Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Plato and Benardete

Seth Benardete from his Commentary on Plato's Symposium:

"Pride made man scale heaven, shame made him realize his defectiveness. Eros, then, is an ever-to-be-thwarted longing for a second try on heaven. We turn to each other in lieu of our rebellion against the gods." 

And from the Symposium itself: 

"For wisdom is one of the most beautiful things, and Eros is love in regard to the beautiful; and so Eros is--necessarily--a philosopher; and as a philosopher he is between being wise and being without understanding." (from Mr. Benardete's translation, 204b)

Does this mean we turn to philosophy in lieu of rebelling against the gods?

And again from the Symposium:

"And after these pursuits, he must lead [the beloved] on to the sciences, so that he [himself, the lover] may see the beauty of sciences, and in looking at the beautiful, which is now so vast, no longer be content like a lackey with the beauty in one, of a boy, of some human being, or of one practice, nor be a sorry sort of slave and petty calculator; but with a permanent turn to the vast open sea of the beautiful, behold it and give birth--in ungrudging philosophy--to many beautiful and magnificent speeches and thoughts..." (210c-d)

Thus, we must not be content with the beauty of an individual or of an activity/practice. This seems to suggest that philosophic activity is not the aim of eros, rather it is a side-effect of it. And yet, one is to give birth in ungrudging philosophy. And, one is to give birth to speeches and thoughts. Speeches to what purpose? One does not simply speak without purpose. Does this mean there is an implicit aim behind philosophy? Is philosophy different from philosophic activity? Why this emphasis on beauty? Isn't Socrates concerned with the good, not the beautiful? What is the difference?  

Comments would be appreciated. 

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