PAUSANIAS' SPEECH (180c-186d)
[As translated in Symposium of Plato, translated by Tom Griffith, Berkeley, 1989.]
Phaedrus, I don't think we've been very accurate in defining our subject for discussion. We've simply said that we must make a speech in praise of Eros. That would be fine, if there were just one Eros. In fact, however, there isn't. And since there isn't, we would do better to define first which Eros we are to praise. I am going to try to put things straight - first defining which Eros we are supposed to be praising, and then trying to praise the god as he deserves.
We are all well aware, I take it, that without Eros there is no Aphrodite. If there were only one Aphrodite, there would be one Eros. However, since there are in fact two Aphrodites, it follows that Eros likewise must be two. There's no doubt about there being two Aphrodites; the older has no mother, and is the daughter of Heaven. We call her Heavenly Aphrodite. The younger is the daughter of Zeus and Dione, and we call her Common Aphrodite. It follows that the Eros who assists this Aphrodite should also, properly speaking, be called Common Eros, and the other Heavenly Eros. We certainly ought to praise all the gods, but we should also attempt to define what is the proper province of each.
It is in general true of any activity that, simply in itself, it is neither good nor bad. Take what we're doing now, for example - that is to say drinking, or singing, or talking. None of these is good or bad in itself, but each becomes so, depending on the way it is done. Well and rightly done, it is good; wrongly done, it is bad. And it's just the same with loving, and Eros. It's not all good, and doesn't all deserve praise. The Eros we should praise is the one which encourages people to love in the right way.
The Eros associated with Common Aphrodite is, in all senses of the word, common, and quite haphazard in his operation. This is the love of the man in the street. For a start, he is as likely to fall in love with women as with boys. Secondly, he falls in love with their bodies rather than their minds. Thirdly, he picks the most unintelligent people he can find, since all he's interested in is the sexual act. He doesn't care whether it's done in the right way or not. That is why the effect of this Eros is haphazard - sometimes good, sometimes the reverse. This love derives its existence from the much younger Aphrodite, the one composed equally of the female and male elements.
The other Eros springs from Heavenly Aphrodite, and in the first place is composed solely of the male element, with none of the female (so it is the love of boys we are talking about), and in the second place is older and hence free from lust. In consequence, those inspired by this love turn to the male, attracted by what is naturall stronger and of superior intelligence. And even among those who love boys you can tell the ones whose love is purely heavenly. They only fall in love with boys old enough to think for themselves - in other words, with boys who are nearly grown up.
Those who start a love affair with boys of that age are prepared, I think, to be friends, and live together, for life. The others are deceivers, who take advantage of youthful folly, and then quite cheerfully abandon their victims in search of others There ought really be a law against loving young boys, to stop so much energy being expended on an uncertain end. After all, no-one knows how good or bad, in mind and body, young boys will eventually turn out. Good men voluntarily observe this rule, but the common lovers I am talking about should be compelled to do the same. Just as we stop them, so far as we can, falling in love with free women. They are actually the people who have brought the thing into disrepute, with the result that some people even go so far as to say that it is wrong to satisfy your lover. It is the common lover they have in mind when they say this, regarding his demands as premature and unfair to the boy. Surely nothing done with restraint and decency could reasonably incur criticism.
What is more, while sexual conventions in other states are clear-cut and easy to understand, here and in Sparta, by contrast, they are complex. In Elis, for example, or Boeotia, and places where they are not sophisticated in their use of language, it is laid down, quite straightforwardly, that it is right to satisfy your lover. No-one, old or young, would say it was wrong, and the reason, I take it, is that they don't want to have all the trouble of trying to persuade them verbally, when they're such poor speakers. On the other hand, in Ionia, and many other places under Persian rule, it is regarded as wrong, that is because the Persians' system of government (dictatorships) makes them distrust it, just as they distrust philosophy and communal exercise. It doesn't suit the rulers that their subjects should think noble thoughts, nor that they should form the strong friendships or attachments which these activities, and in particular love, tend to produce. Dictators here in Athens learnt the same lesson by experience. The relationship between Harmodius and his lover Aristogeiton was strong enough to put an end to the dictators' rule.
In short, the convention that satisfying your lover is wrong is the result of the moral weakness of those who observe the convention - the rulers' desire for power, and their subjects' cowardice. The belief that it is always right can be attributed to mental laziness. Our customs are much better but, as I said, not easy to understand. Think about it - let's take the lover first. Open love is regarded as better than secret love, and so is love of the noblest and best people, even if they are not the best-looking. In fact, there is remarkable encouragement of the lover from all sides. He is not regarded as doing anything wrong; it is a good thing if he gets what he wants, and a shame if he doesn't. And when it comes to trying to get what he wants, we give the lover permission to do the most amazing things, and be applauded for them - things which, if he did them with any other aim or intention, would cover him in reproach. Think of the way lovers behave towards the boys they love - think of the begging and entreating involved in their demands, the oaths they swear, the nights they spend sleeping outside the boys' front doors, the slavery they are prepared to endure (which no slave would put up with). If they behaved like this for money, or position, or influence of any kind, they would be told to stop by friends and enemies alike. Their enemies would call their behaviour dependent and servile, while their friends would censure them sharply, and even be embarrassed for them. And yet a lover can do all these things, and be approved of. Custom attaches no blame to his actions, since he is reckoned to be acting the wholly honourable way. The strangest thing of all is that, in many people's opinion, the lover has a unique dispensation from the gods to swear an oath and then break it. Lovers' vows, apparently, are not binding.
