Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Plato on The Love of the Half-Creatures

Plato’s Symposium is set in a drinking party where Agathon’s victory in a dramatic competition is being celebrated. The guests at the party compete with each other in making speeches about the nature of love. Aristophanes narrates the myth of the origin of the human race. At first, he says, the humans had four arms, four legs, and so on—they were like two humans of our time fixed to each other, and they possessed enough strength and competence to challenge the hegemony of the gods. To outclass the humans, the gods split them two—thus the “half-creatures,” the humans with two legs, two arms, and so on, came into being. From that point of time, the men, who were transformed into the half-creatures, have been lusting for the other half of their body. They ineffectively try to satiate this lust through sexual love of the opposite sex. When a man loves a woman, or a woman loves a man, they are, at a subconscious  level, trying to love the lost half of their own body. In his speech, Socrates spoke about what he had learned from the priestess Diotima, who preached that love is never satisfied with anything in this world, because nothing in this world can be good. You have to make an ascent from the particulars of this world to the abstractions of the world of Forms to discover the good.

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