NTU Philosophical Review:
Plato’s Treatment of Desire and Eryximachus’ Medicine in the Symposium
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Confronted with the stereotype of a rationalistic Plato, the paper argues for the value of desire at its own right in Plato. To explore the relation between desire and rationality in Plato, I choose Eryximachus’ medicine in the Symposium as an object of comparison. Eryximachus’ τέχνη, representing the Hippocratic medical knowledge, is in conformity with Plato’s earlier requirement of knowledge, that is, giving a rational account. The medicine achieves the harmony by balancing the good and bad desires. Plato’s philosophy, however, goes beyond the epistemic model of rational science or τέχνη. On the treatment of desire, he does not follow the discrimination of good and bad desires in medicine, nor does he even out the different desire, because as the doctor. Plato’s philosophy needs the strength of desire, because—though desire sometimes becomes irrational—it is the vital strength of the soul to pursue philosophy.