Caldwell 1 Jeff Caldwell 1 December 2009 Symposium: The Duality of Eros 1.

Introduction Through an exploration of the differences and similarities in the speeches of the Symposium, we can learn about the character of Eros as the men of this time believed it to be. Though each speech in the Symposium differs greatly there is a continuous theme throughout and that is of the duality of Eros. Through these multiple accounts it is possible to come to an understanding of the utility of Eros for man. This essay will explore the connection between the origin stories of Eros as presented in the Symposium to; his utility for man, his nature, and this nature’s importance to Socrates. 2. The Origin of Eros The first speaker Phaedrus is one of only three of the speakers to discuss the origin of Eros. The other speakers either wholly step around or tell their own origin story, and do not refute directly each other while Socrates simply relays the story he was told by Diotima. For Phaedrus, it is a lack of parents that give Eros the standing as a “great and wondrous god among human beings as well as gods” (Segal 266) hence the reason he should be praised. Phaedrus bases this account on Hesiod. “After Chaos he says, there came to be these two, Earth and Eros. First of all gods, devised Eros.” (Segal 266) This lack of parents is important in an understanding of Eros. If Eros is the “god of sexual love, then he cannot be the cause of his own origin.” (Rosen 45) How else could the other gods have been in love and created other gods,

Caldwell 2 unless Eros was present from the beginning? Phaedrus’s origin story depends on that of a man, Hesiod, and therefore depends on a source that in all possibility could be in error. Phaedrus recognizes this and points to other evidence for Eros’s immaculate origin:“the parents of Eros neither exist nor are they spoken of by anyone.” (Segal 266) This is enough for Phaedrus to conclude that Eros had no parents. Eros then has a “genesis but not a generation” (Rosen 45). This means that Eros is the cause of all other creations, including men and the gods. To understand Eros, Aristophanes announces, “you must first understand human nature and it’s afflictions.” (Rosen 138) According to Aristophanes there were originally three types of beings called circle men, basically two beings stuck together; one all male, one all female, and one half female and the other half male who was called androgynous. These three circle men being very powerful, predictably tried to attack the gods. Zeus, looking down from Olympus, was not pleased with this and after some deliberation decided to “cut each of them in two and they will be both weaker and more useful to us through the increase in their numbers.” After being split in two, though, the circle men desired nothing more than to be together. Because the circle men spent so much time together clinging to one another they began to die off except for the androgynous as Zeus caused them to procreate when they came together. For Aristophanes then, Eros was created when each of the circle men were split apart. Each half longed only for its missing part. “So it is really from such early times that human beings have had, inborn in themselves, Eros, for one another – Eros the bringer-together of their ancient nature, who tries to make one out of two and to heal their human natures. Each of us, then, is a token of a human being.” (Segal 281) Only through the coming together of two halves of the whole, “an unstable erotic harmony of opposites” (Rosen 139), does any man become human. The true nature of Eros

Caldwell 3 then for Aristophanes is “the desire and pursuit of the whole” (Segal 283). Eros then is a sort of nostalgia, the ache of an old wound, the desire for what we lack. Socrates relates a third story which he learned of in his youth when he had occasion to speak with Diotima. Socrates asks her much about the Erotics including the origin of Eros. Diotima relates the story: There was a party for the birth of Aphrodite which all the gods were at including Poros(Resource). Poros got drunk and went to sleep in the garden of Zeus. “Then Penia (Poverty), who because of her own lack of resources was plotting to have a child made out of Poros, reclined beside him and conceived Eros.” (Segal 297) The character of Eros is a product of his parents if the story of Diotima, is to be believed. Eros was conceived from two gods with opposite natures. The soul of Eros then is a harmony of these two natures. Eros has “the nature of his mother, always dwelling with neediness. But in accordance with his father ... his nature is neither immortal nor mortal; but sometimes on the same day he flourishes and lives, whenever he has resources; and sometimes he dies, but gets to live again. And as that which is supplied to him is always gradually flowing out, Eros is never either without resources nor wealthy, but is in between wisdom and lack of understanding.” (Segal 296) Though the origin stories of Phaedrus and Socrates/Diotima differ in the lineage, they both still place Eros amongst the gods, unlike the origin story of Aristophanes whose story implies that Eros was a by-product of an act of the gods. For Aristophanes Eros comes from a tearing apart, while for the other speakers, a coming together. All three stories though point to an Eros that has a dual nature. For Phaedrus, Eros has no beginning or end. Aristophanes creates a coming together of opposite natures as the goal of Eros. Socrates tells the story of an Eros that because of the opposing nature of his parents, Poros and Penia, lives life in a constant state of harmony. This dual nature serves to inform what the use of Eros is for man.

