Review of Frisbee C. C. Sheffield's, 'Plato’s Symposium: The Ethics of Desire'
Ancient Philosophy, Vol. 29, pp. 208-212, 2009
7 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2010 Last revised: 6 Dec 2015
Date Written: March 16, 2009
The purpose of Sheffield’s careful study is to increase scholarly appreciation of the Symposium as a “substantive work in Platonic ethics.” Among the book’s highlights are a persuasive response to Vlastos’ criticism of Plato on love for individuals, an eminently reasonable assessment of the evidence for and against the presence of tripartite psychology in the Symposium, and a delightful interpretation of Alcibiades’ speech at the dialogue’s end - one that reveals elements of satyr play and corroborates rather than undermines Diotima’s account of erôs. My review focuses on Sheffield’s account of Socrates’ speech. She devotes four of seven chapters to it. After summarizing her main argument, I raise two concerns: one about her account of immortality, the other about her interpretation of Plato as a rational eudaimonist.
Keywords: Plato, Symposium, Ancient Ethics, Human Good
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