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The Symposium

The Symposium by Plato
By: (428-347)

The Symposium (Ancient Greek: Συμπόσιον) is a philosophical book written by Plato sometime after 385 BCE. On one level the book deals with the genealogy, nature and purpose of love, on another level the book deals with the topic of knowledge, specifically how does one know what one knows. The topic of love is taken up in the form of a group of speeches, given by a group of men at a symposium or a wine drinking party at the house of the tragedian Agathon at Athens. Plato constructed the Symposium as a story within a story within a story. This architecture creates the space for Plato to build his philosophy of knowledge. The speech of Socrates points out that the highest purpose of Love is to become a Philosopher, or Lover of Wisdom.

First Page:


By Plato

Translated by Benjamin Jowett


Of all the works of Plato the Symposium is the most perfect in form, and may be truly thought to contain more than any commentator has ever dreamed of; or, as Goethe said of one of his own writings, more than the author himself knew. For in philosophy as in prophecy glimpses of the future may often be conveyed in words which could hardly have been understood or interpreted at the time when they were uttered (compare Symp.) which were wiser than the writer of them meant, and could not have been expressed by him if he had been interrogated about them. Yet Plato was not a mystic, nor in any degree affected by the Eastern influences which afterwards overspread the Alexandrian world. He was not an enthusiast or a sentimentalist, but one who aspired only to see reasoned truth, and whose thoughts are clearly explained in his language. There is no foreign element either of Egypt or of Asia to be found in his writings. And more than any other Platonic work the Symposium is Greek both in style and subject, having a beauty 'as of a statue,' while the companion Dialogue of the Phaedrus is marked by a sort of Gothic irregularity... Continue reading book >>

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