on April 13, 2014
The Symposium is what it is: a classic of western culture. So, when one offers a review, it's not about the text itself (I think) but for the translation, presentation and notes. So: Wakefield's translation is the smoothest I've read of this great text. His modern English makes the homoerotic context of the dialogue clear, for one thing. I've taught this text to sleepy undergrads who were clueless about the terms "lover" and "beloved" in the speeches, assuming they were about a boy and a girl. But the notes are where Wakefield really shines. Wakefield gives not only a readable account of each of the speeches, a special discussion of love in Greek thought, and a literary analysis, but also a useful set of notes at the end. Over all, this is so much better than the tired British translations we used to read in college back in the old days.
on March 25, 2016
In this fluent and fast-moving translation, Waterfield captures the vibrant quality of Plato's writing and achieves an accurate version of the styles and tones of the original Greek. From the rhetorical flourishes of Agathon to the bold simplicity of Alcibiades, from the learned lecture of Eryximachus to the playful and profound contributions of Socrates, W. succeeds in converting Plato's "seven different styles" (p. xix) into convincing English. The notes on the text encompass both the wider social, historical and mythological background and careful observations on dramatic details of the dialogue (e.g. on 181 d, 193a and 222e). Waterfield provides thorough analysis of the arguments on love and discussions of relevant material elsewhere in Plato. He also offers insights into the various problems of translation.
Overall this is an excellent work. The translation is faithful to the Greek yet refreshingly modern and the text is supported by a valuable introduction and commentary. With plenty of suggestions for further reading, the book will be of great benefit both to students of the Greek text and general readers seeking an introduction to Plato. Readers will enjoy debating who gives the best speech. My own vote goes to Aristophanes!
on September 3, 2014
A fascinating insight on several ancient views of love, including Aristotle's in-depth analysis of what love's properties are and what it is about. The preface contains very useful contextual information while relating it to different parts of Symposium. Plato's Symposium itself reads as a story, making it a read easier than it might be otherwise. All in all, the information is well thought out and dictated to the reader in a very efficient way. As someone who enjoys casual philosophy, I recommend it to anyone else who does.
on December 12, 2015
Like all Waterfield's translations of Plato, this translation of the Symposium is clear and written with good style. In most of Plato's dialogues, Socrates talks with an interlocutor about the some concept, say courage (Laches), and shows by questioning that the interlocutor cannot say precisely what the concept is. Here, rather than Socratic questioning most of the dialogue is speeches about love, which fits Socrates' programme of defining things (what is love?). In Socrates' speech about love (which he claims to be due to Diotima) he speaks in 210-211 about Beauty itself: "Then again, he won't perceive beauty as a face or hands or any other physical feature, or as a piece of reasoning or knowledge, and he won't perceive it as being anywhere else either -- in something like a creature or the earth or the heavens. No, he'll perceive it in itself and by itself, constant and eternal, and he'll see that every other beautiful object somehow partakes of it, but in such a way that their coming to be and ceasing to be don't increase or diminish it at all, and it remains entirely unaffected."
The Symposium is not representative of the format of Plato's dialogues, and thus this shouldn't be the first dialogue you read, especially because this dialogue describes Socrates' life in Alcibiades' speech, and if you don't already know Socrates from other dialogues you won't care as much as you should about his character. (On the other hand, there is no reason to wait to read this fun dialogue until after the Republic or even heavier works like the Parmenides, Timaeus, Laws.)
on October 30, 2015
Plato is an important teacher of mine; he understood the knowledge of our immortal soul twenty-five hundred years ago. One sultry night in ancient Greece, Socrates and five other philosophers join together, and the Symposium is created. Plato, a student of Socrates, writes down the dialogue in which these enormous thinkers are engaged. This great literary work about love has survived the ages. These amazing men of thought gave us wisdom about two types of love: common love and celestial love. To understand common love is very simple: it is found in our everyday relationships. Celestial love is an extraordinary bond, the aim of which is to connect our gift from the Divine with another person.
“As we all know, love and Aphrodite are inseparable. The duality of Aphrodite is undeniable: One Aphrodite, the one we call celestial is older. The other, the younger one is called common.”-Excerpt from Symposium
In other words, the bond between companion soul mates is an infinite connection as opposed to the self-interests between personalities. The one called common has to do with our personality and survival needs. The one called celestial has to do with the spiritual soul.
The common relationship will just satisfy our survival needs, karmic obstacles will infuse chaos and the soul is unconscious to the parties involved. Celestial Aphrodite pushes you to journey deep within. She will coax you, to discover your own soul and prove to yourself that you are worthy of an exalted bond. Plato should be an important teacher for anyone interested in a Soul Mate connection!
Serena Jade, writer at Serena Jade Publishing: “Where Psychology, Spirituality and Physics Merge."