Plato, the Erotic, and Moral Value

By Louis A. Ruprecht Jr.

Subjects: Plato
Paperback : 9780791442647, 183 pages, August 1999
Hardcover : 9780791442630, 183 pages, August 1999

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Table of contents



Introduction. On Beginning Cautiously
or, What Do We Mean by Ethics?

1. Symposium, The First: Plato
or, Cosmology, Ethics, and the Poets

2. Symposium, The Second: The Erotic
or, Love in the Middle

3. Symposium, The Third: Moral Value
or, Counting, Being, and True Love

Conclusion. On Ending Graciously
or, The Greek Legacy Today

Appendix. On Language and Literacy


Select Bibliography


Argues that the underlining of erotic matters in Plato's dialogues marks the most significant moment in his career.


Socrates was wise, because he knew that he did not know anything; this has long been the prevailing wisdom of the Socratic-Platonic tradition. In Plato's Middle Period—spanning dialogues such as Phaedo, Symposium, Republic, and Phaedrus—Socrates consistently claims to have knowledge in one area: the erotic. This book argues that the underlining of erotic matters —in what it refers to as Plato's Erotic Period—marks the most significant and dramatic moment in Plato's career. Plato's attention to the erotic in this period calls for a fundamental reassessment of many of the most important Platonic ideas: his complicated quarrel with poetry, his dubious doctrine of forms, his alleged hostility to the body and embodiment. In the Erotic Period, Plato's views are much richer, and infinitely more complex, than the many caricatures of his thought allow.

Louis A. Ruprecht, Jr. is Visiting Professor of Religion at Duke University. His first book, Tragic Posture and Tragic Vision: Against the Modern Failure of Nerve, won the Conference on Christianity and Literature's award. He has also written the SUNY Press book Afterwords: Hellenism, Modernism, and the Myth of Decadence.


"Symposia may be Ruprecht's best book yet; it is certainly the smoothest, clearest and hardest hitting read from this remarkable Renaissance figure who has the playfulness of Zorba and the mindfulness of Socrates.

"The topic is significant, its appeal enduring, and the author's take at once individual and connected to other ethicists, philosophers, and students of religious musing or metaphysicians. It has a postmodern flair without the burdensome self-preening of too much postmodern literary critical discourse. " —Bruce B. Lawrence, Duke University

"Symposia engages the most critical and important contemporary ethical issues with profound attention to the basics. Ruprecht commands many fields with authority. "—Ralph Norman, University of Tennessee