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Alcibiades in Plato’s Symposium

A group of men in the wine drinking party at the house of Agathon, a tragic poet, at Athens that includes Phaedrus, Pausanians, Eryximachus, Aristophanes, Agathon, Socrates and Alcibiades decided to give their own speech on the topic of love in celebration to the victory of Agathon in his first dramatic competition. The theme of love is a favorite topic during the initial rise of the philosophers. Debates and speeches about this complex topic challenges the Athenian intellectual circles in terms of reasoning and logic.

The sharp and witty characters in the symposium give varying perspective on the issues of love, beauty, youth and desire– their normal and literal sense and its broader meaning. Of all the participants, Alcibiades can be considered shallow in nature but for Plato he seems to be an extraordinary soul. He appeared to be a merry drunk man whose central attention focuses to Socrates as he appears to be in love with him (though he only pretends to). He assumes that Socrates love beautiful men like him so he pretends to feel the same.

From that time forward, he took and made sexual pursuits to Socrates in belief that it will satisfy the latter. In the symposium Alcibiades began to pursue Socrates “as if I were the lover and he my young prey! ” (Plato 1987, 200e). He often succumbs in his passion– a kind of passion he believes is best for himself even it is beyond the conventional honors and ethics. Through Alcibiades’s unrestricted pursuit of sexual passion, his craziness over superiority or tyranny and how Socrates rebuff and retaliate in historical shallow pursuits of Alcibiades, Plato demonstrates his view on the body in relation to love.

In order to know Plato’s view of the body, it is significant to emphasize how Socrates present his ideas towards Eros or love. He believes that love is a cosmic strength that involves all beings and trespasses the human condition. Human beings are apparently incomplete and needy in nature. They have needs that can not be found within themselves but love relationship turns to the lack of something. It says “[… ] what one lacks; is precisely, the object of desire and love” (Plato 1987, 200e). Love is desire therefore and desire is the need of what one lacks.

In the symposium, Socrates is apparently the object of Alcibiades’s desire in order to acquire tyranny. His desire longs for privation in order to fulfill it. In this sense, it seems that Plato believes that when a body incarnates due to desire, one forgets how to contemplate the existing things in their pure form. Meaning, the awake world of senses encouraged by desire makes one loss his knowledge. His central focus is to satisfy the desire. But Alcibiades’s desire will perhaps prove that love is a relational property that hold between things.

Love is not itself beautiful or good without the participation of two. But when Alcibiades can not seduce Socrates, he offered his image of beauty. But Socrates later on said in his conversation with Agathon that love or desire itself can be wholly without beauty, opposite to the popular belief that time that love is organized through love of beautiful things. Meanwhile, Alcibiades often succumbs himself to get people through tyranny and superiority but Socrates is firm not to fall on Alcibiades tyrannical impulses or base desires.

The stories of gods who are always consist of beauty perhaps made Alcibiades overemphasize eroticism. But Socrates’s rejection to him in the symposium effectively castrates him. If others presented their ideas of love through speeches, Alcibiades gave ideas through his actions and his sexual pursuits. But later on, he realizes that he is unable to gain virtue through sexual relationships. Later on it will be realized that Socrates pretends to like beautiful and attractive young men just like Alcibiades.

But in fact Socrates is a man of moderation, initially conceals his wisdom and condemns all the things most people pursue since it is often based on physical or tangible. Alcibiades once states that “But once I caught him when he was open like Silenus’ statues, and I had a glimpse of the figures he keeps hidden within: they were so godlike — so bright and beautiful, so utterly amazing — that I no longer had a choice: I just had to do whatever he told me” (Symposium 216e-217a).

He compared Socrates to an ugly and hollow statue but inside is full of tiny golden statues. Though Socrates is an ordinary man outside but his insights and sense of reasoning made him stand out among others. Alcibiades presented Socrates through ideas and images. Alcibiades fictional character in the Plato’s symposium affirms the idea that love can exists even without the external standards (e. g. love of a mother to her daughter and man’s love to seek knowledge and wisdom).

But Alcibiades took risks as he liberates himself in his unrestricted pursuits. He ignored the common conventions of morality (no man to man relation). He lacks good citizenship. He has a worldly passion for the world which is opposite to Socrates who loves ideas and wisdom. Plato created Alcibiades and Socrates contrasting relationship to make everyone realize that sometimes one should ignore the law and customs of particular people to lead oneself into the truth.

Since Alcibiades ignore the opinions of his time and place, where Socrates dominates, he come into one realization: that is he is unable to gain virtue merely through sexual relationships. Body and soul then (which is also love) are two different entities. Work Cited: Plato Symposium. [email protected] online. The University of Adelaide Library. South Australia 5005. November 2006. Retrieved on 02 June 2009 from http://ebooks. adelaide. edu. au/p/plato/p71sy/symposium. html

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