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Plato’s Symposion: Discussions on Love

Eros and Psyche

“…and when one of them meets the other half, the actual half of himself, whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy and one will not be out of the other’s sight, as I may say, even for a moment…”

“For love is the desire of the whole, and the pursuit of the whole is called love. ”

“And so, when a person meets the half that is his very own, whatever his orientation, whether it’s to young men or not, then something wonderful happens: the two are struck from their senses by love, by a sense of belonging to one another, and by desire, and they don’t want to be separated from one another, not even for a moment.”
― Plato, The Symposium

The Symposium is a philosophical text by Plato dated c. 385–380 BCE. It concerns itself at one level with the genesis, purpose and nature of love, and (in latter-day interpretations) is the origin of the concept of Platonic love.

Love is examined in a sequence of speeches by men attending a symposium, or drinking party. Each man must deliver an encomium, a speech in praise of Love (Eros). The party takes place at the house of the tragedian Agathon in Athens. Socrates in his speech asserts that the highest purpose of love is to become a philosopher or, literally, a lover of wisdom. The dialogue has been used as a source by social historians seeking to throw light on life in ancient Athens, in particular upon sexual behavior, and the symposium as an institution.

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Eros and Psyque:

The problems started when Psyche, a princess but mere mortal became so beautiful people started worship her as Aphrodite. Well, Aphrodite (Venus) became jealous and sent her son Eros (Cupid) to shoot her with his magic arrow so she would fall in love with the most ugly man. We can note Aphrodite herself was married with the most ugly god (Hephaistus)…

Things further complicated when Cupid saw Psyche asleep. He hesitated, she woke up and he incidentally scratches himself, so he is the one who felt in love – with Psyche of course.

Music and writes based on the text of the Symposium :

  • Erik Satie

Socrate is a work for voice and piano (or small orchestra) by Erik Satie. First published in 1919 for voice and piano, in 1920 a different publisher reissued the piece “revised and corrected”. The text is composed of excerpts of Victor Cousin’s translation of Plato’s dialogues, all of the chosen texts referring to Socrates.

The three parts of the composition are:

  1. Portrait de Socrate (“Portrait of Socrates“), text taken from Plato’s Symposium
  2. Les bords de l’Ilissus (“The banks of the Ilissus“), text taken from Plato’s Phaedrus
  3. Mort de Socrate (“Death of Socrates“), text taken from Plato’s Phaedo

First performances

The first (private) performance of parts of the work had taken place in April 1918 with the composer at the piano and Jane Bathorisinging (all the parts), in the salons of the Princess de Polignac.

The orchestral version was not printed until several decades after Satie’s death.

  • Stages on Life’s Way , a book which includes In Vino VeritasSøren Kierkegaard’s dialogue on love based on Symposium

  • Leonard Bernstein

The Serenade for Solo Violin, Strings, Harp and Percussion (after Plato’s “Symposium”) is a five-movement concerto written by Leonard Bernstein in 1954. The Serenade is highly unusual in that the composer was inspired by Plato’s Symposium, a dialogue of related statements in praise of love, each statement made by a distinguished speaker. The seven speakers who inspired Bernstein’s five movements are:


Plato’s Symposium and the Lacanian Theory
of Transference: Or, What Is Love? E-book


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