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In the course of a lively drinking party, a group of Athenian intellectuals exchange views on eros, or desire. From their conversation emerges a series of subtle reflections on gender roles, sex in society and the sublimation of basic human instincts. The discussion culminates in a radical challenge to conventional views by Plato's mentor, Socrates, who advocates transcendence through spiritual love. "The Symposium" is a deft interweaving of different viewpoints and ideas about the nature of love - as a response to beauty, a cosmic force, a motive for social action and as a means of ethical education.
Plato (c.427-347 BC) stands with Socrates and Aristotle as one of the shapers of the whole intellectual tradition of the West. He founded in Athens the Academy, the first permanent institution devoted to philosophical research and teaching, and theprototype of all Western universities. Christopher Gill is Professor of Ancient Thought at the University of Exeter. He has written widely on ancient philosophy and literature.