The Role of Eros in Plato's "Republic"

Review of Metaphysics 18 (3):452-475 (1965)
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Abstract

The first part of my hypothesis, then, is simple enough, and would be accepted in principle by most students of Plato: the dramatic structure of the dialogues is an essential part of their philosophical meaning. With respect to the poetic and mathematical aspects of philosophy, we may distinguish three general kinds of dialogue. For example, consider the Sophist and Statesman, where Socrates is virtually silent: the principal interlocutors are mathematicians and an Eleatic Stranger, a student of Parmenides, although one who is not always loyal to his master's teaching of what might be called monadic homogeneity. In these dialogues, the mathematical character of philosophy is not merely emphasized but exaggerated, and any attempt to interpret them must take this fact into account. Otherwise, we shall not be able to understand why the Stranger seems to classify the general's art in the same species of the genus hunting as the louse catcher. The significance of this step, which does not stem from humanitarian considerations, but rather illustrates how the human becomes invisible from the mathematical viewpoint, contributes its share to the obscurity of these two dialogues. Second, there are dialogues like the Phaedrus and Symposium, in which the style, the interlocutors, and even the subject-matter seem to be largely poetic and rhetorical. Here, the overwhelming impression is of enthusiasm, divine madness, and intoxication in speech and deed. Finally, there are dialogues like the Philebus and Republic, in which it is not so easy to say whether poetry or mathematics predominates, if indeed either may be said to do so.

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