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Lecture 1

PHL200Y1 Lecture 1: PHL200Y1 Plato_s Symposium (2)


Department
Philosophy
Course Code
PHL200Y1
Professor
Lloyd Gerson
Lecture
1

Page:
of 5
PHL200Y Plato’s Symposium (2)
1"
The general claim in the argument: people who love really desires good, or the goods, because
they think that in having this, or other things, they will be happy.
So, the desire for the love of the beautiful is interpreted, by Diotima, as the desire for the good
(this claim we do not really have an argument more like a hypothesis)
o Anybody who desires the beautiful is in fact manifesting their desire for the
good, meaning their desire for that which will make them happy.
Diotima asks Socrates if he knows what the argon (αργον) [which is translated as object, often
comes out as function, its role, what it does. If you ask for the argon of something, you are
asking what it does] of érōs? An érōs for being beautiful (kalon - καλόν)
o A sensible answer would be it does nothing special, its just you are.
But she pushes him and says what are you expecting to achieve, what is the goal, of attaining the
beautiful?
In the first instance (starting point is always sex, although he is going to expand on the meaning
of érōs beyond sexual, the answer is the argon of sex is birth.
o It is birth in the presence of the beautiful.
o What is the purpose of sex, or what is the goal of sex, what is the lover in
achieving the beautiful, getting what he is looking for, what is the purpose?
! The answer is children are troubling answer because the Greeks knew
about the difference between sex and children, they knew how to
prevent pregnancy. Diotima says this is the result of sex, and it
normally is.
The achievement of beautiful is attaining the sexual object.
The reason why people do this they want not just have the good; they want the good forever
(immorality)
o People want to have immorality because it is a way of preserving the good forever this
is not a good strategy to attaining immortality … The real immortality of the soul has
nothing to do with sex.
o The argon of érōs is the production of children and people want to produce children
because they want to be immortal.
Plato immediately goes away from the claim that (1) people have sex to be immortal, and (2)
something non-physical but spiritual.
o The production of the spiritual children in the presence of the beautiful, other than the
physically beautiful.
What these spiritual children are may be the development of good people, or ideas, or artistic
products or other products of laws, institutions the sort of thing people make.
o Expanding the argument in this way means that the word To Kalon (the beautiful) as to
now be expended from a beautiful body, the body that attracts sex, to possibly a soul that
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PHL200Y Plato’s Symposium (2)
2"
attracts you or something else that attracts you and in attaining the results the argon is
something you produce spiritual (non-physical).
How does Plato understand To Kalon?
o If you tried to give logos of To Kalon it would be difficult.
! If somebody asks you your idea of beauty, you can imagine somebody pointing out
somebody beautiful and say this is my idea of beautiful someone like Socrates
would make the same argument against this definition of beautiful [Referring back
to Euthyphro, the arguments would be similar to the definition of piety] the
beautiful is not just this, and even if it, you wouldn’t know if it unless you know
what beautiful is.
The beautiful is just like the just, and it is a form that is manifested, you shouldn’t limit it to one
kind of beauty in trying to understand it.
The implicit definition of beautiful is what attracts you, what moves you.
o Once you put it this way, it isn’t too hard to talk about beautiful souls, ideas, and
projects, and use the same word beautiful to the same beautiful body you are lusting at.
Diotima said, when you think about love of the beautiful, substitute the beautiful, the good. When
you are attracted to the beautiful, you are actually attracted to the good.
Diotima says everybody desires the good, meaning, that we desire that which when we have it, it
makes us happy.
o Plato has generalized by starting with sexual desire and connecting that with physical
beauty. Then saying this is just a special case of your desire for the good. Given that, we
should not limit To Kalon to physical beauty.
If the desire for the beautiful is just another name for the desire for the good, then there is an
interesting tension because the thing that appears to be beautiful, the desire for the beautiful is
only something you really want if the apparent beautiful is really good.
People will settle for the apparently beautiful but no one satisfied for the apparent good.
o You do not want what appears to be good; you want what is really good.
Just because you think what appears to you to be beautiful is really good doesn’t mean it is
because whether it is really good or not does not depend on how it appears to you.
If everybody wants the real good but most people will settle for the apparently beautiful because
the apparently beautiful is the real good not because they think it is a false good, then the
possibility arises that you might be searching for the wrong thing.
o In this case, you don’t really want it.
o Plato is setting up a contrast, which will play out in the dialogue, that is between what
human beings think they want, what they really want, between the unquestioning sexual
appetite, or desire that people have, in response to why are you doing this well because
I think this will be good for me. You will only really want it if it is really good for you.
This dialogue does not say that the apparently beautiful is really good.
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PHL200Y Plato’s Symposium (2)
3"
All we have here is a potential contrast of what it appears to be beautiful at a very concrete level
and what is really good.
The definition of To Kalon will turn out that something is attractive to you insofar as it appears to
be the way to get the good. To Kalon is the way the good appears to us.
o This means, the way things appear to us as good given that the good is what we really
want and the apparent beautiful that we often assume, we do not really want the apparent
beautiful if it is not really good.
One important lesson you could draw from a platonic view is since everyone wants the real good,
and everyone is attracted to it, you have to make sure that what is doing the attraction is something
that is really is the good.
You are not being attracted by something other than the good.
The thing about the beautiful is it appears in different ways.
o Most people are contempt to say that if it appears beautiful to me, then it must be the real
good but it cannot be beautiful unless it is the real good.
o Depending on what attracts you, you will pursue it, and you will produce once you
achieve it.
! The most concrete example being pregnancy- this is only one example of To
Kalon which attracts us, and one example of production.
Why do people have children?
o Whatever answer given is the right answer if it is to please my parents, or because all
my friends do it, or because I don’t want to be alone in my old age, if this is the case then
that is the answer.
! It certainly isn’t because you seek immorality in your children, or because you
think that your good is their by attained so it is a real puzzle as to why people do
it.
The claim the beauty in this specific individual body isn’t just apparent but it really is good begins
to be doubtful because if the beauty in one is the same as the beauty in another so it isn’t true that
the beauty in this individual body is uniquely of the good. It does not produce the good.
Plato is begging the point that beauty is beauty. Why is beauty beauty?
o Because it is the attractive aspect of the good.
o The good is one thing and so real beauty is one thing.
o The problem living in this world is that there are a lot of things that appear to be
something other than what they are. We begin to detach the beautiful (To Kalon) from a
particular localized object and there by begin to see what To Kalon really is and
understand what the good really is.
We from one body to many bodies to souls to institutions and laws, so sciences (epistêmê) -
beautiful sciences such as astronomy and then we get to what Socrates calls “a sea of beauty”
(210d)
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