So far, then, gods and men alike give all kinds of licence to a lover, and an observer of Athenian life might conclude that it was an excellent thing, in this city, both to be a lover and to be friendly to lovers. But when we come to the boy, the position is quite different. Fathers give their sons escorts, when men fall in love with them, and don't allow them to talk to their lovers - and those are the escort's instructions as well. The boy's peers and friends jeer at him if they see anything of the kind going on, and when their elders see them jeering they don't stop them, or tell them off, as they should if the jeers were unjustified. Looking at this side of things, you would come to the opposite conclusion - that this kind of thing is here regarded as highly reprehensible.
The true position, I think, is this. Going back to my original statement, there isn't one single form of love. So love is neither right nor wrong in itself. Done rightly, it is right; done wrongly, it is wrong. It is wrong if you satisfy the wrong person, for the wrong reasons, right if you satisfy the right person, for the right reasons. The wrong person is the common lover I was talking about - the one who loves the body rather than the mind. His love is not lasting, since what loves is not lasting either. As soon as the youthful bloom of the body (which is what he loves) starts to fade, he 'spreads his wings and is off,' as they say, making a mockery of all his speeches and promises. On the other hand, the man who loves a boy for his good character will stick to him for life, since he has attached himself to what is lasting.
Our customs are intended to test these lovers well and truly, and get the boys to satisfy the good ones, and avoid the bad. That's why we encourage lovers to chase after boys, but tell the boys not to caught. In this way we set up a trial and a test, to see which category the lover comes in, and which category the boy he loves comes in. This explains a number of things - for instance, why it's thought wrong for a boy to let himself be caught too quickly. It is felt that some time should elapse, since time is a good test of most things. And why it is wrong to be caught by means of money or political influence - whether it's a case of the boy being threatened, and yielding rather than holding out, or a case of being offered some financial or political inducement, and not turning it down. No affair of this kind is likely to be stable or secure, quite apart from the fact that it is no basis for true friendship.
There is just one way our customs leave it open for a boy to satisfy his lover, and not be blamed for it. It is permissible, as I have said, for a lover to enter upon any kind of voluntary slavery he may choose, and be the slave of the boy he loves. This is not regarded as self seeking, or in any way demeaning. Similarly there is one other kind of voluntary slavery which is not regarded as demeaning. That is the slavery of the boy, in his desire for improvement. It can happen that a boy chooses to serve a man, because he thinks that by association with him he will improve in wisdom in some way, or in some other form of goodness. This kind of voluntary slavery, like the other, is widely held among us not to be wrong, and not to be self-seeking.
So it can only be regarded as right for a boy to satisfy his lover if both these conditions are satisfied - both the lover's behaviour, and the boy's desire for wisdom and goodness. Then the lover and the boy have the same aim, and each has the approval of convention - the lover because he is justified in performing any service he chooses for a boy who satisfies him, the boy because he is justified in submitting, in any way he will, to the man who can make him wise and good. So if the lover has something to offer in the way of sound judgment and moral goodness, and if the boiy is eager to accept this contribution to his education and growing wisdom, then, and only then, this favourable combination makes it right for a boy to satisfy his lover. In no other situation is it right.
Nor, in this situation, is there any disgrace in making a mistake, whereas in all other situations it is equally a disgrace to be mistaken or not. For example, suppose a boy satisfies his lover for money, taking him to be rich. If he gets it wrong, and doesn't get any money, because the lover turns out to be poor, it is still regarded as immoral, because the boy who does this seems to be revealing his true character, and declaring that he would do anything for anyone in return for money. And that is not a good way to behave. Equally, a boy may satisfy a man because he thinks he is a good man, and that he himself will become better through his friendship. If he gets it wrong, and his lover turns out to be a bad man, of little moral worth, still there is something creditable about his mistake. He too seems to have revealed his true character - namely, that he is eager to do anything for anyone in return for goodness and self-improvement. And this is the finest of all qualities.
So it is absolutely correct for boys to satisfy their lovers, if it is done in pursuit of goodness. This is the love which comes from the heavenly goddess; it is itself heavenly, and of great value to state and individual alike, since it compels both lover and boy to devote a lot of attention to their own moral improvement. All other sorts of love derive from the other goddess, the common one.
Well, Phaedrus, that's the best I can offer, without preparation, on the subject of Eros.
Pausanias paused (sorry about the pun - sophistic influence). After that it was Aristophanes' turn to speak. But he had just got hiccups. I don't know if it was from eating too much, or for some other reason; anyway he was unable to make his speech. All he could say, since Eryximachus, the doctor, happened to be sitting just below him, was this: 'Eryximachus, you're just the man. Either get rid of my hiccups, or speak instead of me until they stop.'
