Thursday, October 29, 2009

Symposium and regret

My experience of Plato’s Symposium felt like a long night at a socially conservative gay male aesthete bankers’ dinner party. Love, power and passion within a guarded sense of privilege.

Structurally, I like the four or five layers of transference. The accumulated hearsay in relating the ideas others. The crude leaps afforded in such a form.

Here’s my favourite idea, via Diotima, according to Socrates, as related by Aristodemus to Appolodorous, who told an unnamed friend, according to Plato:

“...some one is said to be the same person from childhood till old age. Although he is called the same person, he never has the same constituents, but is always being renewed in some aspects and experiencing loss in others, for instance, his hair, skin, bone, blood and his whole body. This applies not only to the body but also to the mind: attributes, character-traits, beliefs, desires, pleasures, pains, fears - none of these ever remain the same in each of us, but some are emerging while others are being lost. Still more remarkable is the fact that our knowledge changes too, some items emerging, while others are lost, so we are not the same person as regards our knowledge; indeed, each individual item of knowledge goes through the same process. What is called studying exists because knowledge goes from us. Forgetting is the departure of knowledge, while study puts back new information in our memory to replace what is lost, and so maintain knowledge so that it seems to be the same.”

I like this because it affords me an opportunity to make my own crude leap of logic: If we are continually renewing and losing our constituent parts, then regretting is a passive aggressive act against our responsibility for the present. When you regret something you did or did not do in the past, you are blaming someone else, your past constituent self, for a state of disaffection you may be experiencing now.

Pour me another one.

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