Philosophy Is So Gay

 

The Symposium of Plato is an amazing mix of tragedy, comedy, and serious philosophy. It’s a literary and philosophical accomplishment with few rivals and fewer superiors.  (Three to which I’d consider awarding that distinction: Plato’s Republic, Augustine’s Confessions, and Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy.)

The setting is a drinking party at Agathon’s place. Eryximachus recommends everybody not drink too much like they had the night before. So they try to moderate their alcohol consumption by selection as the real object of their evening . . . speeches. Speeches in praise of Love! Things get weird and awesome and hilarious from there.

It’s not that everyone is gay. It’s just that the flute girls are sent away; Pausanias praises Athenian homosexuality as the heavenly form of love; Pausanias is super-gay and wants to date Agathon; Aristophanes thinks that’s hilarious… and probably several other people in the room are or have been involved in homosexual relationships.

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“Symposium” by Anselm Feuerbach. Wikimedia Commons

The Symposium might actually be a criticism of homosexuality.  At least it’s safe to say that it’s a criticism of ancient Athenian homosexuality–which helped to really, really mess up Alcibiades.

Oh, about that—did I mention that Alcibiades shows up late ridiculously drunk and explains how he totally failed to get lucky with Socrates?

I am not making any of this up!

And then there’s the philosophy!  When Socrates gives his speech, it starts off with him explaining that he picked up all his love expertise from a woman—Diotima.

Wow I Madea GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHYWith a set-up like that, you might expect some salacious story about Socrates’s affair with some hot little item named Diotima, but it’s nothing of the sort.  Diotima is an older and wiser woman, and I bet you can’t read the Symposium without picturing her as ugly.

She’s kind of like an ornery grandmother–like Madea, but wiser. The highlight of the Symposium is how Diotima told Socrates about how to ascend in love towards Beauty Itself, the ultimate non-physical reality.  But all that awesomeness happens before the hilarity and tragedy of Alcibiades.

Besides the philosophy in the Diotima speech, the Symposium has some real, and simple enough, insights. Like how ancient Athenian homosexuality customs seriously corrupt the education/mentorship of younger men by older men.  And how love isn’t the point itself; the point of love is that what love loves is the real point.

A question for my fellow Christians–if G-d is love, how does that work?  Maybe we’ll talk about that later.

Anyway, a current TeacherOfPhilosophy series on YouTube/Rumble is going over the Symposium.  Here’s where you can subscribe to me on Rumble, and here’s the Rumble channel with the Symposium series. On YouTube, the Symposium series is in the Great Texts playlist.  Expect a total of 14 videos airing weekly. The first three are below.

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  1. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member
    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw
    @MattBalzer

    Saint Augustine: Eryximachus recommends everybody not drink too much like they did last night. So they try to moderate their alcohol consumption by selection as the real object of their evening . . . speeches.

    If they actually want to moderate their alcohol consumption that’s a terrible idea because everyone else is going to be drinking while one person is speechifying. Of course if they want to debate that’s also a bad idea because nothing keeps a debate going like a pull from your wine jug. Or the communal wine jug, I don’t know how the Greeks did it.

    Saint Augustine:

    Oh, about that–did I mention that Alcibiades shows up late ridiculously drunk and explains how he totally failed to get lucky with Socrates?

    I am not making any of this up!

    I have maybe two facts about Alcibiades in my knowledge base, and both of them point towards that statement being absolutely true.

    And then there’s the philosophy!  When Socrates gives his speech, it starts off with him explaining that he picked up all his love expertise from a woman–Diotima.

    With a set-up like that, you might expect some salacious story about Socrates’s affair with some hot little item named Diotima, but it’s nothing of the sort.  Diotima is an older and wiser woman, and I bet you can’t read the Symposium without picturing her as ugly.

    She might not be a supermodel but I’d guess she was a long way from an uggo. There’s a lot to be said for picking up your love expertise from an older and wiser woman.

    • #1
  2. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Well, you gotta admit…it’s not a typical subject or title for a Ricochet post!