Caldwell 4 3. The Utility of Eros For the speakers it is not enough to simply have a god or daemon, each must outline what use it is to man. There would be no reason to praise a god, if nothing was to be expected in return. Phaedrus believes that Eros creates devotion. This devotion is a feature of love that could be exploited. Phaedrus believes that if “an army could be composed of lovers and beloveds, then there could be no better way for them to manage their own; for they would abstain from all that is shameful and be filled with love of honour before one another. “ (Segal 267) From a strictly utilitarian stand point great sacrifices are the nature of those infused with Eros. For an army this would be of great use as “lovers are the only ones who are willing to die for the sake of another; and that is not only true of real men but of women as well.” (Segal 267) Phaedrus misses a chance to expand on this point of devotion that could have tied in well with some of the other themes of the dialogue. There are those that are not only willing to die for each other but for their ideas, beliefs, and principles as well. It is this Eros for knowledge that leads in the end to Plato’s own demise. For Phaedrus Eros can provide human beings with principles by which to lead their lives as well. “There is no one so bad that, once the god Eros had entered him, he would not be directed toward virtue...the strength that the god breathed Eros supplies himself to lovers” (Segal 267) Socrates will expand on Phaedrus’s implication that Eros can be responsible for a virtuous life. For Socrates the most important consequence of Eros is creating a desire for what one is not, or does not have. It is not enough to know that you do not know, as Socrates professes, you must have a desire to seek it out, that desire is created by Eros. For Socrates “love is not merely the absence of all good things, it is the awareness of what they are, that they are absent, and that they

Caldwell 5 would indeed be desirable. Really to understand one’s ignorance and what that implies is thus to understand all about the daemon love.” (Gould 44) 4. Enmity and Harmony For the Greeks the universe and all the things in it by nature are unstable. It is Eros that brings stability to all things. If one has an understanding of Erotics it is possible to bring harmony to things that were once at enmity. Eryximachus being a doctor uses the metaphor of medicine to explain how a knowledge of Eros and Erotics is essential for the doctor. “For he (the doctor) must, in point of fact, be able to make the things that are most at enmity in the body into friends and to make them love one another. The most opposite things are the most at enmity: cold and hot, bitter and sweet, dry and moist, and anything of the sort.” (Segal 276) In every human being then there is a harmony of opposites, a stable state of flux, that keeps them healthy. Should this balance be shifted and Eros be absent a doctor must, using his knowledge of Erotics for the body, put things back into harmony and thereby restore health. This type of Eros, a love of opposites for each other extends to all things explains Eryximachus. “Whenever the hot and the cold, and the dry and the moist, which I mentioned before, obtain decent love for each other and accept a moderate harmony and mixture, they come bearing good seasonableness and health to human beings and to the rest of the animals and plants and commit no injustice.” (Segal 277) As powerful as Eros is, for Eryximachus, Eros cannot bring balance to all things, without the help of man, in the form of religion. It is this promotion of Eros that “all the sacrifices and things over which divination presides ... involve almost nothing else but the protection and healing of Eros.” (Segal 278) From this quote it is clear that Eros for Erixymachus is of the Gods as well.

Caldwell 6 Agathon also includes harmony and balance as character trait of Eros: “Eros is exceptionally harmonious; for lack of harmony and Eros are always at war with one another.” (Segal 286) The use of the word war to describe Eros’s attitude towards disharmony expands on how important harmony is to Eros. The harmony as spoken of in the Symposium is not as simple as bringing together two things, such as black and white. The harmony that the speakers point to here is a “reconciliation, not of opposite elements, but of elements which disagreed once, and are now harmonized.” (Jowett 74) The two things that are to be brought together, though different, once existed in the state of harmony that Eros attempts to return them to. The androgynous circle man illustrates this point. 5. And from the Harmony Virtue All of the speakers touched on in this essay point to a duality of origin for Eros. Following from that origin is a natural desire on the part of Eros to bring things into harmony, by instilling in beings the desire to seek out what will make them whole. This theme would have been attractive to Socrates as he finds himself unbalanced when it comes to knowledge, precisely that he has none. Eros and Erotics then for Socrates stir in him the desire to seek out the knowledge he lacks and thereby bring him into harmony, and ergo make him virtuous. “We begin to see why Socrates could say that love was the only thing he had knowledge of. As philosophy is not simple ignorance, but the awareness of the desirability of knowledge, so love is not merely the absence of all good things, it is the awareness of what they are, that they are absent, and that they would indeed be desirable. Really to understand one’s ignorance and what that implies is thus to understand all about the daemon love.” (Gould 44) 6. Conclusion

Caldwell 7 Eros then is not simply the love of one human being for another, it is for the speakers a source of control in a universe of seemingly endless imbalances. Eros is the cause of all desires, but more importantly a knowledge that one should have a desire for something, and this is the spark that causes one to seek out this missing thing. For Eryximachus it is health. For Aristophanes it is our missing physical half. For Socrates the missing part of him is knowledge.

Works Cited Gould, Thomas. Platonic Love. New York: Free Press of Glencoe, 1963. Plato, Benjamin Jowett, His, His, and Eugene Karlin. Lysis, or, Friendship ;

Caldwell 8 The Symposium ; Phaedrus. Norwalk, Conn: The Easton Press, 1979. Rosen, Stanley. Plato's Symposium. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968. Plato, and Erich Segal. The Dialogues of Plato. New York: Bantam Books, 1986.