The Symposium

by

Plato

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In Symposium 210a-212a, Socrates, through Diotima, discusses the eternal Form of Beauty (kalon in Greek) that “always is, and doesn’t come into being or cease.” This unchanging, eternal Beauty is the source of all lesser and particular beauties, and it is the sight toward which the lover of wisdom seeks to ascend—passing from specific, earthly instances to ever more abstract and universal beauties before arriving at “the great sea of beauty.” Gaining this sight (though the mind, not the senses) is the only thing that enables one to give birth to true virtue and thus to partake of immortality oneself.

Beauty Quotes in The Symposium

The The Symposium quotes below are all either spoken by Beauty or refer to Beauty. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Symposium published in 1999.
204d-209e Quotes

“Men who are pregnant in body,” she said, “are drawn more towards women; they express their love in trying to obtain for themselves immortality and remembrance and what they take to be happiness forever by producing children. Men who are pregnant in mind - there are some,” she said, “who are even more pregnant in their minds than in their bodies, and are pregnant with what it is suitable for a mind to bear and bring to birth. So what is suitable? Wisdom and other kinds of virtue: these are brought to birth by all the poets and by those craftsmen who are said to be innovative.”

Related Characters: Diotima of Mantinea (speaker), Apollodorus (speaker), Socrates
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:
210a-212a Quotes

Looking now at beauty in general and not just at individual instances, he will no longer be slavishly attached to the beauty of a boy, or of any particular person at all, or of a specific practice. Instead of this low and small-minded slavery, he will be turned towards the great sea of beauty and gazing on it he’ll give birth, through a boundless love of knowledge, to many beautiful and magnificent discourses and ideas. At last, when he has been developed and strengthened in this way, he catches sight of one special type of knowledge, whose object is the kind of beauty I shall now describe…

Related Characters: Diotima of Mantinea (speaker), Apollodorus (speaker), Socrates
Related Symbols: Ladder/Staircase/Ascent
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

“When someone goes up by these stages, through loving boys in the correct way, and begins to catch sight of that beauty, he has come close to reaching the goal. This is the right method of approaching the ways of love or being led by someone else: beginning from these beautiful things always to go up with the aim of reaching that beauty. Like someone using a staircase, he should go from one to two and from two to all beautiful bodies, and from beautiful bodies to beautiful practices, and from practices to beautiful forms of learning. From forms of learning, he should end up at that form of learning which is of nothing other than that beauty itself, so that he can complete the process of learning what beauty really is.”

Related Characters: Diotima of Mantinea (speaker), Apollodorus (speaker), Socrates, Agathon, Phaedrus
Related Symbols: Ladder/Staircase/Ascent
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:
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Beauty Term Timeline in The Symposium

The timeline below shows where the term Beauty appears in The Symposium. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
194a-198a
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
In short, Agathon concludes, Love is “himself supreme in beauty and excellence” and brings about the same qualities in others. He is the most beautiful... (full context)
198b-201c
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
...Agathon had said, then it follows, based on what they’ve just established, that love needs beauty and does not already possess it; therefore, it can’t be said that love is beautiful.... (full context)
201d-204c
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
...and ignorance: “Wisdom is one of the most beautiful things, and Love is love of beauty. So Love must necessarily be a lover of wisdom; and as a lover of wisdom... (full context)
204d-209e
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
...love’s function? Socrates says he doesn’t know. Diotima explains, “Love’s function is giving birth in beauty both in body and in mind.” Socrates is baffled. Diotima clarifies: “All human beings are... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Diotima explains that the object of love isn’t simply beauty, but “reproduction and birth in beauty.” Reproduction is the object of love because it’s “the... (full context)
210a-212a
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Next, Diotima explains, a man should realize that the beauty of one body is closely related to the beauty of another. This should lead him... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
After he has begun to see the beauty in practices, Diotima says, a man should start to see the beauty in forms of... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
...that a man will now “reach the goal of love’s ways.” He will realize that “beauty always is, and doesn’t come into being or cease.” Such beauty is not beautiful relative... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Once someone has progressed through these stages and caught sight of beauty’s ultimate form, Diotima explains, he’s close to attaining his goal. She summarizes once again the... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
...that this is the form of human life that ought to be lived: “gazing on beauty itself.” In their current state, lovers tend to become so wrapped up in their boyfriends... (full context)
212b-222b
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
...up, you’d discover that he’s actually “full of moderation.” He doesn’t care about anyone’s outward beauty or riches, but “spends his whole life pretending and playing with people.” (full context)