49 pages 1 hour read



Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 380

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.


The Pervasiveness of Dualities

To understand the Symposium, it is important to recognize that the ancient Greeks did not categorize their world along moral lines, dividing objects, feelings, or behaviors as “good” or “bad.” Rather, the ancient Greeks viewed “good” and “bad” as outcomes rather than moral absolutes. For example, strife, in the poet Hesiod’s Works and Days, can be beneficial when it inspires humans to work hard to achieve greatness; it can also be destructive when it provokes humans to compete with each other in ways that provoke conflict. This is the concept at work in Pausanias’s speech, when he describes the Celestial and Common manifestations of Aphrodite. Aphrodite’s duality is the tension between the opposing poles at her core: being both divine and of the people. This tension suffuses the Symposium, from its structure to its central figures to Love itself.

Structurally, the presence of the dual is felt from the outset with the first line: Apollonius’s response to a question or statement that remains unknown to the audience. With this beginning, Plato establishes a tension between his philosophical method (dialogue) and the method of his ideas’ transmission (text). Across the Symposium, the reader is continually reminded that what is being heard or read was a dialogue that now is a fixed text to which the reader does not have full access.