Aristophanes' Theory of Love in the Symposium

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Aristophanes' Theory of Love in the Symposium 2. Aristophanes' Theory of love: from Plato's Symposium The love as discussed by the characters in the Symposium is homosexual love. Some assumed that homosexuality alone is capable of satisfying “a man’s highest and noblest aspirations”. Whereas heterosexual love is placed at an inferior level, being described as only existing for carnal reasons; its ultimate purpose being procreation. There are differing views in these dialogues, Aristophanes contradicts his peers by treating heterosexuality at the same level as homosexuality, arguing that both are predestined. Aristophanes considered himself as the comic poet and he began his discourse as such. Yet as the speech continued, he professed to open another vein of discourse; he had a mind to praise Love in another way, unlike that of either Pausanias or Eryximachus. “Mankind”, he said, “judging by their neglect of him, have never at all understood the power of Love”. He argued that if they had understood him they would have built noble temples and altars, and offered solemn sacrifices in his honor. He sought to describe his power and wanted to teach the rest of the world what he was teaching at that moment. Aristophanes spoke first of the nature of man and what had become of it. He said that human nature had changed: The sexes were originally three in number; there was man, woman, and the union of the two. At one time there was a distinct kind, with a bodily shape and a name of its own, constituted by the union of the male and the female: but now only the word 'androgynous' remains, and that as a term of reproach. Aristophanes proceeded by telling an anecdote about the terrible might and strength of mankind and ... ... middle of paper ... ... wisdom”, never allowing himself to divert from the real pursuit of beauty: Since beauty is the ultimate objective of Love. Aristophanes and his comical tale of the way mankind came about needing a partner greatly opposed that of Socrates. Aristophanes put homosexuality and heterosexuality at the same level, believing that both were predestined. He recognized that love was a need; a longing to regain a lost happiness. Socrates, on the other hand, concluded that heterosexual and homosexual Love were not at all at the same level. Arguing that physical desire was inferior to the “love of wisdom” which is more widespread in homosexuality, adding that women are “incapable of creative activity above the physical level.” Ultimately what transpires from his speech is that he has a meaning of Love quite different from that which the common man would attach to it.

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