Vasilis Politis
Trinity College, Dublin
I argue that the speech of Socrates-Diotima in Plato’s Symposium is in major part addressed to the questions, ‘How good is erōs?’ and ‘Is erōs a good thing or not?’; erōs being characterized as, precisely, the state of the human soul which is the desire for beauty and beautiful things. I conclude that, according to Plato, erōs is not, by itself, good-directed, or, by itself, bad-directed. Rather, erōs is capable of going either way, and which way it will actually go will depend on what relation it enters into with a distinct state of the human soul, namely, sophia. I arrive at this conclusion through an analysis of Diotima’s account of erōs as situated between and mid-way between goodness and badness. I argue that, when spelled out, this account defends two striking claims. First, erōs does not, by itself and intrinsically, have the power to direct itself towards things that are actually good. Secondly, erōs is a non-rational state of the soul, in that it does not, by itself and intrinsically, have the power to give reasons; and it is set against sophia, the state of the soul which is intrinsically rational.
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DOI 10.1163/22134417-00311p02
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