Socrates and Platonic Models of Love

  • Bloomsbury Academic
  • DOI: 10.5040/9781472554505.ch-002

What is it about?

In three dialogues in which Plato thematises the philosophical lover (Lysis, Symp., Phaedrus), he also generates images of Socrates' own behaviour that invite us to evaluate him in this connection. While in all cases the philosopher is distinguished from the seducer, its seems more fruitful to investigate each dialogue’s positive depiction of Socrates in relation to its own distinct model of the lover. I argue that in the Lysis an aim is to differentiate Socrates, as the would-be friend, from the lover, so as to initiate the questions of ends and natures. In Symp. he is depicted as the guide to beauty, but not himself either beautiful or a lover in his own right. In the Phaedrus he merely playacts, alternately with Phaedrus, the roles of lover and beloved during an attempt to elicit in his interlocutor a re-evaluation of the object of latter’s aesthetic desire. As Griswold argues, this dialogue shows how Socrates is only capable of assimilating himself to a lover by modelling and evaluating his interlocutor’s own eros, as a route to self-knowledge. Thus despite demonstrating that Socrates is the expert in love, these dialogues do not suggest he is adequately explained as a philosophical lover.

The following have contributed to this page: Dr Dougal Blyth