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Close Reading of Plato’s “The Symposium”

“The Symposium”, written by Plato, is constructed upon the close meeting of old friends together to discuss philosophical questions concerning love. In this discussion, there are several participants, including philosopher Socrates, statesmen Alcibiades, Athenian poet Agathon, and the comic playwright Aristophanes. The phrase from the passage under study was said by Socrates in response to Agathon’s misunderstanding about Socrates’s idea of interconnection between good and love. Interestingly, when Socrates speaks about love, he gives references to what he has learned about it through a woman named Diotima. From the text, it is unclear who this person is. We will explore furthermore how Diotima is used as pseudonymity to mask Plato.

First of all, Socrates used the reference to Diotima, a woman, in a discussion with males about love. Hence, Socrates seems to assume that women can also have a deep and proper understanding of the true meaning of life. However, it is also remarkable that no women are present in the discussion. As a result, Socrates interprets the ideas formulated by women through his own lens. It can result in the misrepresentation of Diotima’s speech because the theme of love is highly influenced by gender differences. Among scholars, it is agreed that Diotima is a fictional character. Although it is debatable why Plato had chosen to refer to woman, it seems that Diotima was just Socrates’s alter ego. The presence of Diotima brings us to the topic of anonymity and pseudonymity in Plato’s writings.

The sense of anonymity in Plato’s works originates from his conviction of existential uncertainty in the world. In fact, it may be true that all characters in Plato’s dialogues are fictional and only represent different Plato’s sides of the mind. When different people in dialogue have their own understanding of the world, there can be the conclusion that there is no universal truth. Therefore, Platonic writings provide an impersonal picture of reality, composed of ideas impressed by different figures.

Concerning the passage of Plato’s text that I analyzed, it can help better understand how Plato articulates Diotima’s personality. Representing Diotima to the audience, Socrates says, “I’ll try to restate [Diotima’s speech]”. This verb tells us that Socrates will reformulate Diotima’s ideas, which can distort the true meaning of Diotima’s speech because of gender differences. However, Socrates admits that he respects this imaginary woman, so it indicates that there is no derogatory attitude toward her. He indicates that she has extrahuman abilities capable of helping people cope with serious troubles. In the end, Socrates says that he will “report what she said”, which makes the reader hope that Diotima’s opinion will not lose its factual truth. Nevertheless, there is a phrase that Socrates will “doing it [reporting Diotima’s thought] on my own”. The reason that gender is important in reporting Diotima’s ideas about love is that gender is not just a supplementary fact of her teaching about love; it is the fact that constructs her discourse by determining what she thinks about love relations.

To sum up, the analyzed passage from Plato’s “Symposium” is instructive in understanding the importance of who and what says about different issues. Such facts as gender, age, and occupation are important for researchers who investigate the true meaning of texts. Also, Plato’s writings raise the topic of anonymity and pseudonymity in his texts. Knowing that it is typical of Plato to create fictional characters guides us about Plato’s integral argument about the existential uncertainty of the world.

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StudyKraken. (2023, February 26). Close Reading of Plato’s “The Symposium”.

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"Close Reading of Plato’s “The Symposium”." StudyKraken, 26 Feb. 2023,

1. StudyKraken. "Close Reading of Plato’s “The Symposium”." February 26, 2023.


StudyKraken. "Close Reading of Plato’s “The Symposium”." February 26, 2023.


StudyKraken. 2023. "Close Reading of Plato’s “The Symposium”." February 26, 2023.


StudyKraken. (2023) 'Close Reading of Plato’s “The Symposium”'. 26 February.

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