'I'll do both. I'll take your turn to speak, & when you get rid of your hiccups, you can take mine. While I'm speaking, try holding your breath for a long time, to see if they stop. Failing that, gargle with some water. And if they are very severe tickle your nose and make yourself sneeze. Do that once or twice, and they'll stop, however severe.'
'Will you please speak first, then?' said Aristophanes. 'And I'll do as you suggest.'
Pausanias made an impressive start to his speech, but I do not think he brought it to a very satisfactory conclusion. So I think it is important that I should try to complete his account. His analysis of the twofold nature of Eros seems to me to be a valuable distinction. But I cannot accept his implication that Eros is found only in human hearts, and is aroused only by human beauty. I am a doctor by profesaon, and it has been my observation, I would say, throughout my professional career, that Eros is aroused by many other things as well, and that he is found in nature - in the physical life of all animals, in plants that grow in the ground, and in virtually all living organisms. My conclusion is that he is great and awe-inspiring, this god, and that his influence is unbounded, both in the human realm and in the divine.
I will begin by talking about my medical experience, to show my respect for my profession. The nature of the human body shows this twofold Eros, since it is generally agreed that health and sickness in the body are separate and unalike, and that unlike is attracted to unlike and desires it. So there is one force of attraction for the healthy, and another for the sick. Pausanias was talking just now about it being right to satisfy men, if they are good men, but wriong if all they are interested in is physical pleasure. It is just the same with the body. It is right to satisfy the good and healthy elements in the body, and one should do so. We call this 'medicine.' Conversely it is wrong to satisfy the bad, unhealthy elements, and anyone who is going to be a skilled doctor should deny these elements.
Medical knowledge is thus essentially knowledge of physical impulses or desires for ingestion or evacuation. In this, the man who can distinguish healthy desires from unhealthy is the best doctor ...
[As translated in Selected Dialogues of Plato, The Benjamin Jowett
Translation, revised and with an introduction by Hayden Pelliccia,
New York, 2000.]
... When Agathon had done speaking, Aristodemus said, there was a general cheer; the young man was thought to have spoken in a manner worthy of himself, and of the god. And Socrates, looking at Eryximachus, said: "Tell me, son of Acumenus, did I fear then a fear not to be feared? Or was I not a true prophet when I said that Agathon would make a wonderful oration, and that I should be left high and dry?"
"The part of the prophecy which concerns Agathon," replied Eryximachus, "appears to me to be true; but not the other part - that you will be left high and dry."
"Why, my dear friend," said Socrates, "must not I or anyone be helpless who has to speak after he has heard such a rich and varied discourse? It was all marvelous, but I am especially struck with the beauty of the concluding words and expressions - who could listen to them without amazement? As I reflected that I would be able to produce not one utterance even approaching the beauty of these, I would have run away for shame, if I had had some way out. For the speech reminded me of Gorgias, so that I literally had that experience mentioned in Homer: I feared that in his speech Agathon would send up against my speech a head of Gorgias, dread rhetorician, and turn me to stone with speechlessness." And then I perceived how ridiculous I had been when I consented to take my turn with you in praising Love, and said that I was a past master in matters of Love, when I really had no conception how anything ought to be praised. For in my simplicity I imagined that it was necessary to state the facts about any given topic for praise, and that this was to be the groundwork, and from these facts the speaker was to choose the best and set them forth in the most fitting manner. And I felt quite proud, thinking that I knew the nature of true praise and should speak well. Whereas I now see that all along the right way to praise something was not that, but rather to attribute to it every species of greatness and glory, whether really belonging to it or not, without regard to truth or falsehood - that was no matter; for the original proposal seems to have been not that each of you should really praise Love, but only that you should appear to praise him. And so you attribute to Love every imaginable form of praise that can be gathered anywhere; and you say that 'he is all this,' and 'the cause of all that,' making him appear the most beautiful and best of all to those who know him not, for you cannot impose upon those who know him. And a noble and solemn hymn of praise you have rehearsed. But since I misunderstood the nature of the praise when I said that I would take my turn, I must ask to be absolved from the promise that I made in ignorance: 'My tongue swore, but my heart did not' (as Euripides would say). Let's say good-bye, then, to that approach: for I do not praise in that way; no, in fact, I cannot. But if you wish to hear the truth about Love, I am ready to speak in my own manner, though I will not make myself ridiculous by entering into any rivalry with you. Say then, Phaedrus, whether you would like to have the truth about Love, spoken in any words and in any order that may happen to come into my mind at the time."
Aristodemus said that Phaedrus and the company urged him to speak in any manner he thought best. "Then," Socrates added, "let me have your permission first to ask Agathon a few more questions, in order that I may get his agreement on some points before I give my speech."
