Volume 15, Issue 2, Spring 2011
Burt C. Hopkins
The Unwritten Teachings in Plato’s Symposium
Socrates’ Initiation into the Ἀριϴμός of Ἔρως
The paper argues that the ontology of Self behind Descartes’s paradigmatic modern account of passion is an obstacle to interpreting properly the account Socrates gives in the Symposium of the truth of Eros’s origin, nature, and gift to the philosophical initiate into his truth. The key to interpreting this account is located in the relation between Eros and the arithmos-structure of the community of kinds, which is disclosed in terms of the Symposium’s dramatic mimesis of the two Platonic sources of being, the One Itself and the indeterminate dyad. This interpretation’s focus is the vulgar and philosophical dimensions of the phallic pun at the beginning of the dialogue. Both dimensions of the dialogue’s opening joke manifest the appearance of Eros in the dialogue as a distorted imitation of the koinonia of the greatest kinds: Being, Rest, Motion, the Same, and the Other.