Symposium by Plato

Love in the Time of the Symposium College

There is no one uniformly agreed-upon notion of love: it is one of the few concepts that people allow to be defined by its subjectivity. In fact, love thrives on the subjective. Exemplifying this point, in Plato’s Symposium some of the greatest minds of Ancient Greece all gather in the home of the poet Agathon and discuss the nature of love. What arises is a series of diverse speeches that reflect multiple philosophies of love, and while they do not arrive toward a conclusion, they certainly reflect the eternal struggle to understand the phenomenon. Aristophanes’s speech resonates in particular: he claims the true essence of love lies in the seeking of our other halves, regardless of gender. In making such a claim, he indicates love’s true nature as a selfish act disguised as a selfless one. He asserts that while we may not consciously understand our rampant desire for love, it is a compulsion entrenched in us from our very origin. Out of all the speeches in the Symposium, Aristophanes’s most precisely points out the ineffable but uncontrollable sensation.

If taken as an allegory, Aristophanes’s description of love speaks to a human desire to find the most fulfilling connection with a significant other. In the vein of a...

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