and beauty from various perspectives. The speeches given by the various characters provide a comprehensive analysis of the concept of love, ranging from the physical to the spiritual. The work is a masterpiece of philosophical thought that has influenced generations of thinkers and artists, and its ideas continue to be relevant today.