Plato was a moralist. An ethicist. He was concerned with the primacy of action, of engagement, in a world that was deeply iconoclastic, barbarous, and savage. Love of wisdom allows for the creation of that space where ethical and loving life is possible. This means that eros must remain to any understanding of the self, world, and politeia. It also means, however, that the energy of love be directed—though not subverted—to productive ends. Eros was on trial in Plato’s time. In the course of the dialogue, Plato attempts to defend and exonerate Eros from the de-mythologizers. We are left to judge if he succeeded.
As part of my usual column at TIC, this essay focuses on my academic concentration: the Classics and Plato. In this essay I offer a reading of Symposium as Plato’s attempt to re-mythologize and defend Eros against the de-mythologizers (especially Eryximachus) and those who would threaten to subjugate Eros to pettier pursuits (Pausanians and Phaedrus), and expose the insufficiency of the playwrights (Aristophanes and Agathon), even though “Plato stands on the side of the poets rather than the ‘philosophers.’ In fact, the dialogue is a mythological drama about the fate of love and its place in the new world born of technology, the political, and the philosophical.”
You can read the essay here: Plato’s “Symposium”: The Drama and Trial of Eros.
You can read my academic commentary on understanding Plato’s Republic here: Savagery, Irony, and Satire in Plato’s Republic.
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