Discussion Questions

1. Why might Agathon, and the Greeks more generally, suppose that Love is a god?

2. What kind of world does Agathon depict in his speech? What does the rule of Love mean for human life?

3. When Agathon claims that "like approaches like," of whom is he speaking? Is this principle sufficient to explain the relations among human beings?

4. Are Agathon's arguments for Love's beauty and goodness sound? Why would Plato attribute to Agathon such silly arguments?

5. What is Agathon's argument for Love's "wisdom"? Why does he associate wisdom with poetry?

6. In what ways is Agathon's speech poetic?

7. Why does Socrates begin his speech by questioning Agathon, and then narrate the story of Diotima's questioning him? Why is questioning important to Socrates, and does it have anything to do with his understanding of Love?

8. Can one not desire or love what one possesses? How does Socrates' insistence that desire is for what one lacks imply a greater connection between human beings than Agathon's view that Love is beautiful and good?

9. Why, according to Socrates/Diotima, is giving birth essential to Love?

10. Why does Socrates present his teaching through the mouth of Diotima, a woman, a prophetess, and a foreigner?

Paper Topics:
1. Does Agathon have any place for politics (and for political communities, more generally) in his understanding of Love?

2. What role does the distinction between Love and Necessity play in Agathon's speech? How would Hobbes respond to Agathon's distinction?

3.How does Socrates/Diotima's position on Love explain political life? How is their view different from Hobbes's? How does Diotima implicitly respond to Hobbes by arguing that Love is not simply directed to one's own, but rather to the good?

4. How would Socrates, on the basis of what he accepts of Diotima's teaching, respond to Hobbes's view that all human beings have a perpetual and restless desire for one thing after another? Specifically, does Socrates see the possibility of any greater satisfaction for human desire than does Hobbes?

5. What is the difference between Agathon's view of Love and Socrates' view? Does Love's being a "daemon," a being between mortal and immortal, rather than a god make any difference for us in trying to understand the relations among human beings?

6. Does Agathon or Socrates have the better response to Hobbes?

Symposium Reading

Guide to unit 6

back to unit 6