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Frequently Asked Questions
The question goes along the following lines :
"Recently while watching a movie there was a reference to a work of Plato, The Corruption. I looked everywhere yet I cannot find a reference to that work. I was hoping that you may be able to direct me to it. The movie was "The Butchers Wife" (1991), directed by Terry Hughes and starring Demi Moore and Glen Davis. The reference was to a theory that the gods looked upon man and he was happy, and in envy decided to split man and woman apart."
There is no work by Plato called The Corruption. The story alluded to in this movie is to be found in the speech of Aristophanes in the dialogue called The Symposium. The Stephanus references (the universal way of quoting Plato, available in all editions of his works) for this section are Symposium, 189d-193d. Several English translations of it are available on the net :
Readers of that story unfamiliar with Plato should bear in mind that the story is put by Plato in the mouth of Aristophanes, a famous writer of comedies of the time of Socrates, during a most likely imaginary drinking party ("sumposion" in Greek, hence the title of the dialogue) attended by Socrates and several other people to celebrate the first victory of Agathon, a tragic writer of the time, in the contest of tragedies held in 416 B. C. during the festival of Lenæa, or Smaller Dionysia in Athens (the circumstances are "historical" even though the dialogue itself is a creation of Plato's artistry). During this party, several attendants take turns to offer a speech in praise of Eros, the Greek god of love. Aristophanes comes fourth, followed by Agathon, the host to the party, and then by Socrates. A seventh and last speech is delivered by Alcibiades, who wasn't there to begin with, but bursts into the room, drunk and accompanied by his own party of drunk fellows, at the end of Socrates' speech. Alcibiades' speech is a praise of Socrates and a story of the tellers own failed attempts to seduce Socrates.
Each speech thus offers a different point of view on love and most of them probably don't reflect Plato's own views on the matter, though this doesn't mean that there is no value in the speeches that preceede Socrates', whose views are most likely closest to Plato's own views. In fact, each speech presents a view on love that was held by some at the time and contributes its share to the building of a complex picture on a complex topic. It is the reader's job to find his way in that labyrinth and to make his own judgment on the value of each speech.
Regarding Aristophanes, it is worth knowing that he wrote a comedy, called The Clouds, first performed in 423 B. C., in which he makes fun of Socrates, presenting him as a Sophist more interested in looking at the sky (hence the name of the play) than in caring for what is going on in Athens, and teaching paying students how to make the wrong look right and the right look wrong. In another work of Plato, called The Apology of Socrates, which purports to be Socrates' own defense in the trial held against him in 399 B. C., in which he was condemned to death, Socrates is shown tracking the bad reputation he had in Athens back to Aristophanes' play. Yet, according to some ancient traditions, Socrates and Aristophanes were indeed friends in real life. And it is hard to know what opinion Plato had of Aristophanes. What is for sure is that the "myth" that Aristophanes is manufacturing in his speech, the myth of the "split men", doesn't fit well with what seems to be some of Plato's key tenets in his philosophy : while Plato wants man to be driven in his life by his "telos", his "end", that is, what he is called to become as an animal endowed with "logos", reason, and thus capable of bringing law and order to his world after the model of the order ("kosmos" in Greek) put in the creation by its divine maker, Aristophanes, in his myth, sees man's happiness in reverting to his "original nature" in a world where gods are jealous and abuse their power...
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