Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This dissertation will examine the role of eros in Plato's middle dialogues -- the Phaedrus, Symposium and Republic -- and the various exercises or techniques found there for the correction and guidance of desire, leading to participation in what is, for Plato, the height of philosophy, the contemplative life. The training to which Socrates subjects his primary interlocutors in these three dialogues arises in conversation, and is a series of "spiritual exercises," in the words ofPierre Hadot, or therapies, drawing his partners in dialectic to a capacity to be arrested by philosophical beauty. Such drawing and the exercises for this -- the inducing of shame in those interlocutors who hold mistaken models of eros (Socrates' fIrst speech in the Phaedrus), meditation on accurate paradigms of philosophy (the allegory of the cave in the Republic) -- amount to a philosophical poetics, Plato's way of doing philosophy.
A comparable training of desire appears in the ascetical theology of such Christian writers as John Cassian, pseudo-Dionysius and the author of The Cloud ofUnknowing. As with Plato's dialogues, the works of these thinkers are accounts of "turning the soul around" (Republic 518d, 521c), and are themselves training documents for those who subsequently read them. They are less concerned with the assertion of dogma than with the drawing of such readers into the practice of the higher forms of contemplative prayer. This dissertation sees a continuous tradition of erotics and soul craft extending from Plato to Christian writers in spirituality in late antiquity and beyond.
Lilburn, Tim, "Eros in Plato and Early Chritian Platonists: A Philosophical Poetics" (2004). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 4718.
McMaster University Library