This week we had two fascinating philosophy papers by Vilius Bartninkas and Christian Keime.
Vilius’ talk was entitled “Ouranos in Plato’s cosmology.” Ouranos is frequently featured in Timaeus’ account, assuming a diverse set of roles such as a senior traditional god, a key component in forging the astral gods, and an ethical ideal for human beings. Vilius showed us that the prominence of Ouranos does not cease with its theoretical input to cosmology, but continues to traverse the drama as well. Ouranos reappears in such varying dramatic segments as the methodological proemium to Timaeus’ speech, the proper cosmological discussion, and the appropriation of traditional theogony in passage 40d6-41a3. Timaeus turns Ouranos into a point of intersection of these contexts, the main ‘hero’ of the Platonic cosmic drama.
Christian presented a paper entitled “Wisdom in Plato’s Symposium.” Plato’s Symposium is usually read as a dialogue ‘on Eros’ — that is, as a theoretical treatise providing Plato’s view about the nature of erotic desire. On this reading, the text presents many — too many — answers: seven discourses at variance with each other. What is Plato’s view then?Most commentators solve the problem by taking Socrates’ speech as the only serious account of Eros. Yet, this reading leads to a second puzzle: can Socrates’ theory of philosophical Eros be taken as a realistic account of erotic desire? Contemplating the Form of Beauty with no relation to individual objects, nor to bodily pleasures, contradicts our common experience of Eros. Christian suggested to read the Symposium not primarily as an account of Eros, but rather as a reflection about the nature of wisdom (sophia) and the way it can be transmitted between two individuals. We surveyed the main passages supporting this view, and explored how they might partially dispel the two above-mentioned problems: the polyphony of the dialogue and the eccentricity of Socrates’ theory of Eros.
Both papers stimulated very lively discussion!