The Symposium II: Pausanias

While Phaedrus had spoken from the point of view of the beloved, in defense of the god Eros as a pathway to virtue (courage and manliness), Pausanias, the old lover, posits a new thesis that all love does not merely lead to virtue. Instead he identifies that it is the behavior of the lover that is the determining factor in the question of virtue. He says there are two kinds of love -noble and base, and it may vary depending on how one behaves when in love. Pausanias is a defender of pederasty, an apologist for the lover, not the beloved, and his interest is with the laws to promote and defend the lover.

On the one hand, Pausanias’s speech is a praise and a defense of Athenian nomos, law or custom, but on a much deeper level it is a call to change the Athenian laws to protect and defend lovers, perhaps here read as “lust” over and against the beloved. Unlike Phaedrus, he is silent on the question of self-sacrifice for love, what the Romans might have called “passionate” love, and what Phaedrus calls virtue. Love compels men to virtue, but Pausanias argues that not all acts of compulsion for love are committed virtuously.

Phaedrus, as a beloved and a defender of beloveds, is satisfied with the law and therefore he provides us with the shortest speech. However Pausanias is a lover who must compete with others and therefore he must draw upon the recourse of the law for external support over and against his more attractive counterparts. Pausanias gives us the longest speech. He must perfect and extend the law to make it better for him, as a lover.

Pausanias is a greedy person, in his apology for pederasty, and is a defender of the most “rational” form of love. The lover must be allowed to do as he wishes, as it is for the good of the younger boys to look upward, as they might have at a hero, in order for the act of love to be virtuous or base. Erixymachus will take up this theme in the next passage.

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