    • #2
  3. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Saint Augustine: The setting is a drinking party at Agathon’s place. Eryximachus recommends everybody not drink too much like they had the night before. So they try to moderate their alcohol consumption by selection as the real object of their evening . . . speeches. Speeches in praise of Love! Things get weird and awesome and hilarious from there.

    Oh, that typo! Ouch.

    • #3
  4. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    That post title is so shrewdly calculated to catch reader interest that I’m temped to steal the idea and do a film history post called “Hollywood is So Straight”!

    But then, inevitably, people would ask, “Did Ricochet start a section for fiction?”

    • #4
  5. Clarendon Coolidge
    Clarendon
    @Mackinder

    “Philosophy is so gay.” So what, and what if it weren’t?

    • #5
  6. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Clarendon (View Comment):

    “Philosophy is so gay.” So what, and what if it weren’t?

    Mostly I just think the line sounds funny.

    (In the 90s wouldn’t it have meant something like “Philosophy is do dumb”?)

    • #6
  7. Samuel Block Staff
    Samuel Block
    @SamuelBlock

    Saint Augustine:

    And how love isn’t the point itself; the point of love is that what love loves is the real point.

    A question for my fellow Christians–if G-d is love, how does that work?  Maybe we’ll talk about that later.

    I believe you have our attention, Professor. A digital dialogue to help you start on your draft?

     

    • #7
  8. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member
    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw
    @MattBalzer

    Samuel Block (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine:

    And how love isn’t the point itself; the point of love is that what love loves is the real point.

    A question for my fellow Christians–if G-d is love, how does that work? Maybe we’ll talk about that later.

    I believe you have our attention, Professor. A digital dialogue to help you start on your draft?

     

     

    • #8
  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Saint Augustine: A question for my fellow Christians–if G-d is love, how does that work?  Maybe we’ll talk about that later.

    You want me to explain God to you?

    • #9
  10. Nanocelt TheContrarian Member
    Nanocelt TheContrarian
    @NanoceltTheContrarian

    “.. to ascend through love to Beauty Itself…”

    It is interesting that Jonathan Edwards used the argument regarding human ability to perceive beauty (eg, there is something objective about beauty that we can directly perceive and understand) and applies that capacity to appreciate beauty to other areas of human activity to arrive at a full understanding of The Nature of True Virtue (that which most engenders and supports the flourishing of life in all respects). Which allows us to contemplate and approach the Divine. 

    Sort of the antithesis of this sad Symposium of self indulgent concupiscence.

    I would hazard an opinion that Edwards has the ultimate word on the subject of Virtue, starting from the same point as the perverse and sordid Greeks.

    “…and from sloth, Philosophy.”  Alexander Pope. 

    He should have added from gluttony, inebriation, and sexual perversion. But, St Augustine is on to something. All of this gay stuff certainly explains much of our philosophy, such as De Sade, Foucault, and likely Hume, Smith and Voltaire, and perhaps many others. Nietzsche, on the other hand, was perhaps more in to incest.  

    I’ll take Jonathan Edwards over the lot of them any day.

     

    • #10
  11. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Samuel Block (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine:

    And how love isn’t the point itself; the point of love is that what love loves is the real point.

    A question for my fellow Christians–if G-d is love, how does that work? Maybe we’ll talk about that later.

    I believe you have our attention, Professor. A digital dialogue to help you start on your draft?

    Option A: It’s about the actions of G-d. G-d is love because He is good to us. What love loves is people who matter, and that’s the point of love, whether it’s us loving G-d or each other or G-d loving us.

    Option B: It’s about the Trinity. If G-d is Three Persons, love is the nature of G-d. What the love of G-d loves is G-d.

    Take both options.

    • #11
  12. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Nanocelt TheContrarian (View Comment):

    “.. to ascend through love to Beauty Itself…”

    It is interesting that Jonathan Edwards used the argument regarding human ability to perceive beauty (eg, there is something objective about beauty that we can directly perceive and understand) and applies that capacity to appreciate beauty to other areas of human activity to arrive at a full understanding of The Nature of True Virtue (that which most engenders and supports the flourishing of life in all respects). Which allows us to contemplate and approach the Divine.

