Lector in dialogo (English)

Lector in dialogo: Implied Readers and Interpretive Strategies in Plato’s Symposium

By Christian Keime. Paper given in the X Symposium Platonicum of the International Plato Society : “Plato’s Symposium,” Pisa, 15-20 July 2013.

 

It has long been noticed that the complex enunciative framework of Plato’s Symposiumis reminiscent of the “polyphony” investigated by M. Bakhtin in Dostoyevsky’s novels:[1] instead of speaking in his own name or through a conspicuous mouthpiece, the author represents different speakers who may contradict each other, making it difficult for the reader to sift out Plato’s own point of view from these many voices. In this paper, I shall not discuss the five different accounts of eros delivered before Socrates’ one. In my view these speeches and their relationship with Socrates’ speech deserve a separate study. I shall concentrate on Socrates’ speech (201d1-212c3), and on the different characters staged within or around this speech (Diotima, Socrates as a youngster, Socrates as an adult and Agathon). I shall also consider Alcibiades’ discourse (215a3-222b7) and the dramatic function of the characters who report the dialogue, Aristodemus and Apollodorus (172a1-174a2). I shall argue that, except for Diotima, all these characters may be viewed as images of the reader, “implied readers” (Iser 1972) or lectores in fabula (Eco 1979), whose function is to express a particular point of view on the philosophical lesson in eros uttered by Diotima and retold by Socrates (201d-212c): by presenting these different viewpoints of the philosophical lesson, Plato engages his reader in an “interpretive cooperation” (U. Eco) and induces him to interpret Diotima’s theory of love correctly.[2]

 

I. Diotima’s account

Yet, before considering these different viewpoints, let us consider how Diotima’s theory should be viewed or interpreted on Diotima’s own terms. Since this theory of eros turns out to be also a theory of knowledge, it may provide important clues as to the way eros can be known and should be taught.

(1) First, according to Diotima, the object of true knowledge – that is philosophical knowledge – is not eros but beauty: beautiful objects and, at the top of the ladder of love, the form of beauty, which philosophical desire is eager to contemplate (θεάσασθαι, 210c3; ἰδεῖν, 210c4; βλέπων, 210c8; θεωρῶν, 210d5; καθορᾶν, 211b7 etc., see text 1). This is why eros as such is neither beautiful nor good nor completely divine (202b1-c3) and must be conceived not as the passive object of philosophical knowledge (τὸ ἐρώμενον, 204c2) but as the active subject of it (τὸ ἐρῶν, 204c3, see text 2). To this extent, there is no reason for assuming the existence of a form of eros analogous to the form of beauty beheld at the end of the initiation (210e6-211b5)[3]. As eros is an ambivalent object of knowledge, the idea (in a Platonic sense) we can get of this notion is necessarily imperfect: that is why Diotima can describe and show the nature of eros to our eyes only by reporting a sketchy myth (203b1-e5). As a result, those who wish to acquire a thorough knowledge of eros should not be content with such an account, which presents eros as a theoretical object of knowledge. They should also and primarily know eros as an empirical subject of knowledge, they must fall in love with the form of beauty. This means that initiating a pupil into the mysteries of eros, as Diotima is supposed to do, consists not only in delivering a theoretical lecture about eros; it consists also and above all in conveying the eros for theoretical knowledge to the audience.

(2) In addition, as Socrates says to Agathon at the outset of the dialogue, philosophical wisdom cannot be conveyed like a fluid that flows from one vase to another (175c8-d9, see text 3)[4]. This point is backed up by Diotima’s theory: one can become wise and virtuous only by giving birth oneself to wisdom and virtue (φρόνησίν τε καὶ τὴν ἄλλην ἀρετήν, 209a3) when encountering a beautiful person, a beautiful science etc. (see texts 1 and 4). In these conditions, any outside intervention, including the lesson of a teacher, can only play the role of a beautiful occasion that may stimulate the process of learning but cannot teach any wisdom directly (see text 1). Under these conditions Diotima’s lesson cannot have directly conveyed any true wisdom about eros to Socrates: rather, this lesson, playing the role of a beautiful discourse, must have helped Socrates to give birth himself to a wisdom he already bore in his soul.

(3) Finally Diotima demonstrates that a soul can give birth to any kind of wisdom not only if it is pregnant (ἐγκύμων, 209b1), but also if the wisdom is so ripe as to arouse in the soul the desire to bring it forth and engender it (τίκτειν τε καὶ γεννᾶν ἤδη ἐπιθυμῇ, 209b2-3, see text 4b).

Therefore, if we are to believe Socrates when he claims that he has become wise about eros thanks to Diotima (texts 5), we should consider (1) that he has developed a practical wisdom of eros – he has become a lover of knowledge; (2) that Diotima and her discourse have stimulated but not conveyed this desire for knowledge; (3) that Socrates, at the time he met Diotima, was about to give birth to this practical wisdom on eros: his love for knowledge was mature and needed to be fulfilled.[5] These are the three basic requirements for assuming that Diotima actually taught Socrates about matters of love, and for postulating that we, as readers, could draw from Diotima’s lesson some knowledge similar to Socrates’ wisdom of love.

However, this way of considering the role of a lecture is quite unfamiliar to the prejudices and the expectations of Plato’s typical reader who is engaged in the passive process of acquiring information and who, in addition, is assumed to be educated like Agathon by the Sophists, according to the traditional pedagogical paradigm of paiderastia in which knowledge is considered to be transferred from one mind to another like any kind of goods (cf. 175c8-d9, text 3)[6]. To warn his reader against this prejudice, and to prevent him from considering that the theoretical knowledge he may acquire by reading Diotima’s lesson will enable him to fully understand eros, Plato does not merely enunciate this lesson in eros through the mouth of Diotima; he also stages around the priestess different types of audience that may be viewed either as models or as foils.

