Dionysian Plato in the Symposium

  • Fernando Santoro
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP, volume 139)


The characters of Plato’s Symposium are faces of literary genres, masks of traditional wisdom, or innovation, about love. Plato orders up a mutual challenge amongst friends, affable and philosophical, to celebrate not only Eros and Aphrodite but Dionysus as well (177e). What are the masks of Dionysus in Plato’s Symposium? Aristophanes presents a cosmogonic speech, following the model of the Orphic-inspired Theogony, found in the The Birds, by the true Aristophanes. It introduces a hermeneutic lesson, the first stage of the Dionysian rite. Diotima, under the dialectic and ascetic mask of philosophy, seeks to initiate the mysteries. This second stage makes a jump from the particular to the universal. Alcibiades, unmasking himself and Socrates, produces either an epoptic revelation for the initiated or the desecration of a mystery. It is the third stage that brings the profound truth, which is said only by those taken by madness. Three stages in three steps: Cosmogonic hermeneutics, Ascetic initiation, and Revelation of the erotic mysteries of Dionysos.


Plato Dionysus Symposium Initiation Mysteries Love Mask Aristophanes Diotima Alcibiades 



English translation made by Simon Goodman. I gratefully acknowledge the financial assistance of Capes (Brazil)/Cofecub (France) for this research.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fernando Santoro
    • 1
  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentUniversidade Federal do Rio de JaneiroRio de JaneiroBrazil

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