The Platonic Concept of Love: The Symposium
by Dr. David Naugle
Pondus meum amor meus; eo feror quocumque feror. St. Augustine, Confessions, 13. 9. 10.
Because of the centrality and power of love in human experience, men
and women throughout the ages have felt the compulsion to sing songs, to write
verse, and to tell stories about this ineffable and mysterious force which leads
them to the peaks of felicity, and to the depths of despair. Love indeed is an
ultimate, if not the ultimate, human concern. It is the universal principle
undergirding all human activity, the object of all human striving, resulting,
naturally, in the need to examine and discuss it carefully. PlatoÃ¢ÂÂ¢s Symposium is
one such example.1 The venerable author in this ancient treatise records the
speeches of some six prominent Athenians who employ both story and verse to
convey a variety of myths and motifs about the nature and function of love (eros).
1 Most commentators on the Symposium agree that its subject matter is love. John Brentlinger believes that by giving an account of the nature of love in the Symposium, Ã¯Â¬ÂPlato means a description which classifies love (as a kind of object-directed desire) and proceeds from this to characterize and relate the objects desiredÃ¯Â¬Â (8). R. A. Marcus asserts that Ã¯Â¬Âthe dialogue as a whole . . . presents in a dramatic way PlatoÃ¢ÂÂ¢s view of loveÃ¯Â¬Â (133-34). In a bit more descriptive manner, F. A. Cornford contends that the purpose of the Ã¯Â¬ÂSymposium is to explain the significance of Eros to the lover of wisdomÃ¯Â¬Â (120). Thomas GouldÃ¢ÂÂ¢s view of the Symposium is also a bit more philosophical. He writes: Ã¯Â¬ÂThe subject of the Symposium is just that: the identity of the pursuit of the truly...