Eros and the Intoxications of Enlightenment

On Plato's Symposium

By Steven Berg

Subjects: Plato, Ancient Greek Philosophy, Literary Criticism, Classics, Political Theory
Series: SUNY series in Ancient Greek Philosophy
Paperback : 9781438430188, 182 pages, January 2011
Hardcover : 9781438430171, 182 pages, March 2010

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Table of contents

Part I: Athens and Enlightenment
1. Socrates Made Beautiful

2. Phaedrus: Phaedrus’ Best City in Speech

3. Pausanias: Noble Lies and the Fulfillment of Greekness

4. Eryximachus: Sovereign Science and the Sacred Law

Part II: Athens and the Poets

5. Aristophanes: Eros, Soul and Law

6. Agathon: Eros, Soul and Rhetoric

Part III: Socrates and Athens

7. Socrates: Daimonic Eros

8. Alcibiades: Divine Socrates

Conclusion: Socrates and Plato


Provocative reinterpretation of Plato's Symposium.


An original analysis of one of Plato's most well-known and pivotal dialogues, this study is based upon the effort to think together the most manifest themes of the Symposium (the nature of eros and the relation between poetry and philosophy) with its less obvious but no less essential themes (the character of the city and the nature and limitations of sophistic enlightenment). Author Steven Berg offers an interpretation of this dialogue wherein all the speakers at the banquet—with the exception of Socrates—not only offer their views on the nature of love, but represent Athens and the Athenian enlightenment. Accordingly, Socrates' speech, taken in relation to the speeches that precede it, is shown to articulate the relation between Socrates and the Athenian enlightenment, to expose the limitations of that enlightenment, and therefore finally to bring to light the irresolvable tension between Socrates and his philosophy and the city of Athens even at her most enlightened.

Steven Berg is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Bellarmine University.