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By Aristotle; Paul Moraux (trad.)

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Other reasons as well move others present to participate. Socrates at any rate proclaims that he could not refuse to praise Love, “inasmuch as [he] claims to know nothing but erotic matters,” nor could Agathon and Pausanias, to whose relationship Socrates alludes, nor Aristophanes, who “spends all his time in matters concerning Dionysus and Aphrodite” (177e). They all assent. Since Phaedrus has the head couch and is also the one who originally proposed encomia to Love and is therefore “the father of the logos” (177d), he speaks first.

Apology 22d). I shall then turn to the speeches of two of Athens’ leading poets, the comic poet Aristophanes and the tragedian Agathon. Their inadequate understandings of love and indeed of their own poetry, I argue, are indicative of Athenian decline. Socrates’ speech, which I treat in the next section, addresses those of the two poets by presenting a more comprehensive understanding of love that offers a foundation for both comic and tragic poetry as well as a view of human striving that can explain and inform political life.

12 This argument points to the universality of outlook that the two have in common, whether it be the imperialistic drive that ignores the laws and customs of particular peoples or the love of the truth that leads a philosopher to look toward “all time and all being” (see Republic 486a) rather than the opinions of particular times or places. I shall argue, in contrast, that whereas Plato uses the Symposium as an occasion to revisit the issues surrounding Socrates’ indictment, trial, and execution, he shows not the corrupting influence of Socrates on Athens but rather the mutual dependence of Socratic philosophizing and political life.

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