Plato's Erotic World: From Cosmic Origins to Human Death
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Plato's entire fictive world is permeated with philosophical concern for eros, well beyond the so-called erotic dialogues. Several metaphysical, epistemological, and cosmological conversations - Timaeus, Cratylus, Parmenides, Theaetetus, and Phaedo - demonstrate that eros lies at the root of the human condition and that properly guided eros is the essence of a life well lived. This book presents a holistic vision of eros, beginning with the presence of eros at the origin of the cosmos and the human soul, surveying four types of human self-cultivation aimed at good guidance of eros, and concluding with human death as a return to our origins. The book challenges conventional wisdom regarding the "erotic dialogues" and demonstrates that Plato's world is erotic from beginning to end: the human soul is primordially erotic and the well cultivated erotic soul can best remember and return to its origins, its lifelong erotic desire.
eros as fundamental to other philosophical concerns in the dialogues. Metaphysical, epistemological, and cosmological issues are greatly enriched by seeing their rootedness in eros. By entering conversations with scholars on seemingly non-erotic dialogues, as well as those working on the “erotic dialogues,” the project crosses borders that carve out the existing conceptual landscape in Platonic studies. The project challenges the conventional wisdom regarding, for example, what is an ontological
between Protagoras and Cratylus and explains what could have been a distraction much more beautiful than Alcibiades. Lest the reader forget entirely about Alcibiades, who was mentioned in the opening lines of the dialogue, he reappears here speaking on Socrates’ behalf, just as Socrates told the Friend he did (309b). Though Socrates said he forgot about Alcibiades most of the time (θαμά), this passage, some twenty-five Stephanus pages later, represents one of those moments when Socrates is
Questioning 72 erotic desire, Alcibiades’ intercession in Protagoras pushes the conversation in an erotic direction. Protagoras describes the practice at which Socrates is expert as dialectic (dialegesthai). In Cratylus, the dialectiÂ� cian (dialektikon) is the person who is expert in asking questions and who therefore oversees naming activities (Cratylus 390c), and in the etymologies Socrates identifies dialecticians (dialektikoi) with heroes, those born of eros between human and divine and
stand-in.37 On this cruder reading, Carson (2005, 148). See the discussion in Scanlon (2002, 309 ff.). Scanlon also discusses textual instances in Homer, Sophocles, and Pindar, the latter of whom explicitly discusses the nature of deeds “wrapped in risk” in an ode for the mule-cart race (310) (citing Pindar, Pythian Odes 5.49–51). 35 It is unclear how much one would want to make of the imagery of horses in the historical Parmenides’ poem, where the narrator is carried away by horses to the
loves (ὅτου δὲ ἀπορεῖ). He does not understand, and cannot explain, what has happened to him.â•›.â•›.â•›. So, when the lover is near, the boy’s pain is relieved just as the lover’s is, and 172 Self-Knowledge when they are apart he yearns as much as he is yearned for, because he has a mirror image of eros (εἴδωλον ἔρωτος) in himÂ€– anterosÂ€– though he neither speaks nor thinks of it as love (ἔρωτος), but as friendship (φιλίαν). (Phaedrus 255b7–e2)36 Here, as in Alcibiades I, eros is