"I grant the permission," said Phaedrus. "Put your questions." Socrates then proceeded as follows:
"I very much think that you started off your speech in the right way, my dear Agathon, in proposing to describe the nature of Love first and afterward his works - that is a way of beginning which I very much approve. And as you have spoken so eloquently of his nature, may I ask you further, Is Love such a sort of thing as to be of something or somebody, or is it of nothing or nobody? Now, I am not asking if Love is 'of somebody' in a sense of being genealogically derived from, or of belonging to, some mother or father. And, of course, to ask if Love is erotic love of, that is, for a mother or father would be grotesque. But actually that grotesquerie points at the usage I am getting at: just as if I should pose this very question about 'father' instead of about Love, I would say, Is a father a father of somebody or not? And obviously you would reply, if you were of a mind to reply cooperatively, by saying that a father is a father of a son or a daughter. Or am I wrong?"
"You are clearly right," said Agathon.
"And you would say the same of a mother?"
"Yet let me ask you one more question in order to illustrate my meaning: Is not a brother to be regarded essentially as a brother of something?"
"Certainly," he replied.
"That is, of a brother or sister?"
"Yes," he said.
"And now," said Socrates, 'I will ask about Love: Is Love of something or of nothing?"
"Of something, surely," he replied.
"That something of which Love is - precisely what it is please remember and save for later; for now only tell me whether Love desires it; that is, does Love desire that something of which Love is?"
"And does he possess, or does he not possess, that which he loves and desires?"
"Probably not, I should say."
"Consider whether 'necessarily' is not rather the word," Socrates said, "instead of your 'probably.' The inference that he who desires something lacks it, and that he does not desire something if he does not lack it, is in my judgment, Agathon, absolutely and necessarily true. What do you think?"
"I agree with you," said Agathon.
"Very good. Would he who is large want to be large, or he who is strong want to be strong?"
"That would be inconsistent with our previous admissions."
"True. For he who is anything cannot be in lack of those things which he is?"
"And yet," added Socrates, "if a man who was strong wanted to be strong, or who was swift wanted to be swift, or who was healthy wanted to be healthy, in that case it might be thought, in connection with these attributes and all such things, that those who are such and possess these attributes also want these attributes which they already possess. I give the example in order that we may avoid misconception. For the possessors of these qualities, Agathon, must be supposed to have their respective advantages at the time, whether they like it or not; and who can want that which he has? Therefore, when a person says, 'I am healthy and want simply to be healthy,' and 'I am rich and want to be rich' - to him we shall reply: 'You, my friend, having wealth and health and strength, want to have the continuance of them; for at this moment, whether you choose to or not, you have them. And when you say, 'I want that which I have,' isn't your meaning that you want to have what you now have also in the future?' He must agree with us - mustn't he?"
"He must," replied Agathon.
"Then," said Socrates, "he desires that these things, preserved for him and supplied to him, be his in the future, which is equivalent to saying that he desires something which is not yet available to him, and which as yet he has not got."
"Very true," he said.
"Then he and every one who desires, desires that which he does not have already, and with which he is not supplied, and which he does not possess, and which he is not, and of which he is in want - these are the sorts of things that love and desire seek?"
"Very true," he said.
"Now then," said Socrates, "let us recapitulate the argument. First, isn't Love of something, and, then, isn't that 'something' whatever thing he is supplied with lack of?"
"Yes," he replied.
"This being so, recall to mind what you said in your speech was Love's object. If you wish, I will recall it for you: You said that the spheres and activities of the gods were established and determined by love of the beautiful; for there is no love for the ugly. Did you not say something of that kind?"
"Yes," said Agathon.
"Yes, my friend, and the remark was a just one. And if this is true, Love is the love of beauty and not of ugliness?"
"And has not the admission already been made that Love is of what is lacked and not now possessed?"
"Yes," he said.
"Then Love lacks and does not possess beauty?"
"Necessarily," he replied.
"And would you call that beautiful which wants and does not possess beauty in any way?"
"Then would you still say that Love is beautiful?"
Agathon replied, "I fear that I did not know what I was saying."
"And yet you made a very good speech, Agathon," replied Socrates. "But there is still one small question that I would like to ask you: Isn't the good also beautiful?"
"So if Love lacks the beautiful, and the good is beautiful, then Love also lacks the good."
"Far be it from me to contradict you, Socrates," said Agathon. "Let us assume that what you say is true."
"Say instead, beloved Agathon, that you cannot refute the truth; for Socrates is easily refuted.
