jlb.alb2.art.love.beauty.plato.symposium

jlb.alb2.art.love.beauty.plato.symposium - Art, Love, and...

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Art, Love, and Beauty 2 1/16/08 Harries 1 2. The Two Faces of Beauty 1 If there is one text that has informed all subsequent discussions of love and beauty it is Plato's Symposium . So it is only fitting that this course on Art, Love, and Beauty should begin with this text. But before I turn to it, I would like to return to my introductory lecture: in that lecture I opposed two very different conceptions of beauty. One of these understands beauty as object of a pure, disinterested contemplation. On that understanding beauty has nothing to do with love, at least if love has something to do with sexual desire. Indeed, the appreciation of beauty and such desire are essentially opposed. But that understanding of beauty is opposed by another, that links beauty to love. This suggests that it may be necessary to distinguish two very different sorts of beauty. The need to draw such a distinction suggests itself already in Plato’s Symposium . But before turning to Plato's Symposium I would like to introduce our topic by considering briefly three passages from another Symposium , this one by another of Socrates' students, by Xenophon, written a few years after Plato's. The situation is quite similar to that in Plato's dialogue: Socrates and some friends are invited to a symposium given by the wealthy Callias in honor of the beautiful young Autolycus, who had just won an important athletic competition. After some objections they finally accept the
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Art, Love, and Beauty 2 1/16/08 Harries 2 invitation. After a while Autolycus arrives with his father. The following passage describes the effect he has on those present. A person who took note of the course of events would have come at once to the conclusion that beauty is in its essence something regal, especially when, as in the present case of Autolycus, its possessor joins with it modesty and sobriety. For in the first place, just as the sudden glow of a light at night draws all eyes to itself, so now the beauty of Autolycus compelled every one to look at him. And again, there was not one of the onlookers who did not feel his soul strangely stirred by the boy; some of them grew quieter than before, others even assumed some kind of pose. Now it is true that all who are under the influence of any of the gods seem well worth gazing at; but whereas those who are possessed of the other gods have a tendency to be sterner of countenance, more terrifying of voice, and more vehement, those who are inspired by chaste love have a more tender look, subdue their voices to more gentle tones, and assume a supremely noble bearing. Such was the demeanor of Callias at this time under the influence of Love; and therefore he was an object well worth the gaze of those initiated into the worship of this god. 1
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jlb.alb2.art.love.beauty.plato.symposium - Art, Love, and...

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