Image and Word: On Plato’s Symposium

Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy 7 (2):251-259 (2003)
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The Symposium is one of Plato’s most literary and poetic dialogues. How might one reconcile this evidence of Plato’s predilection for poetry in light of his severe critique of poetry in the Republic? Though his critique is modified and refined in other dialogues, the power of his critique is nowhere significantly undermined. I argue in this paper that Plato’s poetic writing is not inconsistent with his critique, and that in fact there is an affinity between his practice of poetry and his critique. Plato’s critique of poetry is not aimed against poetry itself, but just against its problematic claims and false promises. In turn, Plato’s use of the poetic image, especially in relationship to eros, delimits philosophy, and places it in relation to that which is not attainable for it. The battle between poetry and philosophy is seen to involve a reciprocal benefit for both, and a hidden affinity. In this sense, the poetic image has its philosophical sense precisely because it falls outside of the philosophical perspective



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Theodore George
Texas A&M University

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