Diotima of Mantinea

Diotima of Mantinea in Perth, Australia…Courtesy of http://www.waymarking.com

The much anticipated Tropical Cyclone did not eventuate at least for those of us in Auckland….It was somewhat anti-climatic. Life pretty much went on as planned. But I was glad I took all those extra precautions because it meant I didn’t have to worry while I was spending my Saturday morning being a philo sophia (lover of wisdom)….The Englishman and I were lucky enough to attend a workshop by a former lecturer in Philosophy; Dr. Ann Kerwin. She talked to us about Diotima of Mantinea who some believe was the teacher of Socrates. She is mentioned in Plato’s Symposium as the person who taught Socrates about Love and was a Priestess from the Greek countryside. Some believe she is a fictional character as the only mention of her is found in the Symposium (which incidentally means banquet I came to learn this weekend). Others argue that given most of the other characters mentioned by Plato in that work were actual historical figures, there is no reason to believe only Diotima was fictional.

Diotima according to Socrates believed that love was a spirit; the son of the human Poverty and the god Plenty inhabiting the realm between human and god. And when we are moved by the spirit of love we ascend the Ladder of Love...starting with the love of one body and wanting to possess it to finally loving beauty itself or as some might say the realisation of oneness of us and the Universe.

It was a rarer insight into how little we know when we attend school or university in the traditional sense. Most schools of philosophy leave out the part about Diotima and Socrates’s mention of the spirit world because it does not fit in with commonly held belief systems. God forbid that Socrates was taught by a woman and the mention of the meta-physical; well that was too weird for words. Yet it is beautiful to consider what a different perspective we would gain on life if theories such as these were discussed in traditional teaching institutions…

Statue Socrates at the Louvre Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

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