Notes on Plato’s Lovers

Plato’s Lovers (erastai) is today considered a spurious dialogue. It has come down to us as Platonic, though the authenticity of its authorship is doubted only part of the modern Platonic corpus. In latter manuscripts Lovers was called “Rival Lovers”.

The dialogue recounts a conversation between Socrates and young boys, in the “place of Dionysus,” as they discuss spherical geometries of Pre-Socratic thinkers, perhaps of Anaxagoras or Oinopides. Socrates takes a seat next to one of the pederastic lovers watching. He quickly inserts himself into the discussion and focuses on the boy who seems more interested in philosophy.

The question in the dialogue is whether philosophy is noble, however the discussion quickly turns to the question of what philosophy is. In summary: they agree that philosophy is noble, that they are both philosophers, and that philosophy is good -the good are useful and the wicked useless (137a). This brief dialogue concludes in rejecting the notion that philosophy is merely for the useful. Hence why the dialogue is entitled “Lovers,” which is the same principle Aristotle invokes in the Politics for a healthy city, a kind of friend-loving neighbor or affinity.

For this reading I used the Agora Edition of “The Roots of Political Philosophy: Ten Forgotten Socratic Dialogues” and edited by Thomas Pangle. This translation was completed by James Leake.

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