Love and Sex: A Philosophical Inquiry.

Socrates argues that we should attempt to ascend : “ladder of love.”
The central task of this
essay is to critically evaluate this argument. To carry out this task, do each of the following:
(1) Explain Socrates’ distinction between what is loved (i.e., that which is loved) and loving. Here you
should explain Socrates’ initial confusion about this distinction (see 204c) and why he now
recognizes his earlier position to be confused.1
(2) Carefully describe the ladder of love (i.e., the ascent to Beauty itself)
(3) Why does Socrates think that we should attempt to make this ascent? (
Here you should follow and cite Nussbaum’s interpretation.
(4) What do you think is the most serious objection to the argument that we should make this
ascent? If you think that a defender of Socrates’ position has a persuasive response to your objection, explain why. As you complete these tasks, you might find it valuable to discuss Alcibiades or Aristophanes. However, you should only do this if it helps to advance your thesis (potentially in part 4).

Your thesis will be a sentence or two explaining how you plan to respond to the central task of the paper (i.e., step 4).
• Claims about what the Symposium says should be supported with in-text references (either to the Symposium itself or, in the case of (3), to Nussbaum). Failure to do this can result in substantial penalties. Note that in-text references are not the same as quotations (see the Writing a Philosophy Paper document).
• You can assume that your paper’s audience is familiar with historical details about the Symposium’s authorship, setting, and speakers (e.g., that Plato was the author, that he wrote it millennia ago, that Socrates was a philosopher, that he presented his theory of love by recounting a conversation with Diotima). However, you should not assume your audience has any understanding of the text’s philosophical substance (i.e., the terminology, arguments, and conclusions).

Plato. 1993. The Symposium (R. E. Allen, Trans.). In The Dialogues of Plato: Volume II: The Symposium. Yale University Press.
Nussbaum, Martha. 1979. “The Speech of Alcibiades: A Reading of Plato’s Symposium.” Philosophy and Literature 3.2: 131-172.

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