Diotima

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Diotima’s “On Love” from Plato’s Symposium (c. 360 b.c.e.)

General topics discussed:

How seriously should we take the claim that Diotima taught Socrates “the philosophy of Love”?

What is the importance of Love’s parentage and his conception story?

Is the dialogue better understood in two parts (Who and What Love is & The Cause of Longing and Loving; All the Various effect of Love)?

What separates human love from animals’ procreation?

What are the stages of love? Are they flexible or rigid?

Would a child of Diotima and Socrates be superior to this conversation?

Does it matter if Diotima’s a real person?

Challenges:
• Socratic dialogues are always difficult. While it might be tempting to pair the reading, for example, with Heloise, if the group goes that route the Discussion Leader should take pains not to let an easier reading detract from digging into this reading.

• There may be some challenges if the group contains individuals with vast differences in familiarity with Platonic dialogues. If this is true, the Discussion Leader should think about how to help mitigate these challenges.

Further reading suggestions:
Homer and Hesoid’s poetry and Lycurgus and Solon’s laws are mentioned in the dialogue. For a more advanced group, this might make for interesting pre-reading or additional readings.
(For those with kids or a general sense of whimsy: The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen is an interesting complementary text)

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