Volume 15, Issue 2, Spring 2011
Mark J. Thomas
The Playful and the Serious
A Reading of Xenophon’s Symposium
In this paper I investigate the relationship between the serious and the playful elements in Socrates’ character as these unfold within the context of Xenophon’s Symposium. For the Greeks, the concept of value is attached to the meaning of seriousness, and this accounts for the natural preference for the serious over the playful. Despite the potential rivalry of the playful and philosophy, Socrates mixes the playful with the serious in such a way as to conceal their boundary. This mixing serves the purpose of education, by both attracting us to Socrates and placing us at a distance from the intended meaning of his words.