The Masks of Dionysos

A Commentary on Plato's Symposium

By Daniel E. Anderson

Subjects: Ancient Greek Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Ancient Greek Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791413166, 223 pages, April 1993
Hardcover : 9780791413159, 223 pages, May 1993

Table of contents


Introduction: A Note On Method

1. Dionysos; The Lovers; The Symposiarch

2. Phaidros; Pausanias

3. Empedokles; Eryximakhos; Aristophanes; Agathon

4. Diotima; Knowledge; The Ladder; Sokrates and Agathon; The Pure Form of Beauty; Mortal Existence; Love and Existence

5. Love and Immortality; The Two Concepts of Immortality; Phaidros and the Written Word; Symposium as a Dialectic With Plato; The Same and the Different

6. Sokrates and Eros; Sokrates and Silenos; Sokrates and Marsyas; Sokrates and Apollo; Sokrates and Alkibiades; Alkibiades and the Dialectic; The Failed Seduction

Appendix: Plato's Meno





The metaphysical center of Plato's work has traditionally been taken to be his Doctrine of Forms; the epistemological center, the Doctrine of Recollection. The Symposium has been viewed as one of the clearest explanations of the first and Meno as one of the clearest explanations of the other. The Masks of Dionysos challenges these traditional interpretations.

Daniel E. Anderson is Guy Max Clark Professor of Philosophy at Ohio Wesleyan University.


"Anderson takes more seriously than anyone else has the dramatic aspect of the Symposium. Obviously almost everyone pays attention to that feature of the dialogue, most especially Stanley Rosen, to whom Anderson owes a considerable debt. But Anderson pushes this interpretation farther, with mid-Western common sense and an elfin sense of humor. The emphasis on Dionysos is very well taken, for he correctly observes that this theme holds the dialogue together, and it also (more or less by implication) holds his book together too.

"This is a significant addition to the scholarship on this dialogue, and a significant contribution to Plato scholarship and interpretation generally, particularly since it also participates in a lively and rapidly expanding trend in contemporary philosophy. " — Anthony Preus, State University of New York, Binghamton

"This is a suggestive, imaginative interpretation of the Symposium. The emphasis on the Dionysian element is made plausible and represents a real contribution to the literature on the Symposium. " — Drew A. Hyland, Trinity College