Platos Dialectic at Play: Argument, Structure, and Myth in the Symposium

Paperback | June 27, 2006

byKevin Corrigan, Elena Glazov-Corrigan

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The Symposium is one of Plato’s most accessible dialogues, an engrossing historical document as well as an entertaining literary masterpiece. By uncovering the structural design of the dialogue, Plato’s Dialectic at Play aims at revealing a Plato for whom the dialogical form was not merely ornamentation or philosophical methodology but the essence of philosophical exploration. His dialectic is not only argument; it is also play.

Careful analysis of each layer of the text leads cumulatively to a picture of the dialogue’s underlying structure, related to both argument and myth, and shows that a dynamic link exists between Diotima’s higher mysteries and the organization of the dialogue as a whole. On this basis the authors argue that the Symposium, with its positive theory of art contained in the ascent to the Beautiful, may be viewed as a companion piece to the Republic, with its negative critique of the role of art in the context of the Good. Following Nietzsche’s suggestion and applying criteria developed by Mikhail Bakhtin, they further argue for seeing the Symposium as the first novel.

The book concludes with a comprehensive reevaluation of the significance of the Symposium and its place in Plato’s thought generally, touching on major issues in Platonic scholarship: the nature of art, the body-soul connection, the problem of identity, the relationship between mythos and logos, Platonic love, and the question of authorial writing and the vanishing signature of the absent Plato himself.

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The Symposium is one of Plato’s most accessible dialogues, an engrossing historical document as well as an entertaining literary masterpiece. By uncovering the structural design of the dialogue, Plato’s Dialectic at Play aims at revealing a Plato for whom the dialogical form was not merely ornamentation or philosophical methodology but...

Kevin Corrigan is Professor in the Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts at Emory University. Elena Glazov-Corrigan is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Russian and East Asian Languages and Cultures at Emory University.

other books by Kevin Corrigan

Format:PaperbackDimensions:280 pages, 8.97 × 6 × 0.79 inPublished:June 27, 2006Publisher:Penn State University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0271029137

ISBN - 13:9780271029139

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Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction

1. Apollodorus’s Prologue: An Imitation of an Imitation

1.1 The Historical Frame

1.2 Apollodorus and Mimetic Narrative

1.3 The Force of Hybris

1.4 Malakos versus Manikos: Soft or Mad?

1.5 Anachronisms?

2. Aristodemus’s Prologue: The Destruction and Transformation of the Factual Frame of Reference

2.1 The Story

2.2 Sufficiency and Beauty: Emerging Criteria for Judgment

2.3 The Spatial Order?

2.4 Mimetic versus Hubristic: The Destruction of the Factual Narrative

2.5 Sophistic Education in the Context of Other Dialogues: Protagoras, Phaedo, Republic

2.6 Between Religious Observance and the Cycle of Opposites

2.7 “The Father of the Discourse”

3. The Order of the Speeches: Formulating the Problem

3.1 Eros

3.2 Encomium

3.3 The Problem of the Significance of the Early Speeches

4. From Character to Speech: The Early Speeches and Their Significance

4.1 Phaedrus: The Ardent Apprentice, but Confused Mythologue

4.2 Pausanias: The Sophistic Sociologue

4.3 Hiccups and Eryximachus, the Homogenic Doctor-Scientist

4.4 Aristophanes: The Poet as Educator

4.4.1 Aristophanes’ Speech and Socrates’ Criticism of Mimetic Art in the Republic

4.4.2 The Possibility of Anachronism and Plato’s Vanishing Signature

4.4.3 Aristophanes’ Speech as a Parody of Philosophical Dialectic

4.4.4 Aristophanes’ Speech and Individual Identity

4.4.5 Aristophanes’ Hiccups Revisited

4.5 Agathon: The Sophistic Theologue as the “Climax” of an Unselfcritical Tradition

4.5.1 Advance over the Previous Speakers?

4.5.2 Agathon as Theologue Without Need

4.5.3 The Shadow of the “Good”: Agathon’s Portrait in the Context of the Republic

4.6 Conclusion

5. Diotima-Socrates: Mythical Thought in the Making

5.1 Introduction: The Problem

5.2 The Elenchus of Agathon and the Question of Truth

5.3 The Role of Diotima

5.4 Eros-Daimôn

5.5 Diotima and the Art of Mythmaking Revisited: The Birth of Eros

5.6 Love: Relation or Substance?

5.7 Rhetoric and Dialectic

5.8 Criticism of Aristophanes and Agathon

5.9 The Curious Case of Procreation in the Beautiful

5.10 The Concluding Sections of the Lesser Mysteries

5.11 Preliminary Conclusion

6. The Greater Mysteries and the Structure of the Symposium So Far

6.1 The Movement of Ascent: Structure

6.2 The Movement of Ascent and the Earlier Speeches

6.3 Immortality and God-Belovedness

6.4 Overall Conclusion

6.4.1 “Platonic Love”: The View So Far

7. Alcibiades and the Conclusion of the Symposium: The Test and Trial of Praise

7.1 The Figure of Dionysus and the Face of Socrates

7.2 The Role of Alcibiades

7.3 The Test of Praise

7.4 The Trial of Praise

7.5 Eros, the Tyrant, and His Revelers

7.6 Identity and Diversity: The Uniqueness of Socrates

7.7 Logoi Opened Up: An Image for the Symposium?

7.8 The Concluding Scenes: Rest and the Self-Motion of Thought—“Socrates Standing Seeking”

8. Conclusion: Plato’s Dialectic at Play

8.1 Character, Voice, and Genre

8.2 Bakhtin and the Dialogical Character of Novelistic Discourse

8.3 The Symposium as the First “Novel” of Its Kind in History

8.4 Plato’s Dialectic at Play: Art, Reason, and Understanding

8.5 Plato’s Positive View of Art

8.6 Structure, Myth, and Argument

8.7 Soul-Body and Human Identity

8.8 “Platonic Love” and “Plato”

Select Bibliography

Index

Editorial Reviews

Plato’s Dialectic at Play is a wide-ranging, intelligent and energetic book whose complexity is a fine companion to the artful complexity of the Symposium itself. As such, it deserves careful reading (and rereading) by historians of philosophy, intellectual historians, and all those interested in the intersection of literature and philosophy.”

—William Desmond, Hermathena