"And now, taking my leave of you, Agathon, I will rehearse a tale of love that I heard from Diotima of Mantineia, a woman wise in this and in many other kinds of knowledge, who once, before the plague came, effected for the Athenians a ten-year postponement of the disease, through sacrifice. She was my instructress in the art of Love, and I shall repeat to you what she said to me, beginning with the points on which Agathon and I agreed, and I shall speak both parts myself as well as I can. As you, Agathon, suggested, it is necessary first to give an account of the identity and nature of Love, and then of his works. In view of this it seems to me easiest to proceed in the way the foreign woman did long ago in examining me - for, among other things, I said to her, in nearly the same words that Agathon just used to me, that Love was a mighty god, and the beautiful his objects; and she proved to me, as I proved to him, that by my own showing, Love was neither beautiful nor good. 'What do you mean, Diotima?' I said. 'Is Love then ugly and evil?' 'Hush,' she cried. 'Must whatever is not beautiful be ugly?' 'Certainly,' I said. 'And if something is not wise, must it be ignorant? Do you not see that there is a middle ground between wisdom and ignorance?' 'And what may that be?' I said. 'Right opinion,' she replied, 'which, as you know, since it is incapable of giving a reason, is not knowledge (for how can knowledge be devoid of reason?), nor again, ignorance (for neither can ignorance attain the truth), but is clearly something that is a mean between ignorance and wisdom.' 'Quite true,' I replied. 'Do not insist then,' she said, 'that what is not beautiful is of necessity ugly, or what is not good, evil; or infer that be- cause, as you agree, Love is not beautiful and good, he is therefore ugly and evil; for he occupies a middle ground between them.' 'Well,' I said, 'Love is surely admitted by all to be a great god.' 'When you say by "all" do you mean by those who know or by those who do not know?' 'By everyone.' 'And how, Socrates,' she said with a smile, 'can Love be acknowledged to be a great god by those who say that he is not a god at all?' 'And who are they?' I said. 'You and I are two of them,' she replied. 'How can that be?' I said. 'Elementary,' she replied; 'for you yourself would acknowledge that the gods are happy and beautiful - of course you would - or would you dare to say that any god was not?' 'Certainly not,' I replied. 'And you mean by the happy, those who are the possessors of things good or beautiful?' 'Yes.' 'And you admitted that Love, because he lacks the good and beautiful, desires them, the very things that he lacks?' 'Yes, I did.' 'But how can he be a god who has no share in what is either good or beautiful?' 'It's impossible.' 'Then you see that you also deny the divinity of Love.'
''What then is Love?' I asked. 'Is he mortal?' 'Of course not.' 'Well - then what?' 'As in the former instance, he is neither mortal nor immortal, but a mean between the two.' 'What is he, Diotima?' 'He is a great spirit [daimon]; for every spirit-like [daimonion] thing is intermediate between the divine and the mortal.' 'And what,' I said, 'is his power?' 'He communicates,' she replied, 'between gods and men, conveying and taking across to the gods the prayers and sacrifices of men, and to men the commands and replies of the gods; he is the mediator who fills the chasm that divides them, and therefore in him all is bound together, and through him the arts of the prophet and the priest, their sacrifices and mysteries and charms, and all prophecy and incantation find their way. For God mingles not with man; but through Love, all the intercourse and converse of God with man, whether awake or asleep, is carried on. The man wise in these matters is the spiritual [daimonios] man; he who is expert in other matters, such as arts or handicrafts, is mean and vulgar. Now these spirits or intermediate powers are many and diverse, and one of them is Love.' 'And was he born,' I said, 'of a father and a mother?' 'The tale,' she said, 'will take time; nevertheless I will tell you. On the day of Aphrodite's birth there was a feast of the gods, at which the god Poros, or Efficacy, who is the son of Metis, or Intelligence, was one of the guests. When the feast was over, Penia, or Poverty, as is the manner on festive occasions, came about the doors to beg. Now Efficacy, who was the worse for nectar (there was no wine in those days), went into the garden of Zeus and fell into a heavy sleep; and Poverty, considering her own straitened circumstances, plotted to have a child by him, and accordingly she lay down at his side and conceived Love, who, partly because he is naturally a lover of the beautiful, and because Aphrodite is herself beautiful, and also because he was conceived on her birthday, is her follower and attendant. And as his parentage is, so also are his fortunes. In the first place, he is always poor, and anything but tender and fair, as the many imagine him - and he is rough and squalid, and has no shoes, nor a house to dwell in; on the bare earth exposed he always lies under the open heaven, by the roadsides or at the doors of houses, taking his rest; and, like his mother, he is always in need. Then too, in the manner of his father, he is always scheming after what is beautiful and good; he is bold, enterprising, intense, a mighty hunter, always weaving some intrigue or other, keen in the pursuit of wisdom, fertile in resources; a lifelong philosopher, awesome as an enchanter, sorcerer, sophist. He is by nature neither mortal nor immortal, but alive and flourishing at one moment when he is in plenty, and dead at another moment, and again alive by reason of his father's nature. But that which is always flowing in is always flowing out, and so he is never in want and never in wealth; and, further, he is in a mean between ignorance and knowledge. The truth of the matter is this: no god is one of wisdom's lovers or desires to become wise, for he is wise already; nor is any man who is wise one of wisdom's lovers. Neither are the ignorant wisdom's lovers, nor do they desire to become wise. For herein is the evil of ignorance, that he who is neither good nor wise is nevertheless satisfied with himself: he has no desire for that of which he feels no want.' 'But who then, Diotima,' I said, 'are wisdom's lovers, if they are neither the wise nor the foolish?' 'A child may answer that question,' she replied; 'they are those who are in a mean between the two; and Love must be one of them. For wisdom is a most beautiful thing, and Love is of the beautiful; so it necessarily follows that Love is also a philosopher, that is, one of wisdom's lovers, and being one of wisdom's lovers, he is in a mean between the wise and the ignorant. And of this too his birth is the cause; for his father is a man of means and is wise, and his mother indigent and foolish. Such, my dear Socrates, is the nature of the spirit [daimon] Love. The error in your conception of him was very natural, and as I imagine him from what you say, you thought that Love was the beloved, not the lover, which made you think that love was all-beautiful. For the beloved is the truly beautiful, and delicate, and perfect, and blessed; but the principle of love is of another nature, and is such as I have described.'
