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Agathons

Speech About Love in Platos Symposium


A tragedy writer and accomplished orator, Agathon gives a speech that is a masterpiece of
rhetoric. He begins by setting out what he thinks the kind of speech ought to do. Then, he
runs through a number of praiseworthy attributes of Love, making a short argument for
each claim. He finishes by bringing his speech to a climax of oratory, in the style of Gorgias,
one of the contemporary masters of rhetoric.

His speech can be divided into four sections:
Section 1: The right kind of speech about Love
Section 2: Love is young, tender, and beautiful
Section 3: Love possesses all the virtues
Section 4: Love is the source of all good and beauty

Section 1:
Agathon chides the previous four speeches and their makers for having strayed from the
topic. Instead of focusing on Love itself, and praising Love, or telling us bout Loves nature,
they have focused on how blessed humanity is for receiving the benefits of Love.

Setting out the plan for his own speech, Agathon tells us that he will praise Love first, and
then talk about the gifts he brings this being the right order for giving praise.

In the next sections, he is going to be following this over-arching order, and he will break
his praise of Love into two main types
First, he will praise Love for his beauty being fair in the sense of beauty
Then he will praise Love for his goodness being the best

Section 2:
Arguing for Loves superlative beauty, Agathon will bring up several reasons for this.
Love is young
Love is tender
Love is flexible or supple
Love resides among the flowers

Youth Love is the youngest of the gods, and flees from age. The general idea here is that
whatever is youthful is beautiful, and love is superlatively youthful. Another consideration
is that, if Love were actually ancient, the violent doings of the gods would not have taken
place those were not due to Love, but Necessity (or Need)

Tenderness Love walks on the softest of things, the human heart and soul, so he must be
extremely soft himself.

Flexibility Love can enfold all things, so he must be supple. Also, he can make his way
into the soul of a person undetected. Third, he is particularly graceful

Flowers an interesting consideration! Love abounds where flowers are found, in the
place of color, scent, life

Copyright 2013 Gregory B. Sadler, ReasonIO

ReasonIO: philosophy into practice

Agathons Speech About Love in Platos Symposium


Section 3:
In praising Love for his goodness, Agathon will in large part use the language and concepts
of the virtues good character traits acknowledged by the Greek culture. These are:
Justice
Temperance
Courage
Wisdom

Justice: Love cannot do or suffer wrong from gods or human beings. He is incompatible
with force or compulsion. Everything serves Love voluntarily, and since there is voluntary
agreement (or action), there is also justice.

Temperance (or Moderation): Temperance rules the pleasures and desires. Love is not
mastered by desire or pleasure, but instead masters and rules them.

Courage: Love conquers even the god of War, who is exceedingly brave, so Love must be
even more brave.

Wisdom: Love is a poet and the source of poetry in others. He is creative, for example of
all of the animals (through sexual reproduction?). He also inspired the development of
other arts, like medicine, archery, and divination.

Section 4:
Agathon again contrasts the rule of Love with the earlier rule of Necessity. During the
latter, terrible things were done out of necessity. In the new age, Love produces order,
causes love for the beautiful, which brings about good things.

He finishes by a highly wrought climax, which plays off all sorts of contrasts.

Love does all this:
Empties people of disaffection and fills them with affection
Brings people together in feasts, parties, dances, sacrifices
Brings courtesy or politeness, dispels discourtesy or rudeness
Is friends to the good, amazes the wise and the gods
Is desired by those who dont have Love
Precious to those who do have Love
Parent (or producer) of delicacy, luxury, desire, fondness, softness, grace.
Pays attention to the good, ignores the evil
Savior, helper, guide in all things projects, words, hopes and fears, etc.
A leader in whose footsteps everyone can follow, in a procession of harmonious
singing a song which itself charms gods and men with Love

Copyright 2013 Gregory B. Sadler, ReasonIO

ReasonIO: philosophy into practice