Plato, Symposium: This is one of Plato’s literary masterpieces, along with the Republic. It contains several speeches on the nature of love given by guests at a dinner held to commemorate the poet Agathon’s victory in a competition of tragedies. The speeches culminate in a speech given by Socrates, allegedly containing the words of a Mantinean seer named Diotima, describing a ladder of love that culminates in the vision of the Form of Beauty, which is followed by a drunken encomium to Socrates of his lover Alcibiades. Alcibiades’s finale is one of the most vivid portraits of Socrates in Plato’s dialogues, and it describes the effects of Socratic philosophy on the soul of the student. [recommended by William J. Prior, Santa Clara University]

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