 

II. Agathon and the young Socrates

To begin with, Diotima’s teaching on eros is addressed to two characters: a direct addressee (Socrates when he was younger, who discussed with Diotima) and an indirect one (Agathon, to whom Socrates reports Diotima’s lesson).

(1) This dramatic setting makes it clear that the initiate who directly benefitted from this philosophical lesson was Socrates and not Agathon. To be sure, the reader knows in what sense Socrates was initiated into eros by Diotima. Even if he indulges in reporting theories on love, as in the Symposium or the Phaedrus, Socrates is primarily a practitioner of the love for knowledge, a “lover (ἐραστής) of the processes of division and bringing together” (Phaedrus 266b3-5), a man who endlessly questions himself or others and tries to transmit his desire for knowledge (Theaetetus 149c8-d3, 150d2-8, Meno 84b6-c3). Even in the Symposium Socrates appears in this role of active lover: he delays arriving at the drinking party because he stopped on the road to meditate (174d4-7), and during the party he twice engages his table companion Agathon in a dialectical elenkhos that makes the young poet aware of his lack of knowledge (193d-194e and 199b-201c). As to Agathon himself, the indirect addressee of the lesson, the reader knows that after the banquet this brilliant intellectual did not become a philosopher at all[7]. This proves that knowing Diotima’s theoretical exposé does not suffice to fully comprehend philosophical eros. Socrates makes it clear that Diotima not only taught him, but persuaded him (πέπεισμαι, 212b2) to engage in practicing philosophical eros (τιμῶ τὰ ἐρωτικὰ καὶ […] ἀσκῶ, 212b6, see text 6).

(2) In addition, Socrates describes his conversation with Diotima by using ambiguous words which imply that this conversation was not a mere lecture but also an erotic experience: Socrates met a divine, hence a beautiful woman[8], who delivered a beautiful speech, which played the role of an appropriate (kalos) event to procreation (cf. 204c7: καλῶς λέγεις[9] and the paronomasia: Ἔρως – ἐρῶν – ἐρῶ – ἔροιτο – ἐρώτησιν, see texts 7)[10].

(3) Finally, the reader may notice a slight but crucial difference between the two addressees of Diotima’s lesson. The younger Socrates, admittedly, is roughly the age of Agathon,[11] and both characters share the same ignorance about matters of love from a theoretical point of view, for at the beginning of the conversation (in the elenkhos), Socrates is assumed to have answered Diotima’s questions as Agathon has just answered Socrates’ ones (201e2-4, see text 8b)[12]. However these two young men do not share the same ignorance about eros from a practical point of view. Whereas Agathon, when refuted by Socrates, replied “οὕτως ἐχέτω ὡς σὺ λέγεις” (201c5) and gave up the search, Socrates, when refuted by Diotima by the same arguments, replied “πῶς λέγεις […], ὦ Διοτίμα;” (201e7, compare texts 8a and 8b). Contrary to Agathon, the younger Socrates proved to be already in love with knowledge, and afterwards he did not stop asking (202a2, d6-7, e2, 203a9, 204c8, 205b6 etc), objecting (202b5-6, 208b9) or expressing reservations (205b3, 206e4). Thanks to this curiosity, Diotima pursued the discussion directly with her interlocutor, and fully initiated him into philosophical eros, while the submissive Agathon was directly presented by Socrates with a preliminary elenkhos (199c3-201c8), and not with a full initiation.

Thus, the complex enunciative framework of the lesson in eros itself delivers a lesson in communication which makes it clear that: (1) Diotima’s theory is intended to transmit both theoretical and practical knowledge of eros; (2) in these conditions her discourse was primarily a stimulus that engaged the listener (Socrates) in developing his love for knowledge; (3) this listener eventually became a philosopher because he was already in love with knowledge. Agathon did not become a philosopher after having invited Socrates to his couch and heard his discourse because he did not understand, as the reader is prompted to do, that Socrates’ teaching on eros (201d-212c) does not only depend on what Diotima sets forth theoretically. This lesson is also brought out by the attitude of Diotima’s student, the way he discusses and what he became afterwards: the younger Socrates shows that being wise about eros does not consist in a merely theoretical understanding of what Diotima says.

 

III. Alcibiades

To be sure, Alcibiades cannot be accused of such a misconstruction. Though this character joins the company after Socrates’ discourse, he draws a portrait of Socrates that unwittingly confirms what effect Diotima’s lesson had on Socrates: Socrates became a lover of knowledge, who actively meditates (220c3-d5) and dialogues (217b6-7), and his speeches inspire his interlocutors with a furious desire for knowledge (218a3-6). When encountering Socrates, Alcibiades himself, contrary to Agathon, became an erastes of the philosopher and his sophia (218d1-4). Nevertheless, the reader knows that after this encounter Alcibiades did not become a philosopher, strictly speaking, no more than Agathon. And Plato engages his reader in investigating this second educational failure by suggesting two kinds of explanation.

The first explanation is provided through the mouth of Alcibiades himself, who describes Socrates as an erastes (216d2-3) driven by his desire towards beautiful young men such as Alcibiades, and charming them with the wondrous images (ἀγάλματα) of wisdom and virtue contained in his soul (215b3, 216d7-8, 216e7) and his discourses (222a4, see texts 9 and 10). But after having enticed his prey, Socrates suddenly turns out to despise his beauty (καταφρονεῖ, 216d9) and contrary to common practice he refuses to exchange his wisdom for the young man’s erotic favours (ἀλλάξασθαι, 218e5, διαμείβεσθαι, 219a1, see text 11). Therefore, Socrates’ educational behaviour is incoherent: after having played the role of an erastes, he behaves like an eromenos, fleeing from those who desire him and his sophia and refusing to offer them his spiritual goods (222a7-b4, see text 12). Hence Alcibiades’ accusations: Socrates is both outrageous (ὑβριστής, 215b7, 219c5, 222a8) and deceitful (ἐξαπατᾶσθαι, 222b3 and 5). Hence, in addition, Alcibiades’ utter bewilderment: in front of Socrates he is torn between love and hate, for he admires this wonderfully wise man but cannot profit from him. Alcibiades himself describes the problem he is facing very clearly: he does not know how to deal with (ὅτι χρήσωμαι, 216c4) Socrates and his wisdom (216c1-4, 219d3-e5, see texts 13).

