The Symposium



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The Symposium: 180d-188e Summary & Analysis

Aristophanes is supposed to speak next, but he suffers an ill-timed attack of the hiccups and must switch places with Eryximachus. Eryximachus, being a doctor, recommends some hiccup remedies, including making oneself sneeze.
The significance of Aristophanes’s hiccups has been debated by Plato scholars. The hiccups might create a contrast with the careful profundity of Aristophanes’s speech, or they might allow his speech to shine more by following Eryximachus’s less profound one. At the very least, they provide a comic interlude.
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Eryximachus claims that Pausanias didn’t take his argument far enough. He says that Love isn’t just expressed in the emotional reactions of human beings, but in the reactions of plants and animals, too. His practice of medicine has opened his eyes to this all-encompassing power of love. He explains that medicine is about gratifying the healthy parts of the body and not gratifying the diseased parts. It’s the doctor’s job to implant or remove the respective good and bad types of love, and to create harmony between “antagonistic elements” within the body.
Eryximachus’s views about balancing the bodily humors are reflective of Hippocratic theories of medicine as practiced at the time. It’s a strikingly different approach to love than anything the previous speakers have put forward.
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Eryximachus then makes a somewhat confusing point that Love also governs the harmonies found in music. The same holds true for the seasons (temperate weather brings harvests and health) and even divination (prophecy “[keeps] an eye on those whose love is the wrong kind and curing this”). So Eryximachus claims that love’s power is comprehensive, and at its best, love brings about the greatest happiness by enabling friendship between humans and between humans and the gods.
Eryximachus extrapolates from his own field of medicine to show how Love governs the ideal harmonies found throughout nature. He is basically attempting to present Love in as orderly a way as possible.
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