Plato's Erotic World: From Cosmic Origins to Human Death
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Plato's entire fictive world is permeated with philosophical concern for eros, well beyond the so-called erotic dialogues. Several metaphysical, epistemological, and cosmological conversations - Timaeus, Cratylus, Parmenides, Theaetetus, and Phaedo - demonstrate that eros lies at the root of the human condition and that properly guided eros is the essence of a life well lived. This book presents a holistic vision of eros, beginning with the presence of eros at the origin of the cosmos and the human soul, surveying four types of human self-cultivation aimed at good guidance of eros, and concluding with human death as a return to our origins. The book challenges conventional wisdom regarding the "erotic dialogues" and demonstrates that Plato's world is erotic from beginning to end: the human soul is primordially erotic and the well cultivated erotic soul can best remember and return to its origins, its lifelong erotic desire.
counselors the pair of them; and anger, difficult to appease; and hope, easy to seduce; and having blended them all together with irrational sensation and all-venturing eros (ἐπιχειρητῇ παντὸς ἔρωτι), they put together the mortal kind, as was necessary. And for these very reasons, they, in reverential fear of defiling the divine, and doing so only if this was an utter necessity, go about settling the mortal kind separate from it. (69c3–e1)11 Those who hold to the traditional view argue that this
metaphorically in gymnastic training is thus erotically charged, steeped in Athenian practices and institutions that link physical prowess, military valor, and male eroticism. Parmenides is encouraging Socrates, in part, to become philosophically naked and to contest courageously for the truth. This is one place where Socrates’ youth is emphasized as an asset. As we shall see, the rigorous, erotic training one needs to pursue such philosophical questions, like that required for athletic contests,
in Parmenides. We are told that Antiphon, who reluctantly tells the tale of the conversation between Parmenides and Socrates, is “like his grandfather and namesake, now occupied for the most part with horses” (126c7–8).38 When Glaucon and Adeimantus approach Antiphon, asking him to recount Socrates and Parmenides’ conversation, Antiphon is in the act of ordering a horse’s bit (χαλινόν, 127a2) from a smith, an item necessary for a man to exercise control over a powerful horse. Antiphon at first
of language. You will never reach any conclusion with any of them, ever; indeed they never reach any conclusion with each other, they are so very care ful not to allow anything to be stable, either in an argument or in their own souls. (Theaetetus 180a3–b1) Socrates responds to Theodorus’s military description of fighting, campaigning, and slinging arrows by saying that Theodorus has only seen these people “in battle” and perhaps they provide expla nations “in times of peace” to their
on mimetic irony. Parts of this chapter appeared earlier as “Eros and Philosophical Seduction in the Alcibiades I,” Ancient Philosophy, 23:1, Spring 2003, 11–30. 146 Self-Knowledge 147 feature discussions of self-knowledge.2 Because the dialogues that expressly discuss self-knowledge are among the traditional “erotic Â�dialogues,” my approach is slightly different in this chapter than in previous chapters. Instead of examining a dialogue traditionally viewed as non-erotic, I shall