    Sort of the antithesis of this sad Symposium of self indulgent concupiscence.

    It sounds a lot like the thesis.

    I would hazard an opinion that Edwards has the ultimate word on the subject of Virtue, starting from the same point as the perverse and sordid Greeks.

    Edwards is great.

    “…and from sloth, Philosophy.” Alexander Pope.

    You know what that’s about? It’s about the topic of Joseph Pieper’s book Leisure, the Basis of Culture.

    He should have added from gluttony, inebriation, and sexual perversion. But, St Augustine is on to something. All of this gay stuff certainly explains much of our philosophy, such as De Sade, Foucault, and likely Hume, Smith and Voltaire, and perhaps many others. Nietzsche, on the other hand, was perhaps more in to incest.

    I don’t know anything about that. But if you want a takedown of modern philosophy, I can oblige.

    I’ll take Jonathan Edwards over the lot of them any day.

    No objection there!

    • #12
  13. KCK Member
    KCK
    @KCK

    Didn’t Nietzsche call it “The Gay Science”?

    • #13
  14. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    KCK (View Comment):

    Didn’t Nietzsche call it “The Gay Science”?

    Sorta.

    • #14
  15. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    • #15
  16. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Saint Augustine:

    The Symposium might actually be a criticism of homosexuality.  At least it’s safe to say that it’s a criticism of ancient Athenian homosexuality–which helped to really, really mess up Alcibiades.

    Oh, about that—did I mention that Alcibiades shows up late ridiculously drunk and explains how he totally failed to get lucky with Socrates?

    Yes, Alcibiades was messed up.  And did a real number on the Athenian Empire.

    His gayness is not covered in Donald Kagan’s A New History of the Peloponnesian War.

    • #16
  17. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member
    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw
    @MattBalzer

    Clavius (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine:

    The Symposium might actually be a criticism of homosexuality. At least it’s safe to say that it’s a criticism of ancient Athenian homosexuality–which helped to really, really mess up Alcibiades.

    Oh, about that—did I mention that Alcibiades shows up late ridiculously drunk and explains how he totally failed to get lucky with Socrates?

    Yes, Alcibiades was messed up. And did a real number on the Athenian Empire.

    His gayness is not covered in Donald Kagan’s A New History of the Peloponnesian War.

    Kagan probably just took it as a given and figured he didn’t have to talk about it.

    • #17
  18. Nanocelt TheContrarian Member
    Nanocelt TheContrarian
    @NanoceltTheContrarian

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Nanocelt TheContrarian (View Comment):

    “.. to ascend through love to Beauty Itself…”

    It is interesting that Jonathan Edwards used the argument regarding human ability to perceive beauty (eg, there is something objective about beauty that we can directly perceive and understand) and applies that capacity to appreciate beauty to other areas of human activity to arrive at a full understanding of The Nature of True Virtue (that which most engenders and supports the flourishing of life in all respects). Which allows us to contemplate and approach the Divine.

    Sort of the antithesis of this sad Symposium of self indulgent concupiscence.

    It sounds a lot like the thesis.

    I would hazard an opinion that Edwards has the ultimate word on the subject of Virtue, starting from the same point as the perverse and sordid Greeks.

    Edwards is great.

    “…and from sloth, Philosophy.” Alexander Pope.

    You know what that’s about? It’s about the topic of Joseph Pieper’s book Leisure, the Basis of Culture.

    He should have added from gluttony, inebriation, and sexual perversion. But, St Augustine is on to something. All of this gay stuff certainly explains much of our philosophy, such as De Sade, Foucault, and likely Hume, Smith and Voltaire, and perhaps many others. Nietzsche, on the other hand, was perhaps more in to incest.

    I don’t know anything about that. But if you want a takedown of modern philosophy, I can oblige.

    I’ll take Jonathan Edwards over the lot of them any day.

    No objection there!

