Symposium by Plato

Symposium by Plato Summary and Analysis of The Speech of Pausanias

Phaedrus’ speech was followed by several others which Aristodemus remembered poorly, so Apollodorus continued on to tell of Pausanias’ speech. Pausanias began by reminding the gathering that their purpose was to give speeches praising Love. However, he claims there are two kinds of Love, for which reason he describes them both before giving praise to the one he thinks is worthy.

Love and Aphrodite are inseparable and Aphrodite is actually two goddesses, for which reason there are two kinds of Love. One is Urania, known as Heavenly Aphrodite, and the younger is Pandemos, known as Common Aphrodite, so accordingly there exists Heavenly Love and Common Love. They are both to be praised, as all gods and actions are, but praise depends on how the actions are performed; the praise and nobility of Love depends on the sentiments he produces in us.

Common Love strikes when he gets the chance, felt by the vulgar, more attached to the body than the soul. All he cares about is performing the sexual act and happens more commonly between the female and male, a reflection of Pandemos’ parentage. Heavenly Love is purely between males, more preoccupied by the mind and soul. It is among males since they find pleasure in what is stronger and more intelligent. Phaedrus then condemns affairs with young boys, a common practice, due to those lovers who use these relationships for vulgar purposes, giving all others a bad reputation.

Relationships and customs therefore are complex. By contrasting these in Athens and the Persian empire, he explains that condemnation of Love reveals lust for power in rulers and cowardice of the population. In the Persian empire, love, sport, and philosophy are condemned so that the ruled do not form other ambitions or bonds amongst themselves. These three activities stop tyrannies.

Customs in Athens regarding Love are complex and superior to others. He goes on to claim that the freedom given to lovers is expansive. It is considered honorable to declare your love, regardless of the result. However, if a person attempting to secure a public post were to perform shameful acts (that a lover would be willing to perform as well), he would be humiliated.

However, customs about approaching Love are complex in Athens. While it is strongly encouraged that a boy accept the advances of an older man, the boy is teased so and fathers hire attendants to prevent contact between boys and their suitors, presenting the appearance of shame to an outsider. Ultimately, Pausanias thinks that actions surrounding love depend on behaviors. If one gives themselves to a vile man in a vile way, it is disgraceful behavior, but it is honorable if one honorably accepts a right man. He describes vile ways as being the common, vulgar lover who loves the body, an unstable thing, over the soul.

Proper attitude toward the lover must be combined with the seeking of gaining wisdom and virtue to honorably accept a lover. Customs are designed to weed out right over vile Love. It is considered shameful to comply too quickly and to be seduced by money or political power. Honorably taking a man as a lover results in Heavenly Love. It is never shameful to willingly subject to love is if the subjection is for the sake of virtue--if yielding to a lover is for the sake of making oneself better in wisdom or other virtues. The two principles of attitude and seeking of virtue will only completely coincide if both the boy is eager to be improved and the lover is able and wanting to teach his beloved. However, if one of the parties is deceived, that person is still considered noble. Regardless of the outcome, a person willing to do anything for the sake of virtue is honorable; this is Heavenly Love.

At this point, Pausanias paused to allow Aristodemus to speak, but as he was hiccupping, Eryximachus continued.


Pausanias introduces the theme of virtue that runs throughout the speeches, particularly becoming important in Socrates’ (or Diotima’s) speech. He also establishes a dichotomy between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ types of Love. This division of twos runs throughout the speeches and the conversations among Agathon’s guests throughout the dialogues. The categories imply that different types of love can be ranked, crudely anticipating the rungs in the “ascent of love” described in Diotima’s speech. However, in the latter’s point of view, even physical beauty is important to cultivate virtue, while Pausanias solely describes it as vulgar.

Law and societal rules are also introduced by Pausanias. He states that societal rules play an important role in the cultivation of virtue, which can be compared to Diotima’s fourth rung of her ladder, where the lover appreciates the beauty of different laws and customs. Pausanias establishes beautiful deeds as standard of goodness and these actions are performed in accordance with an unwritten law. While this “law” differs in the ends for the lover and beloved (aiming for success and virtue, respectively), for both the end justifies the means. This “law” is essentially the law of selfishness: everything is subordinate to one’s personal goal.

However, identifying goodness with lawfulness, as Pausanias does so, has holes in the argument. Laws everywhere are different, so conception of goodness will be different. Pausanias therefore claims that not laws are equally good, establishing an extra-legal concept of goodness. His ultimate concern is with unwritten law of selfishness, rather than lawfulness proper, but his critique of the lack of selfishness in the laws in the Persian empire imply selfishness needs law in order to prosper. Even within his concern with unwritten law, it is impossible to universalize selfishness as a criterion for goodness, since by definition selfishness is an exception.

However, this focus on law is important because it is one of the ways in which his speech will be incorporated into Agathon and Diotima's speech. Pheadrus focused on the virtue of bravery and Pausanias focused on Justice, one of the four cardinal virtues that Agathon references in speaking about the moral character of love in his speech.

The tone of Pausanias’ speech is self-serving and self-righteous, such as his attitude when discussing public law and his views on specific good acts to be virtuous. The narrator’s reference to Aristophanes’ hiccuping at the end implies it began through his speech and may even have been exploited to make fun of the speaker. This contrast between Pausanias giving a serious speech and possibly being mocked by Aristophanes complements the shifts in tone throughout the speeches and among the guests.