However, we the readers can find an alternative explanation to the educative fiasco recounted by Alcibiades if we recollect the theory Socrates has just learned from the mouth of Diotima. Thanks to the priestess, we may realize that Socrates’ behaviour is less bewildering than it appears: had Alcibiades been aware of this philosophical theory of eros, he would have known how to deal with the philosopher, how to love his philosophical wisdom. To be sure, according to Diotima we should not be surprised that Socrates is a lover (erastes) of beautiful young men (210a6-b6), since the philosopher is attracted by beauty, wherever this beauty may appear. But neither should we wonder why Socrates does not try to get sexual pleasure from them, since philosophical eros does not ultimately aim at beautiful individuals; it is directed towards the universal goodness (205e8-206a1) and the beauty that may be reflected by beautiful individuals (210e2-211a1, 211c9, see text 1)[13]. As for the agalmata theia kai pankala glimpsed by Alcibiades within Socrates’ soul (216e7-9, text 10c), no wonder that Socrates did not convey them to him, since a pupil may become wise and virtuous only by engendering wisdom and virtue himself (φρόνησίν τε καὶ τὴν ἄλλην ἀρετήν, 209a3, text 4b). Alcibiades might progress towards wisdom and virtue iff he brings forth his own agalmata theia kai pankala. Moreover, by possessing Socrates’ agalmata, Alcibiades would not possess his knowledge, since philosophical knowledge consists in perceiving clearly a transcendental and universal beauty. As Alcibiades himself states, without grasping the meaning of his statement, Socrates’ spiritual goods are only agalmata, that is images reflecting divine beauty without being identical to beauty itself. Socrates does not play the fool when he claims that, as an individual, he has no value (219a1-2, see text 11), for the beauties of his soul are not the ultimate object of true knowledge but only reflections of this knowledge.[14]

Nevertheless, since these reflections are theia kai pankala, Alcibiades could have used them not as sources but as instruments of knowledge (211c1-9, see text 1[15]). He may have viewed them as beautiful objects or beautiful images whose function was not to present him directly with a piece of knowledge but to drive his eyes towards the form of beauty[16]. Therefore, contrary to what Alcibiades thinks, Socrates’ ambivalent behaviour is very consistent: as an educator the philosopher must behave like an eromenos and no longer like an erastes, since his role is not to fulfil the desire of the student by communicating a piece of knowledge directly to him; his role is to display before the student’s eyes beautiful and appealing objects that may stimulate – but not satisfy – his desire to know beauty.

As Alcibiades speaks under the control of Socrates (216a1-2, 217b1-3, 219c2-3), his description of the philosopher must be considered as perfectly reliable from a factual point of view. However, Alcibiades misinterprets what he describes: seeing that the philosopher is both a charmer and an elusive object of desire, he views his ambivalent attitude as a problem, whereas this ambiguity is the key to a successful philosophical initiation[17]. Alcibiades finds himself in such an aporia (Ἠπόρουν, 219e3) and proves unable to satisfy his love for the philosopher’s knowledge (see texts 13) due to his unawareness that, in the philosopher’s own terms, the words “love” and “knowledge” have new meanings. “Love” no longer means striving to possess a body or a piece of knowledge; it means striving to know goodness and beauty themselves. And “knowing” no longer means memorizing the lessons of a wise man; it consists in contemplating the forms all by oneself[18]. To stress this misunderstanding dramatically, to bring out the point that Alcibiades loves the philosopher’s knowledge in a traditional and not in a philosophical way, Plato the dramatist represents Alcibiades arriving late at the drinking party, after Socrates has already redefined the notions of love and knowledge philosophically.[19]

Therefore, Alcibiades’ and Agathon’s points of view on philosophy are symmetrically opposed and they supplement each other. Through Agathon’s passive attitude, Plato warns the reader that he cannot become a philosopher by merely understanding and memorizing Diotima’s theory on love; he must in addition fall in love with knowledge. And through Alcibiades, the reader can see that he cannot fall in love in a proper manner without taking into account Diotima’s theoretical lesson on love. Thanks to Diotima, Alcibiades would have understood that being in love with the philosopher’s knowledge does not consist in trying to get the many pieces of knowledge contained in the philosopher’s soul; it consists in imitating the philosopher and his practice of knowledge[20].

 

IV. The narrators of the dialogue: Aristodemus and Apollodorus

In these conditions, shouldn’t we consider the narrators who retell the dialogue (Aristodemus and Apollodorus) as models of good students and good philosophers? Presumably these characters are well equipped for avoiding both pitfalls encountered by Agathon and Alcibiades. Contrary to Alcibiades and like Agathon, they witnessed, directly or indirectly, everything that was said during the drinking party: Socrates’ preliminary warnings about the transmission of knowledge (175c7-d9, see text 3) and the new meanings Diotima bestowed on the words love and knowledge. In addition, they share with Alcibiades his desire for Socrates (Σωκράτους ἐραστὴς, 173b3) and for his philosophical discourses (172c6, 173c2-5), a feeling Agathon proved to be devoid of. But contrary to Alcibiades, they do not resent this feeling as a problematic or a frustrating experience: Aristodemus enjoys a close identification with the philosopher (ἀνυπόδητος ἀεί, 173b2), Apollodorus claims to be a philosopher (φιλοσοφεῖν, 173a3, cf. 173c2-8, see texts 14 and 15) and both characters zealously (μελέτη) enquire and rehearse the philosopher’s lessons (see texts 16). Contrary to Alcibiades, these two followers have understood that they should imitate the philosopher and his behaviour. However should we consider these characters as good imitators?