"I said, 'Well then, madam - since you explain so well - assuming Love to be such as you say, what is his function for mankind?' 'That, Socrates,' she replied, I will attempt to teach you next: his nature and birth I have already stated; and you acknowledge that Love is of the beautiful. But someone might ask us: "Why is Love of the beautiful, Socrates and Diotima?" - or, rather, let me put the question more clearly and ask: When a man loves the beautiful, what does he desire?' I answered her: 'That the beautiful may be his.' 'Still,' she said, 'the answer suggests a further question: What is given by the possession of beauty?' 'To that question,' I replied, 'I have no answer ready.' 'Then,' she said, 'let me put the word "good" in the place of "the beautiful," and repeat the question once more: If he who loves, loves the good, what is it then that he loves?' 'The possession of the good,' I said. 'And what does he gain who possesses the good?' 'Happiness,' I replied; 'there is less difficulty in answering that question.' 'Yes,' she said, 'the happy are made happy by the acquisition of good things. Nor is there any need to ask why a man desires happiness; the answer is already final.' 'You are right,' I said. 'And is this wish and this desire common to all? And do all men always desire their own good, or only some men? What do you say?' 'All men,' I replied; 'the desire is common to all.' 'Then why,' she rejoined, 'are not all men, Socrates, said to love, but only some of them? Whereas you say that all men are always loving the same things.' 'I myself wonder,' I said, 'why this is.' 'There is nothing to wonder at,' she replied; 'the reason is that one part of love is separated off and receives the name of the whole, but the other parts have other names.' 'Give an illustration,' I said. She answered me as follows: 'There is poetry, which, as you know, is complex and manifold. All creation or passage of nonbeing into being is poetry, which literally means "making," and the processes of all arts are poetic, or making, processes; and the masters of arts are all poets or makers.' 'Very true.' 'Still,' she said, 'you know that they are not called poets, but have other names - only that portion of the art which is separated off from the rest and is concerned with music and meter is termed poetry, and they who possess poetry in this sense of the word are called poets.' 'Very true,' I said. 'And the same holds of love. For you may say generally that all desire of good and happiness is only "the great and subtle power of love"; but they who are drawn toward him by any other path, whether the path of moneymaking or gymnastics or philosophy, are not said to be in love and are not called lovers - the name of the whole is appropriated to those whose affection takes one form only - for them alone is reserved "love" and they alone are said to be lovers.' 'It seems most likely,' I replied, 'that you are right.' 'Yes,' she added, 'and you hear people say that lovers are seeking for their other half; but I say that they are seeking neither for the half of themselves, nor for the whole, unless the half or the whole is also a good. And they will cut off their own hands and feet and cast them away if they are evil; for they do not love what is their own, unless by chance there should be someone who calls what belongs to him the good, and what belongs to another the evil. For there is nothing that men love but the good. Is there anything?' 'Certainly I would say there is nothing.' 'Then,' she said, 'the simple truth is that men love the good.' 'Yes,' I said. 'To which must be added that they love the possession of the good?' 'Yes, that must be added.' 'And not only the possession, but the everlasting possession of the good?' 'That must be added too.' 'Then love,' she said, 'may be described generally as the love of the everlasting possession of the good?' 'That is most true.'
''Then if this is the eternal nature of love, can you tell me further,' she said, 'by pursuing it what way and in what activity would the eagerness and exertion of its pursuers be rightly called love? What really is the object that they have in view? Answer me.' 'No, Diotima,' I replied, 'if I had known, I would not have been so amazed at your wisdom, nor would I have come so regularly for instruction at your hands.' 'Well,' she said, 'I will teach you: The object they have in view is birth in beauty, whether of body or soul.' 'I do not understand you,' I said; 'the oracle requires an explanation. I will make my meaning clearer,' she replied. 'I mean to say that all humans are pregnant in their bodies and in their souls. There is a certain age at which human nature is desirous of giving birth - birth that must be in beauty and not in ugliness. The union of man and woman is this procreation, and it is a divine thing; for conception and generation are an immortal principle in the mortal creature, and in the inharmonious they can never be. But the ugly is always incompatible with the divine, and the beautiful compatible. Beauty, then, is the Goddess of Destiny and the Birth Goddess, who preside at birth, and therefore, when approaching beauty, the conceiving power is propitious and delighted, and dissolves, and begets and bears fruit: at the sight of ugliness she frowns and contracts and has a sense of pain, and turns away, and shrivels up, and not without a pang refrains from conception. And this is the reason why, when the hour of conception arrives, and the teeming nature is already full, there is such a flutter and ecstasy about beauty, whose approach is the alleviation of the pain of travail. For love, Socrates, is not, as you imagine, the love of the beautiful only.' 'Of what, then?' 'The love of generation and of birth in beauty.' 'Yes,' I said. 'Yes, indeed,' she replied 'but why of generation? Because to the mortal creature, generation is a sort of eternity and immortality, and if, as has already been admitted, love is of the everlasting possession of the good, all men will necessarily desire immortality together with good: wherefore love is of immortality.'
