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Forum Antiquum Lectures Fall 2021: 'Heavenly Love, Vulgar Love, and something in between: on a Platonic innovation'

Thursday 23 September 2021
University Library
Witte Singel 27
2311 BG Leiden
Vossius Room

When discussing the philosophy of Plato’s Symposium, it is tempting to jump straight to Socrates’ famous contribution on love as the ascent to pure, incorporeal Beauty. In this talk, however, I want to dwell on and consider the influence of something mentioned by one of the earlier interlocutors: the distinction, made by the character Pausanias, between Heavenly Love and Vulgar Love. While this distinction is apparently ignored by the character Socrates, presumably Plato’s mouthpiece in the dialogue, it is picked up and elaborated upon by later Platonists. I will trace the vicissitudes of Heavenly and Vulgar Love, and the ensuing consequences for Platonic thought on love and sexuality, in Philo of Alexandria, Plutarch, and the Platonic handbooks of Alcinous and Apuleius. Particular attention will go to the strategies adopted by Platonists to offer innovative views on erôs while maintaining faithful allegiance to Plato.


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