Here again the reader may compare the eros for philosophical knowledge that animates the characters and philosophical eros as it is theorized by Socrates and Diotima. Being a philosopher amounts to loving beauty (text 1), not loving an individual man who loves beauty (Socrates), nor loving the beautiful discourses uttered by this man when he is spurred by his love for beauty. Philosophy is not the reproduction of philosophical accounts of beauty, but the search for the nature of beauty. Thanks to this active search, the philosopher may produce beautiful discourses, and through these discourses, he might induce his interlocutor to search for the nature of beauty himself. In other words, if Apollodorus were a philosopher, as he claims to be, his greatest pleasure (ὑπερφυῶς ὡς χαίρω, 173c5) would not consist in rehearsing and repeating word for word philosophical discourses (see text 15b), and he and Aristodemus would not dedicate themselves so eagerly to narrating the Symposium. They would rather practice philosophy, like Socrates, by meditating about the nature of beauty and dialoguing with their audience in order to arouse in them some curiosity about the essence of beauty. The model of imitation proposed by Aristodemus and Apollodorus is just an illusion: this is “slavish imitation”, as Ruby Blondell puts it[21]. Similarly to Agathon and Alcibiades, the narrators of the Symposium play the role of false friends of the reader.

To be sure, Plato indulges likewise in this slavish imitation by writing the Symposium, that is by publishing Apollodorus’ report. Thus, we should not consider that Plato discredits the act of reproducing discourses in itself. He rather discredits the illusions of those students who, like Apollodorus and Aristodemus, confuse this practice (the reproduction of philosophical discourses) with the very practice of philosophy[22]. Recalling or anticipating Socrates’ strictures against written works (Phaedrus 274b-276d), Plato makes his reader aware that the philosophical dialogue in its entirety, like Diotima’s discourse, must be used properly: we must not read it only as the source of knowledge, but also as a beautiful object that may stimulate our desire to know what beauty and goodness really are[23]. In this way, Plato prompts his reader to dialogue with himself or with other persons in order to carry on the search initiated by Socrates and interrupted by the aporia (201c4-8) or the drowsiness (223d6-8) of his table companions.

 

 

Conclusion

Let us summarize our argument. In the Symposium Plato uses the dialogue form to emphasize and explain the meaning and the implications of Diotima’s lesson in love and knowledge. Through the character of Agathon, Plato demonstrates to his reader that truly knowing eros, that is becoming a philosopher, means both knowing Diotima’s lesson in love and being in love with knowledge. Through Alcibiades, Plato shows that being in love with knowledge does not consist in desiring the philosopher’s store of knowledge but in imitating the philosopher in his practice of knowledge. Through the narrators, the author shows that imitating the philosopher in his practice of knowledge does not amount to reproducing the philosopher’s words or gestures faithfully; it consists in enquiring, like the philosopher, about the nature of essences. At the end of the day, only the young Socrates proves to have understood this point, and he is the character whom the reader is finally called to identify with.

Thus, the Symposium makes it clear that there are many ways of loving a discourse and wisdom, and that philosophical love for knowledge amounts neither to being a good listener (Agathon), nor to a desire for possession (Alcibiades), nor to a zealous reproduction (Aristodemus and Apollodorus). Consequently, we can consider that Plato’s teaching on eros and philosophy is delivered both through what the discourses say about these matters and through the more or less erotic, more or less philosophical relationships many characters prove to have with these discourses, particularly the discourse of Socrates-Diotima. On that account there are two layers of meaning in Diotima’s speech, and the reader should take both layers equally into consideration: we must understand what this discourse says about eros and knowledge; we must also understand how the discourse itself can and must be the object of love and knowledge.

Moreover, these analyses arguably call into question any prima facie belief in Plato’s “ventriloquy”.[24] If we envisage the many “discursive masks”[25] staged in the dialogue not primarily as the author’s mouthpieces but as the reader’s ones, we can assume that Plato does not give voice to multiple points of view in order to blur the transmission of what he thinks deep down.[26] On the contrary, he may use this complex enunciative framework as a hermeneutic tool whose function is to engage his reader to read again, and more closely, what he has just read. Plato may well engage us to take off some masks in his dialogues, but these masks are not his own “masques d’autorité”[27] (the authorial masks), they are rather our own masks, the masks of the reader, that is to say the misleading implicit claims we may formulate as to the function of the text, due to our passive status of readers and our educational background – the traditional paiderastia of the sophists in which we, the implied readers of Plato’s dialogues, are assumed to have been educated. It has long been asked: “Who Speaks for Plato?” (cf. Press 2000), and many appealing answers have already been given to this question. Maybe the critical debate should shift now to another issue: “Who speaks for Plato’s readers?”

 

TEXTS

 

TEXT 1, 211b5-211c9

[Δι. –] « Ὅταν δή τις ἀπὸ τῶνδε διὰ τὸ ὀρθῶς παιδεραστεῖν ἐπανιὼν ἐκεῖνο τὸ καλὸν ἄρχηται καθορᾶν, σχεδὸν ἄν τι ἅπτοιτο τοῦ τέλους. Τοῦτο γὰρ δή ἐστι τὸ ὀρθῶς ἐπὶ [211c] τὰ ἐρωτικὰ ἰέναι ἢ ὑπ᾽ ἄλλου ἄγεσθαι, ἀρχόμενον ἀπὸ τῶνδε τῶν καλῶν ἐκείνου ἕνεκα τοῦ καλοῦ ἀεὶ ἐπανιέναι, ὥσπερ ἐπαναβασμοῖς χρώμενον, ἀπὸ ἑνὸς ἐπὶ δύο καὶ ἀπὸ δυοῖν ἐπὶ πάντα τὰ καλὰ σώματα, καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν καλῶν σωμάτων ἐπὶ τὰ καλὰ ἐπιτηδεύματα, καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν ἐπιτηδευμάτων ἐπὶ τὰ καλὰ μαθήματα, καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν μαθημάτων ἐπ᾽ ἐκεῖνο τὸ μάθημα τελευτῆσαι, ὅ ἐστιν οὐκ ἄλλου ἢ αὐτοῦ ἐκείνου τοῦ καλοῦ μάθημα, καὶ γνῷ αὐτὸ τελευτῶν ὃ ἔστι »

