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FirstLongPaper - Molly Shifrin PHL 241 Love in Platos...

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Molly Shifrin February 12, 2009 PHL 241 Love in Plato’s Symposium Plato’s Symposium conveys his theories of love and beauty through several speeches, using views of the men of Athens and a priestess to make a well-rounded argument. This argument builds upon itself from the most physical and basic love expressed in the early speeches, to a higher, more divine type of love expressed later. Plato uses Socrates, and through him the priestess Diotima, to enlighten the other men about the truth of love. The symposium, literally, is a gathering for scholarly men to drink together. This is a unique setting for a philosophical discussion, but The Symposium is not the typical piece of philosophical writing. More than anything, it’s a drama. The slight inebriation of the characters involved enhances the drama and releases the men of their inhibitions. What is discussed is more easily accepted due to this inebriation and, of course, more easily said in the first place. A discussion of the type of love that Plato encourages is not a love that can be discussed across barriers such as shame or embarrassment. The inebriation helps the men to transcend/overcome these barriers and speak more freely. The speeches begin with Phaedrus who presents the idea of love as inspiration for learning and motivation to live life well. His notion of love is grounded outside of the self in two senses; other men or women and the gods. In this way, his notion of love is the most basic and non-Platonic in the sense that it does not elevate one to think of a higher conception of love, only that which one can see in others. However, conceiving of love
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through the gods is closer to Plato’s form of love. Phaedrus discusses how a love relationship is necessary between a mentee and a mentor in order to give the mentee the drive and passion to learn. On the other hand, he uses Eros, the god of love, to express how love is the oldest of the gods and it’s power. He describes how men empowered by seeing their lovers in acts of bravery could practically rule the world (ITL). When Phaedrus ends his speech, it is in a rhetorical fashion that reiterates his point that love is one of the most ancient gods. The next speech is that of Pausanius who elevates the discussion of love to include his belief that there are two Aphrodites and that love is very complex (ITL). The two Aphrodites are the heavenly and the common. The heavenly is stereotypically Greek; entirely masculine, intelligent, free of lude acts or thoughts, and is very committed to
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