The Accounts of Eros in the "Symposium"


The word love carries with it many, many different interpretations. In modern
day, our views on what is appropriate love is much different from the views from
the time of Socrates and Plato. To them love was eros, a direct translation of
the word love.

However, the word itself wasn\'t the only thing that was different about love. In
Plato\'s "Symposium", there is a celebration for Agathon. He had just won a
dramatic contest in Athens, Greece two nights ago. It is customary to drink much
wine at these gatherings, however, every one present is too weak from the night
before. (Nehamas & Woodruff, pg. xiii) So a proposition is made, by Phaedrus, to
properly give praise to the god Eros, and speak on the topic of love. It was
their opinion that no poet has yet been able to properly do so. (Nehamas &
Woodruff, pg. 7) There were a total of seven accounts given in praise of eros,
by seven different people who are present at the party. Of these accounts, the
one that made the most sense was the speech of Socrates when he quotes Diotima.
This account is practical, and shows love not as a heavenly creature, but as a
mortal being, where we can interact with him. It also has answers that most of
the other accounts could not even question. This is what stands the speechof
Socrates and Diotima apart from most of the others. But, there were two other
speeches that were also impressive and brought about points that Socrates did
not make. These accounts were given by Aristophanes and Agathon. Through these
three speeches, we can get a good picture of what eros is. Starting with the
most complete account: Socrates and Diotima; and moving through Aristophanes and
then Agathon, this paper will show why these accounts are superior, and why
Socrates\' makes the most sense.

After Agathon\'s speech, it was Socrates\' turn to present his account of eros.
But before he does, he tells Agathon that his speech was marvelous and that at
one time, Socrates also believed in what Agathon believed. That was until a
women named Diotima taught him the real truth in eros. It is however, believed,
that Socrates made up the character of Diotima, the reason, though, is unknown.
In spite of this, Socrates gives a remarkable speech that is truly complete. One
of the first misconceptions among all the speakers was the age of the god Love.
Many believed him to the oldest of the gods, thus making him ancient. Diotima
knows this is not true. She speaks of the way Love was conceived, a clever
scheme by a god to escape her misfortunes. It seems the goddess of poverty,
Penia laid down beside Poros and became pregnant with Love (Nehamas & Woodruff,
pg.48) This makes Love unique. Love is good, though, because he is a lover of
wisdom, that is, he pursues the notion of philosophy. But, he is in between
wisdom and ignorance (Nehamas & Woodruff, pg. 49), according to Diotima, which
is much different an account from the other speakers. Phaedrus had placed Love
at the top of all gods, describing ways in which Love "breathes might into some
of the heroes," (Nehamas & Woodruff, pg. 10). This is untrue. However, Diotima
speaks of ways in which love helps human beings. This happens when the love for
things like sports or poetry helps a person create something from nothing. Love
is a word used to describe the whole, where there are special parts of love used
to describe specific passions and possessions. (Nehamas & Woodruff, pg. 51). And
love is wanting to posses the good forever (Nehamas & Woodruff, pg. 52) Finally
we see the main points in Diotima\'s argument when she accurately describes the
real purpose of love. It is almost like a natural instinct. All animals,
including humans, have a need to reproduce. The real purpose in love is giving
birth in beauty, whether in body or soul (Nehamas & Woodruff, pg.53). This means
that the pregnant person causes the baby, or new born idea if the birth resulted
from the soul, to be beautiful because all new borns are beautiful and this is
as close as a mortal may get to immortality. By producing offspring, the human
being continues life forever. By this, we see what it is that love wants as well.
And that is reproduction and birth in beauty (Nehamas & Woodruff, pg. 53) to
continue the love, and retain possessions that have been acquired through the
good.

Diotima had briefly referred