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Heraclitus' Symposium

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Wardy, RBB 


How does the Symposium (not) hang together? The overwhelmingly popular answer is that the Symposium has a teleological structure, culminating in Socrates'/Diotima's speech, which variously incorporates or dismisses noteworthy claims about ōerōs made in the preceding speeches. Whatever endures from a non-philosophical source does so not in anything like its original form, but rather by virtue of having undergone Platonic alchemy, as she translates, reworks and refines ordinary opinions into high-powered philosophical theory. This paper proposes a radical alternative. It argues that we should systematically reverse Eryximachus' reductive judgements concerning Heraclitus on harmonisation, and apply the results to the Symposium itself. There is discordant harmony which a complex, polyphonic logos embodies. Such a logos thrives on dissension, since its very existence as a unified whole depends on the maintained, unweakened opposition between elements agreeing to differ. The Symposium is many voices unified, but untrammeled. The paper concludes that, to avoid fundamental question-begging, the Symposium endorses a sort of epistemological contextualism anathema in other Platonic contexts. And that it is not a dialogue.



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Revue de Philosophie Ancienne

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