Socrates' contest with the poets in Plato's symposium

Political Theory 32 (2):186-206 (2004)
Scholars have recently argued that in the Symposium Plato is critical of Socrates and falls closer than his philosophic spokesman to the side of poetry in the old quarrel between philosophy and poetry. Contrary to such interpretations, I argue that on the basis of his experience of a philosophic life, Socrates responds to the poets Plato presents in that dialogue, offering a superior understanding not only of Love but of poetry itself Far from self-sufficient, but like Love "dwell[ing] always in need" and generating through teaching, Socrates both requires and supports political life. The state between poverty and resource that accounts for the pursuit of wisdom and its self-generation through questioning others also accounts for the ongoing human activities that keep political communities alive and flourishing. At issue is not simply Plato's attitude toward Socrates, but the very nature of philosophy and its relation to the political community
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DOI 10.1177/0090591703256093
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