Volume 13, Issue 2, Spring 2009
Selected Articles of the Ancient Philosophy Society
Love of the Good, Love of the Whole
Diotima’s Response to Aristophanes in Plato’s Symposium
Diotima criticizes, but does not refute, Aristophanes’ thesis that love is desire for completeness. Her argument incorporates that thesis within a more complex
theory: eros is desire for the permanent possession of the good, and hence also desire for immortality. Aristophanes cannot account for the aspirations entailed in the desire for fame or in the desire for knowledge. Such aspirations can be understood only with reference to the good. However, the paper shows how time plays a fundamental role in the original pursuit of wholeness at the center of Aristophanes’ myth of the two halves. Diotima appropriates his thesis when she describes the urge to leave behind something similar to what one has been. The desire for immortality is nothing but a desire for completeness pursued by mortal nature against the never-ending destruction of time.