Love as Recollection in Plato's Symposium

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Title: Love as Recollection in Plato's Symposium
Author: LeFrancois, Meghan
Advisor: Mulligan, Bret
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Classics
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2010
Honors: Daniel Gillis and Joseph Russo Prize for the Best Essay
Abstract: In Plato's Symposium, the interlocutors take turns giving speeches about love. The careful reader can draw several parallels between love as it is discussed throughout this dialogue and recollection as it is presented in Plato's Meno and Phaedo. According to the recollection thesis, humans have latent, innate knowledge, and throughout our lives, we recollect it, making it explicit and articulate. In the Symposium's culminating speech—that of Socrates—I argue that we learn that love is, in fact, a kind of recollection; we learn that love is the recollection of the form of beauty. In this speech, Socrates argues that love is an ascent. When we love correctly, we complete this ascent, and recollect the form of beauty. When we love incorrectly, we only ascend partially and so we partially recollect; in the process, we give birth not to knowledge, but to ideas. Socrates' speech invites us to reconsider the dialogue's other speeches. I argue that each speech not only shows parallels between love and recollection, but contributes to Socrates' argument that love is a species of recollection. The speeches of Pausanias and Eryximachus, for example, anticipate the distinction Socrates later draws between a correct and an incorrect kind of love. Alicibiades' speech—the only speech after Socrates'—reiterates, in a story, Socrates' argument for love's being a kind of recollection. I argue that this reading of the dialogue supports an interpretation of the recollection thesis according to which not only philosophers, but all humans recollect. Finally, I provide a possible reason that Socrates is the first interlocutor to explicitly mention recollection; perhaps he is the only interlocutor with something like explicit knowledge of what love is.
Subject: Love -- Philosophy
Subject: Love in literature
Subject: Plato -- Criticism and interpretation
Subject: Plato. Symposium
Subject: Recollection (Psychology) in literature
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LeFrancois, Meghan. "Love as Recollection in Plato's Symposium". 2010. Available electronically from

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