Plato's Symposium

1497 Words6 Pages
Plato's Symposium In the Symposium, Plato gives us one of the most close-up and personal pictures of Socrates we have. Socrates himself never wrote a line that we know of; all that we know of him (his personality, his views, his biography) we get through Plato's ey es and pen. We cannot, therefore, know how accurate or embellished this account is. The elaborate way Plato introduces the "story" of the Symposium may lead you to believe that it is a fiction, just as the other works we will read this semester are. You can decide that for yourself. The Greek word "symposium" means something like "drinking party," but it also means something like "a convivial [look it up] evening of drinking and intellectual conversation." It has been borrowed into English. Look it up in your dictionary. You might translate it "feast." ¯ Notice that the work begins in medias res. Who is Apollodorus speaking to as the work opens? We learn that there was a supper at the home of Agathon, at which Socrates was a guest. Aristodemus (an uninvited guest at that dinner) later described that evening to Phoenix, as well as to Apollodorus. Phoenix passed on the story to "another person," who in turn told Glaucon about the occasion. Apollodorus then recounted it in detail to Glaucon, and later to his unnamed "companion." It is this last account that we are reading. Why all this elaborate spaghetti of accounts? One effect is surely to lend an aura of verisimitude [look it up] to the events--to make it sound like it really happened. (Note on p. 2 that Socrates later confirmed some of th e details of this story.) Another is perhaps to "cover" any objections to the details of this account--in fact to call into question th... ... middle of paper ... ...). Just when he seems to be getting serious, however, he gives you an account of a very funny "seduction scene" that backfires. Read it slowly and enjoy it. What of Socrates' response? It is honest--cruelly honest. The astounding thing about Socrates is that he is always the same. Why is this ability so absolutely amazing? Alcibiades calls him a "wonderful monster." Alcibiades then turns to exampl es of this apparently superhuman talent. Read pages 40-41 carefully. What does "allegory" mean? Why does Socrates use the kind of language he does (of "pack-asses and smiths")? What is Plato's response to all this? Then, a second interruption, this time of the sort we had expected when Alcibiades arrived. Notice that they "spoiled the order of the banquet." Who remains awake? What do they talk about? What does Socrat es do when he leaves? Could you?

More about Plato's Symposium

Open Document