Plato’s philosopher-lovers and the ladder to the forms: the roles of eros and beauty in Platonic epistemology

Vásquez, Camila (2014) Plato’s philosopher-lovers and the ladder to the forms: the roles of eros and beauty in Platonic epistemology. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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This thesis examines the way in which the connection between eros and beauty informs the epistemological progression in Platonic philosophy, such that the particular experience of beauty works as a trigger for critical inquiry. This analysis focuses on the way eros for beauty is able to drive the philosophical movement towards knowledge, so that philosophical education becomes available via the experience of eros or love for what is beautiful. As follows, the advancement of Platonic epistemology with its ultimate end in the transcendent is brought back to the sensible and grounded in exclusive particularity as the basis of this move towards universality. This claim is based on the analysis of epistemology and metaphysics expounded in Plato’s Symposium, and to a lesser extent in the Phaedrus. In Chapter 2 we begin with an examination of eros as a crucial element for the philosophical endeavor. In the Symposium eros is shown to be a powerful aspect of human nature that strives for communion with what is transcendent. This inquiry sheds light on aspects of how and why individuals seek knowledge to show why eros is the activity of the soul that motivates the pursuit of wisdom. This analysis emphasizes that the movement of the lover, from love of particular beauty to noesis of the Beautiful, is a philosophical movement at its core, as the lover follows the same epistemological progression as the philosopher. Chapter 3 examines why eros of beauty works so effectively to provoke critical inquiry through an examination of beauty’s cognitive advantage due to its perceptual availability. The appreciation of beauty is shown as having the capacity to provoke the aporetic state necessary for the practice of philosophy. The final chapter analyzes the possible dangers of using beauty as a pedagogical tool through an examination of Socrates and Alcibiades’ relationship; in addition, we examine how beauty can aid in healing the limitations of philosophy in terms of reaching its audience. The entire examination shows how the particular experience of beauty is able to ground philosophical education through sensible experience that makes accessible the metaphysical goal. The aesthetic experience of the lover in his relationship to the object of love provides an accessible praxis that allows the individual to become a philosopher of sorts, embarking on the same journey as he who desires wisdom. In this fashion, Diotima’s description of the journey of the lover provides a philosophical approach to living and learning grounded in the practical and in an attainable experience for all: that of eros for what is beautiful and immediate.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 8075
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 162-164).
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Philosophy
Date: May 2014
Date Type: Submission

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