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. Different Individuals Will Take Different Paths in Defining Love.

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Rashid A

Final Paper


When one asks the question, “What is love?” how can one possibly uncover a definite answer to this question? You may want to ask yourself this question, then ask a peer. By doing this you may uncover that there is no definite answer to this question on defining love. There are so many variations and qualities of love. These variations may lead to individuals creating their own road to defining what love truly is. Different individuals will take different paths in defining love. In what is considered one of the most beautiful philosophical dialogues, “Plato’s Symposium”, Socrates and his peers truly create their own journey in defining the question “what is love?”.  More than just defining love, Socrates and his fellow peers investigate the nature of love and the “god” of love. They also differentiate between what is love and what is not considered love. This work draws great comparisons to Plato's works “Phaedo" and “The Republic”.

This symposium or dinner party in celebration of Agathon is the one in which Socrates gave his famous speech on the topic of love. It seemed this gathering was one in which the guests were all peers of different professions. All members took a turn giving their own speech on the topic of love. Each of the speakers appeared to direct their speech in response to Phaedrus suggestion of speaking on love. For example Phaedrus says “I propose that each of us give as good a speech in praise of Love as he is capable of giving…” (Cahn 85). Everyone had agreed to this topic. Socrates even went as far as to say “How could I vote No, when the only thing I say I understand is the art of love?” (Cahn 85). It seems Socrates was really confident in his ability to unmask the truth behind love in the beginning of the story. The authors or speakers became the audience once they had given their speech.

The series of speeches beginning with Phaedus appeared to be pieces of the truth behind the truth of love. Although I believe no one can truly discover the truth behind love, each speech gives the reader gets a better understanding on what love is. Phaedus gives a very vivid description on the creation of love. He describes how a man named Hesiod said love was the most ancient god. Therefore Phaedus believes the god of love gives us the “greatest goods” (86). Furthermore, Phaedus claims one needs some “guidance” in life if he is to live well. One cannot achieve this guidance through kinship, wealth, or public honor. Rather one can only achieve this guidance towards a good life by the relationship of love. Moreover, love encourages individuals to feel shame when we do something dishonorable. For instance, Phaedus says, “he (lover) is especially ashamed before his lover, when he is caught in something shameful” (86). One certainly feels more shame when they do something unethical in front of their children. One might question whether he is setting a bad example for his child whom he loves. Due to our shame, we refrain from doing “bad” acts such as cursing in the presence of children. Love also enables individuals to use their courage and defend their loved ones. Phaedus illustrates that one would rather die a thousand times then leaving his loved one behind in battle. This is a very interesting analogy that Phaedus presents. It is evident in history that love may lead people to do the most bizarre acts if it means protecting their loved ones. Humans have and will kill to aid their loved ones in danger. If it wasn't for love, would humans act this way towards other individuals? Could it be hate that inspires individuals to kill others? Perhaps not as I believe hate generates from retaliation about the things we love. Phaedus does not truly define love, but certainly allows one to vision the values love creates such as courage and shame.

After Phaedus, many give their own speeches but Aristodemus does not recall some of them. Among the ones he does recall is Pausanias and after that was Eryximachus the medical doctor. Both these individuals’ speeches were building momentum towards the truth of love. Agathon, who is the host of the party gave the final speech before Socrates. His speech was rather short compared to the other speakers, but nonetheless impactful. Agathon makes an interesting point when he says the previous speeches on discussed the gifts that the god of love gives human. Furthermore, he claims no one has spoken about the nature of god himself. First off Agathon says Love is the most beautiful and happiest of the gods. He is happy because of his beauty. But can beauty itself truly make one happy? Happiness can be caused by many things and sometimes love itself may not lead to happiness.  Moreover, the god of love is also the youngest god and the most delicate. Agathon goes as far as to say “she doesn't walk on anything hard, she walks only on what is soft” (95). Love is so delicate in fact, it will only establish itself in wherever it is “flowery or flagrant” (95). In other words love will only settle in those who are gentle in nature and not those who are harsh and violent. Furthermore Agathon claims love has no link to injustice as it neither the “cause or the victim” (95). But what about those that do harm to others the name of love?  As stated before, others will even kill to protect their loved ones. Would Agathon claim that this violence is just because it is in the name of love? Love can be very powerful and it may cause to act unjustly sometimes. Agathon goes one to praise love by saying love is forceless, moderate, brave, and wise. Although Agathon presented some valuable information, he could have elaborated more on some of his claims. There is no issue in making clear and short claims, but Agathon made some very large claims without providing any grounds for his claims. His argument was convincing but he could have improved his speech by providing better grounds. For instance, he claims love is neither the cause nor victim of injustice. There can be many ways to rebut this argument and Agathon does not provide any counter claims.

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