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Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 9, Issue 2, Spring 2005

Special Issue: The Ancient Philosophy Society

P. Christopher Smith
Pages 233-253

Poetry, Socratic Dialectic, and the Desire of the Beautiful in Plato’s Symposium

I attempt in this paper to argue a thesis that is the opposite of the standard reading of Plato’s Symposium. I maintain that it is not the persuasive speech of the comic or tragic poets that is criticized and undermined in the dialogue, but Socratic dialectic and dialogical argumentation. This is to say, it is not Aristophanes’ and Agathon’s speeches that are the object of Plato’s critique, but Socrates’ minimalist and rather unpoetic elenchos. My anaysis leads to the conclusion that Diotima’s speech is meant to be recognized as Plato’s own invention in order to highlight the abstraction and utter unmusicality of Socratic dialectic.