March 25, 2015
For the Love of Socrates
Socrates is dressed in his nicest clothes, fresh from a bath for the first time since anyone can remember. In the dialogue The Symposium by Plato, he is getting ready to attend Agathon’s dinner party in celebration of his victory sacrifice the day before. The men drank too much the night before, therefore it is decided that there will be little alcohol and lots of talk about which man can give the best speech. Each man at the party, going from left to right around the room, is to give a speech about what he feels love is, while trying to honor the god Love the best he can. Socrates lover Alcibiades comes to the dinner party later that evening. He is very drunk, interrupts Socrates’ speech and then asks to give his own speech about Love. Did Plato write the dialogue with Alcibiades interrupting the dinner party to change the way men talked about love and, if so, why did Plato do this?
Socrates just finished his speech about his idea of love, “when suddenly there was a great knocking at the door of the house” (Plato 212b). There was nothing a first, then the sound of a very drunk Alcibiades yelling in search of Agathon. Alcibiades comes into the house greeting the men, where they ask him to stay. He takes a spot on the couch in between Agathon and Socrates, but does not see Socrates before lying down because of all the ribbons Alcibiades has around his head. Upon seeing Socrates, Alcibiades says “What is this? Is Socrates here? You lay here, once again ambushing me, as your way is, leaping out of where I least expect you would be. And now what have you to say for yourself: why are you lying here, where I perceive that you have contrived to find a place not by a joker or lover of jokes, like Aristophanes, but by the most beautiful of the company?” (Plato 213b). Socrates takes Alcibiades accusation as a joking matter, asking Agathon to “protect” him, saying that his love affair...