Learning through Love: A Lover’s Initiation in the Symposium
Keywords:Socrates, Diotima, ladder of love, initiation, leadership
In the Symposium of Plato, Socrates reports that Diotima once described to him a process of initiation by which a lover rises from desiring one beautiful body to catching sight of what seems to be the Platonic form of beauty. Scholars have debated whether the lover is to make this ascent by a rational process or a non-rational one, or by both working either in concert or independently. This paper argues that love leads and guides a process in this initiation that necessarily involves rational activity. No teaching is necessary or appropriate, so that the process is an example of learning without being taught. The philosophical insight that results is life-changing, but it does not amount to the kind of knowledge that would fully satisfy a Socratic seeker after knowledge.
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