Attending a philosophy reading group serves to make you feel simultaneously more intelligent, and one hundred times more ignorant than one ever considers possible; it shows you that there are relatively few people in the world who truly get to experience philosophy, however that you are no better than anyone else in that the concept of it is baffling.
Plato’s Symposium is influential in a number of ways; primarily, it tries to define the nature of love, and declares that the highest and most developed form of love is the love of knowledge, and prioritising a love of knowledge over a love of physical engagement with another. Plato in this text also attempts to conceptualize love; love as a part of everything to music, to medicine and of people.
Gender issues are also raised in this influential text; the highest form of love, Plato suggests is that between men; women are given relatively little significance, performing only a reproductive function when engaging with a man. Feminists here would stomp their feet; especially when the issue of the creation of humanity is discussed.
According to this diatribe of ideas of love, the woman was created when God split his creation into two, causing a person to search for their other ‘half’ for the rest of their life. However, this makes some of us distinctly uncomfortable, when one considers that without a ‘great’ love, or a soul mate, we are not complete, or whole. This suggests a lack within ourselves, that we will attempt to fill; however raises more questions than it answers.
– What is the soul?
– Do people ‘lack’ something within themselves which means they have to find others to build off, and grow with?
– Are we truly only halves of ourselves, and so do we need to search for the missing piece of ourselves?
– Can we be truly happy without our other ‘half’?
– Is it possible that human nature will cause a person to be so ambitious that their perceived ‘lack’ can never be truly filled, and thus can a person become so overfilled with other ‘pieces’ of people that they simply cannot be themselves or exist in their own rights?
So honestly, I am not in support of Plato’s Symposium; whilst I like the narrative style, almost as a story of a conversation as opposed to a simple theory presented in essay format, which leads the reader to the point gently, with all of the information driving the assumption, I believe the essay conceptualizes love to the point where it becomes intellectually removed from the emotional feeling; every person experiences love differently, and no relationship between two people will ever be the same as another. I think this may be because I’m a romantic at heart; I have loved, and I will continue to do so, and I will never fall prey to the intellectualism of a feeling; emotion, emphatically, cannot be rationally understood.
I did enjoy the discussion however; Professor Kate Hext has some wonderful ideas about philosophy, and I can’t wait for next week, when we get to argue over the merits of Aristotle’s Poetics over vodka lemonades and crisps.