Text: P. Vicaire (Paris, CUF, 1989)

TEXT 2, 204b3-c6

[Δι. –] « ἔστιν γὰρ δὴ τῶν καλλίστων ἡ σοφία, Ἔρως δ᾽ ἐστὶν ἔρως περὶ τὸ καλόν, ὥστε ἀναγκαῖον ἔρωτα φιλόσοφον εἶναι, φιλόσοφον δὲ ὄντα μεταξὺ εἶναι σοφοῦ καὶ ἀμαθοῦς […] ὃν δὲ σὺ ᾠήθης ἔρωτα εἶναι, θαυμαστὸν οὐδὲν ἔπαθες· ᾠήθης δέ, ὡς ἐμοὶ δοκεῖ τεκμαιρομένῃ ἐξ ὧν σὺ λέγεις, τὸ ἐρώμενον ἔρωτα εἶναι, οὐ τὸ ἐρῶν· διὰ ταῦτά σοι οἶμαι πάγκαλος ἐφαίνετο ὁ Ἔρως. Καὶ γὰρ ἔστι τὸ ἐραστὸν τὸ τῷ ὄντι καλὸν καὶ ἁβρὸν καὶ τέλεον καὶ μακαριστόν· τὸ δέ γε ἐρῶν ἄλλην ἰδέαν τοιαύτην ἔχον, οἵαν ἐγὼ διῆλθον. »

 

TEXT 3, 175c7-d9

Τὸν οὖν Ἀγάθωνα (τυγχάνειν γὰρ ἔσχατον κατακείμενον μόνον)· « δεῦρ᾽, ἔφη φάναι, Σώκρατες, παρ᾽ ἐμὲ κατάκεισο, ἵνα καὶ τοῦ σοφοῦ ἁπτόμενός σου ἀπολαύσω, ὅ σοι προσέστη ἐν τοῖς προθύροις· δῆλον γὰρ ὅτι εὗρες αὐτὸ καὶ ἔχεις· οὐ γὰρ ἂν προαπέστης. » Καὶ τὸν Σωκράτη καθίζεσθαι καὶ εἰπεῖν ὅτι· « εὖ ἂν ἔχοι, φάναι, ὦ Ἀγάθων, εἰ τοιοῦτον εἴη ἡ σοφία ὥστ᾽ ἐκ τοῦ πληρεστέρου εἰς τὸ κενώτερον ῥεῖν, ἡμῶν ἐὰν ἁπτώμεθα ἀλλήλων, ὥσπερ τὸ ἐν ταῖς κύλιξιν ὕδωρ τὸ διὰ τοῦ ἐρίου ῥέον ἐκ τῆς πληρεστέρας εἰς τὴν κενωτέραν. »

 

TEXTS 4

4a, 206c1-d2

[Δι. –] « Κυοῦσιν γάρ, ἔφη, ὦ Σώκρατες, πάντες ἄνθρωποι καὶ κατὰ τὸ σῶμα καὶ κατὰ τὴν ψυχήν, καὶ, ἐπειδὰν ἔν τινι ἡλικίᾳ γένωνται, τίκτειν ἐπιθυμεῖ ἡμῶν ἡ φύσις· τίκτειν δὲ ἐν μὲν αἰσχρῷ οὐ δύναται, ἐν δὲ τῷ καλῷ. […] Μοῖρα οὖν καὶ Εἰλείθυια ἡ Καλλονή ἐστι τῇ γενέσει. Διὰ ταῦτα ὅταν μὲν καλῷ προσπελάζῃ τὸ κυοῦν, ἵλεών τε γίγνεται καὶ εὐφραινόμενον διαχεῖται καὶ τίκτει τε καὶ γεννᾷ· »

4b, 208e6-209b4

[Δι. –] « εἰσὶ γὰρ οὖν, ἔφη, οἳ ἐν ταῖς ψυχαῖς κυοῦσιν ἔτι μᾶλλον ἢ ἐν τοῖς σώμασιν, ἃ ψυχῇ προσήκει καὶ κυῆσαι καὶ τεκεῖν· τί οὖν προσήκει; φρόνησίν τε καὶ τὴν ἄλλην ἀρετήν. […] τούτων δ᾽ αὖ ὅταν τις ἐκ νέου ἐγκύμων ᾖ τὴν ψυχήν, θεῖος ὢν καὶ ἡκούσης τῆς ἡλικίας, τίκτειν τε καὶ γεννᾶν ἤδη ἐπιθυμῇ, ζητεῖ δὴ, οἶμαι, καὶ οὗτος περιιὼν τὸ καλὸν ἐν ᾧ ἂν γεννήσειεν· ἐν τῷ γὰρ αἰσχρῷ οὐδέποτε γεννήσει. »

 

TEXTS 5

5a. 177d7-e1: [Σω. –] « ἐγὼ […] ὃς οὐδέν φημι ἄλλο ἐπίστασθαι ἢ τὰ ἐρωτικά »

5b. 201d5: [Σω. –] « ἣ δὴ καὶ ἐμὲ τὰ ἐρωτικὰ ἐδίδαξεν »

5c. 207a5-6: [Σω. –] « Ταῦτά τε οὖν πάντα ἐδίδασκέ με, ὁπότε περὶ τῶν ἐρωτικῶν λόγους ποιοῖτο »

 

