Mediations Concerning Love as a Function in Regard to the Symposium Essays

Submitted By anaisnin
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The Symposium is difficult to decipher, given the remote access I am permitted to the context of it's creation, but I believe that by first attempting to select Plato's motivations when writing it, one can gain a better lens with which to interpret it's intended meaning, and subsequently judge its truth values. Some of the writing may be focused as a critique on the Athenian convention of Paiderastia, or the normal practive of teenage boys (erômenos, pais) taking on an older lover (erastês) whom is meant to instill virtue unto the young lover. Thus, Socrates' instillation of Platonic love and mental reproduction, and it's higher valuation of mental reproduction could be interpreted as an attempt by Plato to illuminate the absurdity of instilling virtue through the sexual gratification of middle aged men. Though, Socrates does not address the issue of sex directly, but instead circumvents the topic with reference to reproduction. As his argument is laid out, one realizes that there is only one motivation in love, and two possible actions offered. The sole motivation is said by Diotima to be reproduction, which can manifest as either physical or mental. Given a predisposition to physically procreate, a man may choose to engage in sexual activity with a woman; if given a predisposition to mental procreation a man's only option is to engage in philosophical discussion for the purpose of generating creative ideas. The pitfalls of this argument are many, but if we assume that love does instigate the desire to procreate, in either sense, we are still left with a few loose ends. Diotima's theory of love, 1. Gives no option of mental procreation with women, and 2. Does not address issues of homoeroticism. Within the mutually exclusive categories of sex with a woman, versus philosophical discourse with a man, the issue of Paiderastia remains free of judgement and acknowledgment. It is well known that in Greece it was common of men to have long term, loving partnerships with one another, which generally included sexual relations. Diotima's claim that love's purpose is solely procreation in some form seems counterintuitive, given the impossibility of physical reproduction through homosexual intercourse. I did notice something very peculiar about Diotima's theory of love/reproduction, in contrast to the homoerotic antics of yesteryear's Greece. As has been established, homosexuality, or bisexuality was a predominant norm in Athenian culture. Additionally, men who preferred heterosexual relations were then seen to harbor more effeminate qualities, while homosexuals were seen as more masculine (2). Obviously the inverse of this mentality is seen in today's culture. This reminded me of Freud and his essays on human sexuality. In his preliminary findings Freud referred to homosexuality as inversion, and conceived of it as such(3) . This inability to be aroused by a sex different from one's own seems to imply that the ancient Greek's sexual attraction was driven by similarities, and so sameness and consensus were standards of good. I believe that this sort of same-seeking can generally be predicted to end in stagnation- in searching for an individual most similar to oneself, one is seeking to form a bond with someone whom he can only relate to, but cannot impress or be impressed upon by. But regardless of my half baked theories on why mitigated opposites attract, there is the more verifiable knowledge that genetic pairing of two similar gene sets is far less advantageous to any species than that of a larger gene pool. Therefore this attraction to similarity serves no advantage, not to mention the implicit genetic redundancy of homosexual sex. Diotima's theory of love follows roughly as such: love is a spiritual wisdom acting as an intermediate between god and man, divinity and mortality, ignorance and knowledge, and good and evil. Born of Poros and Penia (Resource and Poverty), the "spirit" of love was…