"All this she taught me at various times when she spoke of love. And I remember her once saying to me, 'What is the cause, Socrates, of love, and the attendant desire? Do you not see how all animals, birds, as well as beasts, in their desire for procreation, are in agony when they take the infection of love, which begins with the desire for union; to which is added the care of offspring, on whose behalf the weakest are ready to battle against the strongest even to the uttermost, and to die for them, and will let themselves be tormented with hunger or suffer anything in order to maintain their young. Man may be supposed to act thus from reason; but why should animals have these passionate feelings? Can you tell me why?' Again I replied that I did not know. She said to me, 'And do you expect ever to become a master in the art of love if you do not know this?' 'But I have told you already, Diotima, that my ignorance is the reason why I come to you; for I am conscious that I want a teacher; tell me, then, the cause of this and of the other mysteries of love.' 'If you believe,' she said, 'that love is of the immortal, as we have several times acknowledged, then do not be amazed; for here again, in the case of animals, and on the same principle, too, the mortal nature is seeking as far as is possible to be everlasting and immortal: and this is only to be attained by generation, because generation always leaves behind a new existence in the place of the old. For over the period in which each living thing is pronounced "alive," it is also said to be the same - for example, a man is called the same man from youth to old age, but in fact he is undergoing a perpetual process of loss and renewal - hair, flesh, bones, blood, and the whole body are always changing. Which is true not only of the body, but also of the soul, whose habits, tempers, opinions, desires, pleasures, pains, fears, never remain the same in any one of us, but are always coming and going. What is still more surprising is that this is true also of the bodies of knowledge that we possess, some of which are growing and developing, others fading away, so that in respect of them we are never the same; and within each body of knowledge individually the same thing happens - for there exists such a thing as "studying" only because knowledge departs from us. For "forgetting" is the departure of knowledge, while "study" preserves knowledge by introducing a renewed memory to replace the knowledge that has left, with the result that it appears to be the same. For this is the way in which all mortal things are preserved, not absolutely the same always, as the divine is, but through substitution - the old worn-out mortality leaving another new and similar existence behind. And by this mechanism, Socrates, the mortal body, or mortal anything, has its share of immortality (the immortal has it by a different mechanism). So do not then be amazed at the love that all men have of their offspring; for that universal love and interest is for the sake of immortality.'
I was astonished at her words, and said: 'Is this really true, O thou wise Diotima?' And she answered with all the authority of an accomplished sophist: 'Of that, Socrates, you may be assured - think only of the ambition of men, and you will wonder at the senselessness of their ways, unless you consider how they are stirred by the love of an immortality of fame. They are ready to run risks far greater than they would have run for their children, and to spend money and undergo any sort of toil, and even to die, for the sake of leaving behind them a name which shall be eternal. Do you imagine that Alcestis would have died to save Admetus, or Achilles to avenge Patroclus, or you Athenians'' own Codrus in order to preserve the kingdom for his sons, if they had not imagined that the memory of their virtues, which still survives among us, would be immortal? No,' she said, 'I am persuaded that all men do all things, and the better they are the more they do them, in the hope of winning a glorious fame of immortal virtue; for they desire the immortal. Those who are pregnant in the body only betake themselves to women and beget children - this is the character of their love; their offspring, as they hope, will preserve their memory and give them the blessedness and immortality which they desire for all future time. But those who are pregnant in their souls - for there certainly exist men who generate within their souls, rather than in their bodies - conceive the kinds of things that it is proper for the soul to conceive and give birth to. And what things are these? Wisdom and virtue in general. And such creators are poets and all artists who are deserving of the name inventor. But the greatest and fairest sort of wisdom by far is that which is concerned with the ordering of states and families, and which is called temperance and justice. And he who in youth has the seed of these implanted in him and is himself inspired, when he comes to maturity desires to beget and generate. He wanders about seeking beauty in which to beget offspring - for in ugliness he will beget nothing - and because he is in pain of travail he embraces the beautiful rather than the ugly body; above all, when he finds a beautiful and noble and talented soul, he embraces the two in one person, and to such a one he is full of speech about virtue and the nature and pursuits of a good man - and he tries to educate him; and by touching the beautiful and consorting with him he gives birth to and propagates that which he had conceived long before, both when with him and through recollecting him when apart, and together with him he tends that which was brought forth; and they are married by a far nearer tie and have a closer friendship than those who beget mortal children, for the children who are their common offspring are fairer and more immortal. Who, when he thinks of Homer and Hesiod and other great poets, would not rather have their children than ordinary human ones? Who would not emulate them in the creation of children such as theirs, which have preserved their memory and given them everlasting glory? Or who would not have such children as Lycurgus left behind him to be the saviors not only of Lacedaemon but of Hellas, as one may say? There is Solon, too, who is the revered father of Athenian laws; and many others there are in many other