TEXT 6, 212b1-8

[Σω. –] « Ταῦτα δή, ὦ Φαῖδρέ τε καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι, ἔφη μὲν Διοτίμα, πέπεισμαι δ᾽ ἐγώ· πεπεισμένος δὲ πειρῶμαι καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους πείθειν ὅτι τούτου τοῦ κτήματος τῇ ἀνθρωπείᾳ φύσει συνεργὸν ἀμείνω Ἔρωτος οὐκ ἄν τις ῥᾳδίως λάβοι. Διὸ δὴ ἔγωγέ φημι χρῆναι πάντα ἄνδρα τὸν Ἔρωτα τιμᾶν, καὶ αὐτὸς τιμῶ τὰ ἐρωτικὰ καὶ διαφερόντως ἀσκῶ, καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις παρακελεύομαι »

 

TEXTS 7

7a. 203b1: [Δι. –] « ὅμως δέ σοι ἐρῶ »

7b. 204c7: [Σω. –] « Καὶ ἐγὼ εἶπον, ‘εἶεν δή, ὦ ξένη, καλῶς γὰρ λέγεις’ »

7c. 204d3: [Δι. –] « Εἰ δέ τις ἡμᾶς ἔροιτο· ‘τί τῶν καλῶν ἐστιν ὁ Ἔρως, ὦ Σώκρατές τε καὶ Διοτίμα;’ ὧδε δὲ σαφέστερον· ‘ἐρᾷ ὁ ἐρῶν τῶν καλῶν· τί ἐρᾷ;’ » Καὶ ἐγὼ εἶπον ὅτι « γενέσθαι αὑτῷ. – Ἀλλ᾽ ἔτι ποθεῖ, ἔφη, ἡ ἀπόκρισις ἐρώτησιν τοιάνδε· ‘τί ἔσται ἐκείνῳ ᾧ ἂν γένηται τὰ καλά;’ – Οὐ πάνυ ἔφην ἔτι ἔχειν ἐγὼ πρὸς ταύτην τὴν ἐρώτησιν προχείρως ἀποκρίνασθαι. »

 

TEXTS 8

8a, 201c2-d1

[Σω. –] « Εἰ ἄρα ὁ Ἔρως τῶν καλῶν ἐνδεής ἐστι, τὰ δὲ ἀγαθὰ καλά, κἂν τῶν ἀγαθῶν ἐνδεὴς εἴη.

[Ἀγ. –] Ἐγώ, φάναι, ὦ Σώκρατες, σοὶ οὐκ ἂν δυναίμην ἀντιλέγειν, ἀλλ᾽ οὕτως ἐχέτω ὡς σὺ λέγεις.

[Σω. –] Οὐ μὲν οὖν τῇ ἀληθείᾳ, φάναι, ὦ φιλούμενε Ἀγάθων, δύνασαι ἀντιλέγειν, ἐπεὶ Σωκράτει γε οὐδὲν χαλεπόν. Καὶ σὲ μέν γε ἤδη ἐάσω. »

8b, 201e1-11

[Σω. –] « Δοκεῖ οὖν μοι ῥᾷστον εἶναι οὕτω διελθεῖν, ὥς ποτέ με ἡ ξένη ἀνακρίνουσα διῄει. Σχεδὸν γάρ τι καὶ ἐγὼ πρὸς αὐτὴν ἕτερα τοιαῦτα ἔλεγον οἷάπερ νῦν πρὸς ἐμὲ Ἀγάθων, ὡς εἴη ὁ Ἔρως μέγας θεός, εἴη δὲ τῶν καλῶν· ἤλεγχε δή με τούτοις τοῖς λόγοις οἷσπερ ἐγὼ τοῦτον, ὡς οὔτε καλὸς εἴη κατὰ τὸν ἐμὸν λόγον οὔτε ἀγαθός. Καὶ ἐγώ, ‘πῶς λέγεις, ἔφην, ὦ Διοτίμα; αἰσχρὸς ἄρα ὁ Ἔρως ἐστὶ καὶ κακός;’

[Δι. –] Καὶ ἥ, ‘οὐκ εὐφημήσεις; ἔφη· ἢ οἴει, ὅτι ἂν μὴ καλὸν ᾖ, ἀναγκαῖον αὐτὸ εἶναι αἰσχρόν;’ »

 

TEXTS 9

9a. 215c1-8: [αλκ. –] « ὁ μέν γε δι᾽ ὀργάνων ἐκήλει τοὺς ἀνθρώπους τῇ ἀπὸ τοῦ στόματος δυνάμει, […] Σὺ δ᾽ ἐκείνου τοσοῦτον μόνον διαφέρεις, ὅτι ἄνευ ὀργάνων ψιλοῖς λόγοις ταὐτὸν τοῦτο ποιεῖς. »

9b. 216d2-3: [αλκ. –] « Ὁρᾶτε γὰρ ὅτι Σωκράτης ἐρωτικῶς διάκειται τῶν καλῶν καὶ ἀεὶ περὶ τούτους ἐστὶ καὶ ἐκπέπληκται »

 

TEXTS 10

10a, 215a7-b4

[Αλκ. –] « Φημὶ γὰρ δὴ ὁμοιότατον αὐτὸν εἶναι τοῖς σιληνοῖς τούτοις […], οὕστινας ἐργάζονται οἱ δημιουργοὶ σύριγγας ἢ αὐλοὺς ἔχοντας, οἳ διχάδε διοιχθέντες φαίνονται ἔνδοθεν ἀγάλματα ἔχοντες θεῶν. »

10b, 216d6-8

[Αλκ. –] « ἔνδοθεν δὲ ἀνοιχθεὶς πόσης οἴεσθε γέμει, ὦ ἄνδρες συμπόται, σωφροσύνης; »