    If leisure is the basis of culture, why is it that the more leisure we have, the more coarse, degraded, and depraved our culture becomes? I would say the basis of our culture is Judeo-Christian religion, with some Greek and Roman depravity tossed in, unfortunately, and always vying for primacy.

    Pope was burlesquing the ideas of his time, that virtue emerges from vice, as Smith argues that societal well being and general wealth arise from individual greed, when people realize that they can build wealth when supplying goods and services that other people need and want, etc

    Socrates starts from the perverse and moves toward the sublime via human reasoning and perception. Everything achieved through his own cognition. A hubris fundamental to philosophy ever since. But he has no way to anccount for that human cognitive power nor its validity.  Edwards starts from an undeniable inborn and apparently natural ability of humans, ( implanted by their creator), to recognize beauty (and hence truth). A trait imparted by their creator that makes the creation in a minuscule way like their Creator. And moves to a capacity to perceive and grasp, to a degree, the nature of the Divine. Solely through capacities placed by the creator. Actually not the antithesis of Socrates, but an entirely different view of the nature of the world, the cosmos, and the place of humans within them.

    • #18
  19. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Nanocelt TheContrarian (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Nanocelt TheContrarian (View Comment):

    “.. to ascend through love to Beauty Itself…”

    It is interesting that Jonathan Edwards used the argument regarding human ability to perceive beauty (eg, there is something objective about beauty that we can directly perceive and understand) and applies that capacity to appreciate beauty to other areas of human activity to arrive at a full understanding of The Nature of True Virtue (that which most engenders and supports the flourishing of life in all respects). Which allows us to contemplate and approach the Divine.

    Sort of the antithesis of this sad Symposium of self indulgent concupiscence.

    It sounds a lot like the thesis.

    I would hazard an opinion that Edwards has the ultimate word on the subject of Virtue, starting from the same point as the perverse and sordid Greeks.

    Edwards is great.

    “…and from sloth, Philosophy.” Alexander Pope.

    You know what that’s about? It’s about the topic of Joseph Pieper’s book Leisure, the Basis of Culture.

    He should have added from gluttony, inebriation, and sexual perversion. But, St Augustine is on to something. All of this gay stuff certainly explains much of our philosophy, such as De Sade, Foucault, and likely Hume, Smith and Voltaire, and perhaps many others. Nietzsche, on the other hand, was perhaps more in to incest.

    I don’t know anything about that. But if you want a takedown of modern philosophy, I can oblige.

    I’ll take Jonathan Edwards over the lot of them any day.

    No objection there!

    If leisure is the basis of culture, why is it that the more leisure we have, the more coarse, degraded, and depraved our culture becomes?

    Bad culture?

    I would say the basis of our culture is Judeo-Christian religion, with some Greek and Roman depravity tossed in, unfortunately, and always vying for primacy.

    And our own built-in depravity, with some good stuff from the Greeks and Romans too.

    Creation, Fall, Redemption–everything was created good, everything is corrupted by sin, and the whole of creation is to be redeemed.

    Pope was burlesquing the ideas of his time, that virtue emerges from vice, as Smith argues that societal well being and general wealth arise from individual greed, when people realize that they can build wealth when supplying goods and services that other people need and want, etc

    Socrates starts from the perverse and moves toward the sublime via human reasoning and perception. Everything achieved through his own cognition. A hubris fundamental to philosophy ever since. But he has no way to anccount for that human cognitive power nor its validity. Edwards starts from an undeniable inborn and apparently natural ability of humans, ( implanted by their creator), to recognize beauty (and hence truth). A trait imparted by their creator that makes the creation in a minuscule way like their Creator. And moves to a capacity to perceive and grasp, to a degree, the nature of the Divine. Solely through capacities placed by the creator. Actually not the antithesis of Socrates, but an entirely different view of the nature of the world, the cosmos, and the place of humans within them.

    Importantly different, but not entirely: Edwards and Plato’s Symposium both teach that there is an ultimate non-physical reality to love which is the proper function of our souls.

    • #19
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