The Symposium and the Phaedrus are combined here because of their shared theme: a reflection on the nature of erotic love, the love that begins with sexual desire but can transcend that origin and reach even the heights of religious ecstasy. This reflection is carried out explicitly in the speeches and conversations in the dialogues, and implicitly in the dramatic depiction of actions and characters. Thus, the two dialogues deal with a theme of enduring interest and are interesting for both their literary and their philosophical character.
In addition to the introduction, the book contains substantial commentaries and thorough endnotes. Key Greek terms are discussed for readers who are unfamiliar with the language. A special feature is a discussion on the importance of the dramatic and literary aspects of the dialogues for interpreting their philosophical content.
The introductions deal with the nature of the dialogues themselves as philosophical texts and with Plato's philosophical assumptions and key concepts, as well as with the necessary background of Athenian society. The endnotes clarify any ambiguities and obscurities in the original text, identifying all references to people, places, gods, et cetera.
The commentaries are designed to open up the dialogues for the reader, showing the issues that have been debated by commentators and considering some of the responses to them. They are designed to stimulate further reflection.
William S. Cobb, Professor of Philosophy at the College of William and Mary.