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Symposium III and Lysis
Philosophy of Love and Sex
What is Beauty Itself?
• The Form of X is what makes things that are X
be X.
• The Form of the Human Being is what makes
human beings be human.
• The Form of Beauty is what makes beautiful
things be beautiful.
• The Forms do not change.
• The Forms are not culturally relative.
• The Forms are really real not merely in mind or
merely abstract.
Why believe in the Forms?
• Learning concepts—standards, etc.
• Explanation of commonalities.
Too impersonal?
• Shouldn’t the highest love be love of
• But after achieving the highest, one is
better at the lower kinds of love, for one
truly understands what it is that is lovable
about persons, laws, mathematics, etc.
The framing
• Why the weird framing—why Diotima tells
all this stuff, not Socrates?
• Suggestion: One of Socrates’ most
famous claims is that he knows nothing.
Thus, he has not achieved the knowledge
of the Form of Beauty, and can only rely
on what others tell him.
• The point is to encourage us to pursue
Plato’s educational plan for ourselves.
• Philia not eros
• Aporetic
– Ends without a solution, in a puzzle, with
apparently no way through (aporia).
• Puzzle: who is whose friend? And what
are the reasons for friendship?
Who is whose friend?
• Option 1: If x loves y, then x is y’s friend.
• Problem: How can someone be your friend if you
hate them?
• Option 2: If x loves y, then y is x’s friend.
• Problem: How can you be the friend of someone
you hate?
• Option 3: x is y’s friend iff x loves y and y loves x
• Problem 1: Parents and children
• Problem 2: What if x doesn’t know that y loves
“Like is a friend to like”
• Problem: Evil people might be like each other but no
friends of each other.
• Response: Evil is unstable so evil people won’t stay like
each other for long.
• The suggestion is that likeness is a reason for friendship.
• Problem: “Is there any good or harm that a like thing can
do to a like thing, which it cannot also do to
itself?” (214e-215a)
• The importance of complementarity.
• Eros in the Symposium was linked to desire, philia here
seems to be linked to need.
A definition of friendly love?
• “[a] That which is neither good nor evil is a friend to [b] good on
account of [c] an evil to which it [i.e., a] is an enemy, for the sake of
[d] a good to which it is a friend” (219B).
• If the son is sick, and the doctor prescribes wine for the son, the
father (a: neither good nor evil) is friends to the wine (b: good) on
account of sickness (c: an evil), for the sake of health (d: a good).
• Refinement: can omit the evil. Health would be valuable even if
there were no sickness.
• [a] That which is neither good nor evil is a friend to [b] good, for
the sake of [d] a good to which it [i.e., a] is a friend
• Puzzle: This seems to generates an endless regress of goods. A is
a friend to B for the sake of C; A is a friend to C for the sake of D; A
is a friend to D for the sake of E.
• Solution: Eventually we reach a case where good b = good d, and A
is a friend to it for its own sake.
• Some things we are friends with for their own sake. What are these?
Persons? Forms? Happiness?
The ending
• At the end, Socrates explores what it is
that we desire—that which is natural to
human beings.
• He is unsatisfied with his answers.
• The discussion ends with the paradox that
we don’t know what friendship is even
though we think we are friends.