places, both among Hellenes and barbarians, who have given to the world many noble works, and have been the parents of virtue of every kind; and many temples have been raised in their honor for the sake of children such as theirs - whereas none were ever raised in honor of anyone for the sake of his mortal children. These are the lesser mysteries of love,' she said, 'into which you also, Socrates, may be initiated; to the greater and more hidden ones which are the crown of these, and to which, if you pursue them in a right spirit, they will lead, I know not whether you will be able to attain. But I will do my utmost to inform you, and do you follow if you can. For he who would proceed aright in this matter should begin in youth to visit beautiful bodies - and first, if he is guided by his instructor aright, to love one such body only, and in it he should engender beautiful thoughts; and soon he will of himself perceive that the beauty of one body is akin to the beauty of another; and then, if beauty of appearance is his pursuit, how foolish would he be not to recognize that the beauty present in all bodily forms is one and the same! And when he perceives this, he will abate his violent love of the one, which he will despise and deem a small thing, and will become a lover of all beautiful bodily forms; in the next stage he will consider that the beauty of the soul is more honorable than the beauty of the body, so that someone even of slight beauty, but virtuous in soul, satisfies him, and he loves and cares for him, and brings to birth arguments of the kind to improve the young, until he is compelled to contemplate and see the beauty of institutions and laws, and to understand that the beauty of them all is of one family, and that personal beauty is a trifle; and after laws and institutions he will go on to the sciences, that he may see their beauty, being not servilely in love with the beauty of one youth or man or institution, himself a slave, mean and small-minded, but drawing toward and contemplating the vast sea of beauty, he will create many fair and noble thoughts and notions in boundless love of wisdom; until on that shore he grows and waxes strong, and at last the vision is revealed to him of a single science, which is the science of beauty everywhere. To this I will proceed; please give me your very best attention.
"'He who has been instructed thus far in the things of love, and who has learned to see the beautiful in due order and succession, when he comes toward the end will suddenly have a vision of wondrous beauty (and this, Socrates, is the ultimate aim of all our former toils) - a beauty that in the first place is everlasting, not growing and decaying, or waxing and waning; secondly, not beautiful in one point of view and ugly in another, or at one time or in one relation or at one place beautiful, at another time or in another relation or at another place ugly, as if beautiful to some and ugly to others, nor will beauty appear to him in the fineness of a face or hands or any other part of the bodily frame, or in any form of expression or knowledge, or existing in any other being, as for example, in an animal, or in heaven, or in earth, or in any other place; but beauty will be revealed to him to be absolute, separate, simple, and everlasting, which, without diminution and without increase, or any change, is imparted to the ever-growing and perishing beauties of all other things. He who, ascending from these by means of proper and correct pederastic love, begins to perceive that beauty is not far from the end. And the correct order of going, or being led by another, to the things of love is to begin from the beauties of earth and mount ever upward for the sake of that other beauty, using these as steps only, and from one going on to two, and from two to all beautiful bodies, and from beautiful bodies to beautiful practices, and from beautiful practices to beautiful notions, until from beautiful notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at last knows what the essence of beauty is. This, my dear Socrates,' said the stranger from Mantineia, 'is that life above all others which man should live, in the contemplation of beauty absolute; a beauty that, if you once beheld it, you would see not to be like that of gold, and garments, and beautiful boys and youths, whose presence now entrances you; and you and many a one would be content to live seeing them only and conversing with them, without food or drink, if that were possible - you only want to look at them and to be with them. But what if man had eyes to see the true beauty - the divine beauty, I mean, pure and clear and unalloyed, not clogged with the pollutions of human flesh and complexion and all the other vanities of mortal life - do you think it an ignoble life for a person to be gazing there and contemplating that with the suitable instrument, the mind's eye, and consorting with that? Do you not perceive that there alone will it happen to him, when he sees the beautiful with that instrument with which it must be seen, to give birth not to images of virtue, since he is not laying bold of an image, but to her true progeny, since he has hold of true virtue? And is it not possible for him, by giving birth to and nourishing true virtue, to become the beloved of God, and to become, if any of humankind does, immortal?'
"Such, Phaedrus - and I speak not only to you, but to all of you - were the words of Diotima; and I am persuaded of their truth. And being persuaded of them, I try to persuade others that in the attainment of this end, human nature will not easily find a helper better than Love. And therefore, also, I say that every man ought to honor him as I myself honor him, and I myself honor his works and cultivate them intensively, and exhort others to do the same, and praise the power and manliness of Love, according to the measure of my ability, now and forever.
"The words which I have spoken, you, Phaedrus, may call an encomium of Love, or anything else you please."
When Socrates bad done speaking, the Company applauded, and Aristophanes
was beginning to say something in answer to the allusion that Socrates
had made to his own speech, when suddenly there was a great knocking at
the door of the house, as if by revelers, and the voice of a flute-girl
was heard. Agathon told the slaves to go and see who were the intruders...