PHI366  Plato's Symposium

The Symposium is a vivid, funny and moving dramatic dialogue in which a wide variety of characters - orators, doctor, comic poet, tragic poet, soldier-cum-statesman, philosopher and others give widely differing accounts of the nature of erotic love (eros) at a banquet.  Students should be willing to engage in close textual study, although no previous knowledge of either ancient philosophy or ancient Greek is required.  We will be exploring the origins, definition, aims, objects and effects of eros, and asking whether it is viewed as a predominantly beneficial or harmful force.  Are some manifestations of eros better than others?  Is re-channelling either possible or desirable, and if so, how and in what contexts?  What happens to eros if it is consummated?  We will in addition explore the issues that the dialogue raises about relations between philosophy and literature, and the influence it has had on Western thought (e.g. Freud).  The edition we will use is Rowe, C.J. 1998, Plato: Symposion (Oxford: Aris and Phillips Classical texts).


One coursework essay (50%) and one exam (50%); or one long essay (100%)


Angela Hobbs