10c, 216e6-217a2

[Αλκ. –] « Σπουδάσαντος δὲ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀνοιχθέντος οὐκ οἶδα εἴ τις ἑώρακεν τὰ ἐντὸς ἀγάλματα· ἀλλ᾽ ἐγὼ ἤδη ποτ᾽ εἶδον, καί μοι ἔδοξεν οὕτω θεῖα καὶ χρυσᾶ εἶναι καὶ πάγκαλα καὶ θαυμαστά, ὥστε ποιητέον εἶναι ἔμβραχυ ὅτι κελεύοι Σωκράτης »

10d, 222a1-6

[Αλκ. –] « Διοιγομένους δὲ ἰδὼν ἄν τις καὶ ἐντὸς αὐτῶν γιγνόμενος πρῶτον μὲν νοῦν ἔχοντας ἔνδον μόνους εὑρήσει τῶν λόγων, ἔπειτα θειοτάτους καὶ πλεῖστα ἀγάλματ᾽ ἀρετῆς ἐν αὑτοῖς ἔχοντας καὶ ἐπὶ πλεῖστον τείνοντας, μᾶλλον δὲ ἐπὶ πᾶν ὅσον προσήκει σκοπεῖν τῷ μέλλοντι καλῷ κἀγαθῷ ἔσεσθαι. »

 

TEXT 11, 218e3-219a2

[Σω. –] « ἀμήχανόν τοι κάλλος ὁρῴης ἂν ἐν ἐμοὶ καὶ τῆς παρὰ σοὶ εὐμορφίας πάμπολυ διαφέρον. Εἰ δὴ καθορῶν αὐτὸ κοινώσασθαί τέ μοι ἐπιχειρεῖς καὶ ἀλλάξασθαι κάλλος ἀντὶ κάλλους, οὐκ ὀλίγῳ μου πλεονεκτεῖν διανοῇ, ἀλλ᾽ ἀντὶ δόξης ἀλήθειαν καλῶν κτᾶσθαι ἐπιχειρεῖς καὶ τῷ ὄντι “χρύσεα χαλκείων” διαμείβεσθαι νοεῖς. Ἀλλ᾽, ὦ μακάριε, ἄμεινον σκόπει, μή σε λανθάνω οὐδὲν ὤν. »

 

TEXT 12, 222a7-b4

[Αλκ. –] « Καὶ μέντοι οὐκ ἐμὲ μόνον ταῦτα πεποίηκεν, ἀλλὰ καὶ Χαρμίδην τὸν Γλαύκωνος καὶ Εὐθύδημον τὸν Διοκλέους καὶ ἄλλους πάνυ πολλούς, οὓς οὗτος ἐξαπατῶν ὡς ἐραστὴς παιδικὰ μᾶλλον αὐτὸς καθίσταται ἀντ᾽ ἐραστοῦ. »

 

TEXTS 13

13a. 216c1-4: [αλκ. –] « καὶ πολλάκις μὲν ἡδέως ἂν ἴδοιμι αὐτὸν μὴ ὄντα ἐν ἀνθρώποις· εἰ δ᾽ αὖ τοῦτο γένοιτο, εὖ οἶδα ὅτι πολὺ μεῖζον ἂν ἀχθοίμην, ὥστε οὐκ ἔχω ὅτι χρήσωμαι τούτῳ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ. »

13b. 219d3-e1: [αλκ. –] « Τὸ δὴ μετὰ τοῦτο τίνα οἴεσθέ με διάνοιαν ἔχειν, ἡγούμενον μὲν ἠτιμάσθαι, ἀγάμενον δὲ τὴν τούτου φύσιν τε καὶ σωφροσύνην καὶ ἀνδρείαν, ἐντετυχηκότα ἀνθρώπῳ τοιούτῳ οἵῳ ἐγὼ οὐκ ἂν ᾤμην ποτ᾽ ἐντυχεῖν εἰς φρόνησιν καὶ εἰς καρτερίαν; ὥστε οὔθ᾽ ὅπως οὖν ὀργιζοίμην εἶχον καὶ ἀποστερηθείην τῆς τούτου συνουσίας, οὔτε ὅπῃ προσαγαγοίμην αὐτὸν ηὐπόρουν. »

13c. 219e3-5: [αλκ. –] « Ἠπόρουν δή, καταδεδουλωμένος τε ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὡς οὐδεὶς ὑπ᾽ οὐδενὸς ἄλλου περιῇα. »

 

TEXT 14: 173b1-3

Απολ. – Ἀριστόδημος ἦν τις, Κυδαθηναιεύς, σμικρός, ἀνυπόδητος ἀεί· παρεγεγόνει δ᾽ ἐν τῇ συνουσίᾳ, Σωκράτους ἐραστὴς ὢν ἐν τοῖς μάλιστα τῶν τότε, ὡς ἐμοὶ δοκεῖ.

 

TEXTS 15

15a. 172c4-173a3: απολ. – οὐκ οἶσθ᾽ ὅτι πολλῶν ἐτῶν Ἀγάθων ἐνθάδε οὐκ ἐπιδεδήμηκεν, ἀφ᾽ οὗ δ᾽ ἐγὼ Σωκράτει συνδιατρίβω καὶ ἐπιμελὲς πεποίημαι ἑκάστης ἡμέρας εἰδέναι ὅτι ἂν λέγῃ ἢ πράττῃ, οὐδέπω τρία ἔτη ἐστίν; πρὸ τοῦ δὲ περιτρέχων ὅπῃ τύχοιμι καὶ οἰόμενος τὶ ποιεῖν ἀθλιώτερος ἦ ὁτουοῦν, οὐχ ἧττον ἢ σὺ νυνί, οἰόμενος δεῖν πάντα μᾶλλον πράττειν ἢ φιλοσοφεῖν.

