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Toward a Theology of ErosTransfiguring Passion at the Limits of Discipline$
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Virginia Burrus and Catherine Keller

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780823226351

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: March 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fso/9780823226351.001.0001

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What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Platonic Love?

What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Platonic Love?

Chapter:
(p.3) What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Platonic Love?
Source:
Toward a Theology of Eros
Author(s):

Daniel Boyarin

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fso/9780823226351.003.0001

In his celebrated study of Christian love, Anders Nygren identifies the emergence of heresy with the perversion of agape. In Plato's Symposium, the term “heavenly Eros” occurs in the discourse of Pausanias, signifying a practice of desire that begins with physical love but ultimately transcends the physical. Yet Pausanias is not the only, or even the most privileged, speaker in the Symposium. The famous speech of Diotima, cited by Socrates, arguably lays greater claim to representing Plato's definitive views on love. Thus, in referring to “heavenly Eros” as that “of which Plato and his followers speak”, Nygren erases any difference between the Pausanian ideology of eros and that of Diotima/Socrates—the latter of which is purportedly Platonic love. This chapter argues that Nygren falsely conflates the concept of a “heavenly eros” continuous with physical sexuality, as described in Pausanius's speech, with the more strictly asceticized eroticism attributed to the prophetess Diotima and ultimately affirmed by Plato. This is a distinction overlooked by others as well, not least Michel Foucault.

Keywords:   Plato, Symposium, Platonic love, Michel Foucault, Christian love, Anders Nygren, agape, Socrates, eros, physical sexuality

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