15b. 173c2-5: απολ. – Εἰ οὖν δεῖ καὶ ὑμῖν διηγήσασθαι, ταῦτα χρὴ ποιεῖν. Καὶ γὰρ ἔγωγε καὶ ἄλλως, ὅταν μέν τινας περὶ φιλοσοφίας λόγους ἢ αὐτὸς ποιῶμαι ἢ ἄλλων ἀκούω, χωρὶς τοῦ οἴεσθαι ὠφελεῖσθαι ὑπερφυῶς ὡς χαίρω·

 

TEXTS 16. Le zèle (μελέτη) des narrateurs

16a. 172a1: απολ. – Δοκῶ μοι περὶ ὧν πυνθάνεσθε οὐκ ἀμελέτητος εἶναι.

16b. 173c1: απολ. – ὅπερ ἀρχόμενος εἶπον, οὐκ ἀμελετήτως ἔχω. Apol.

16c. 173b4-5: απολ. – ἀλλὰ καὶ Σωκράτη γε ἔνια ἤδη ἀνηρόμην ὧν ἐκείνου ἤκουσα, καί μοι ὡμολόγει καθάπερ ἐκεῖνος διηγεῖτο.

16d. 173e7-174a2: απολ. – Ἦσαν τοίνυν ἐκεῖνοι τοιοίδε τινές – μᾶλλον δ’ ἐξ ἀρχῆς ὑμῖν ὡς ἐκεῖνος διηγεῖτο καὶ ἐγὼ πειράσομαι διηγήσασθαι.

 

WORKS CITED

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— 2005, “Plato’s Symposium and Bakhtin’s theory of the dialogical character of novelistic discourse”, in R. B. Branham (ed.), The Bakhtin Circle and Ancient Narrative, Groningen, Barkhuis Publishing/Groningen University Library, pp. 32-50.

DEAN-JONES, L. A. 1992, “The Politics of Pleasure: Female Sexual Appetite in the Hippocratic Corpus”, Helios 19, pp. 72-91.

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NOTES

[1] See Bakhtin 1970, pp. 128-55, Gold 1980, Corrigan and Glazov-Corrigan 2004 and 2005.

[2] My thanks to Michael Erler for drawing my attention on the notion of “implied reader”, as W. Iser theorised it.

[3] See Sheffield 2006, p. 44.

[4] See Nightingale 1993, p. 118.

[5] In other words, this young Socrates is endowed with a “philosophic nature” (φιλόσοφος φύσις, Rép. 410e1); as Monique Dixsaut has demonstrated, this nature was essentially erotic (Dixsaut 2001, pp. 129-86).

[6] Cf. Prot. 313c-d and Soph. 223c-224e; see Nails 2006, p. 196 and Brisson 2006, pp. 250-1.

[7] Thanks to the “biographical criticism” allowed by the Platonic dialogue (see Halperin 1992, p. 100), the reader knows that Agathon remained a poet until his death far from Athens, at the court of the tyrant Archelaus of Macedonia (see Brisson 1998, p. 25, Nails 2006, p. 205 and Corradi 2012, p. 501).

[8] See Ficino 2002, pp. 127 and 150-1, Friedländer 1964, pp. 157-9, Frede, 1993, p. 415, Horn 2012b, pp. 2 and 13.

[9] On this point see Wersinger 2012, § 49.

[10] On Diotima as a character contradicting the traditional paradigm of paiderastia, see Ast 1816, p. 312, Rosen 1968, p. 203, Dover 1980, p. 145, Halperin 1990, Dean-Jones 1992 and Hobbs 2006, p. 264.

[11] Socrates claims to have met Diotima ten years before the plague in Athens (430 B.-C.): in 440, he was roughly thirty years old, that is the age of Agathon at the moment of the banquet (416). See Athenaeus, Deipn. 217a, Robin 1929, p. XLV, Sier 2012, p. 55, n. 4, Nails 2002, pp. 8-10.

[12] On the similarities between the two characters, see Rehn, 1996, pp. 82-83.

[13] See also 210b5-6: ἑνὸς δὲ τὸ σφόδρα τοῦτο χαλάσαι καταφρονήσαντα καὶ σμικρὸν ἡγησάμενον: this passage conjures up – and legitimates – Socrates’ contempt (καταφρονεῖ, 216d9) for the particular beauties of the beautiful young men he seduces.

[14] See Reeve 2006 and Blondell 2006, p. 165.

[15] In this text, “ὥσπερ ἐπαναβασμοῖς χρώμενον” (211c3) is a lexically explicit solution to the aporia expressed by Alcidiades: “οὐκ ἔχω ὅτι χρήσωμαι τούτῳ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ” (216c4), see text 13a.

[16] About this turning – or conversion – of the soul’s eye (περιαγωγή, μεταστροφή), see Rep. VII, 518d4, 532b8 etc.

[17] See Edmonds 2000 and Destrée 2012, p. 199-200.

[18] Alcibiades is not aware of the ultimate object of his desire. On this kind of ‘akrasia’, see Bobonich 2007.

[19] About Alcibiades’ shortcomings, see also Nightingale 1993, p. 120, notes 28 and 29, and pp. 124-127.

[20] On Alcibiades’ misunderstandings, see also Belfiore 1984, p. 142-149; my analyses are highly indebted to this study. On similar misunderstandings in other dialogues, see Erler 2003.

[21] Blondell 2002, p. 107.

[22] See Wildberger 2012, p. 33 and Reeve 2006, p. 138.

[23] See Sinaiko 1965, p. 16; Belfiore 1984, p. 138; Sayre 1992, p. 231.

[24] Kosman 1992, p. 75.

[25] Calame 2005, p. 36.

[26] This is H. Neumann’s point of view (1965, p. 37: “The problem, then, in interpreting the dialogues is to sift out Plato’s meaning from that of his creations.”); this is also the esoteric reading of Tübingen-Milan scholars, see Reale 1997.

[27] Calame 2005.

 


Illustration : Henri Matisse – The Inattentive Reader © Wikimedia Commons.


 

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