“Do you want to study Philosophy with me?”…
This line originated last semester with study of the, at the very least uncomfortable dialogs of Plato “Phaedrus” and the “Symposium”. Centering on love, their meaning went over head at the first read, “Phaedrus” for the Founders Scholarship Competition back in 2017, but last semester in Humanities they were blown open by our Professor Washut when we read them again.
Not even having to into all the details, they present apparently a depraved two way seduction (the Phaedrus) and a drunken drinking party with multilateral speeches and attempts at such homosexual seduction.
So why read of such apparent depravities, especially at a faithful Catholic college like WCC? The dialogues discuss the nature of rhetoric and the soul, but seem to be supporting homosexuality and other improprieties; what is there to gain?
Thats what I was desperate to know, afyer reading these and other Socratic dialogue which gave a similar picture, showing Socrates as actively seeking himself to seduce and romaticize other men. In Phaedrus, for example, outside of his regular custom (he rarely if at all left Athens), he takes a man, Phaedrus to a deserted place, where things seem to he headed to a bad place.
Rather than going down that path as seems to be the progression, however, Socrates leads Phaedrus to philosophy, but even more to truth in an un-perverted good:
“Gods of this place, grant to me that I be made beautiful in my soul within, and that all external possessions be in harmony with my inner man.”
Perhaps not perfectly stated, but interior goodness in the true, good, and beautiful is elevated in his speech as the end, to be “beautiful in my soul within” and beauty is found in this as the true object of man’s desires that are often perverted to bad ends.
Evil is always a perversion of a good, a non-being in itself. This is not to say that evil as such does not exist, but in existing it is tied to a perverted true good that has a privation in some extent. So here with homosexuality, it perverts the true good of fraternal brotherhood and community with a false and unnatural “union”.
Opposed then to the privated attempt, however there is the true good desire, a unity in search for the truth that Socrates on a deep level was actually looking for. Community in studying, reaching together for the truth replaces the physical perversions that seemed from hints in the narrative to be coming.
And a beauty in desire for the truth, or more properly: wisdom, must end in its source, God. Thus, the saying here of “study philosophy with me” in reference to the Phaedrus reading has a similiar extended meaning as the dialogue itself. On the surface its a joke “pick-up-dating” line, but in studying here together, in the whole school, we have as a goal Socrates’ true end, community not in the perversions that define “community” and “love” in the secular world which takes the path assumed to be coming in the Phaedrus. Rather, community in a quest for wisdom by discussion, studying, community singing, in the true sense.
And in this, there is a redemption of the underlying behind what is so often despicably perverted. Our quest for community, friendship, love, fulfilled in truth and community of persons, love for the beautiful in the soul within, not the external perversions of the flesh.
As Isaiah says similarly to Socrates’ conclusion:
My soul yearns for thee in the night, my spirit within me earnestly seeks theeIsaiah 26:9 RSVCE
May we have the same perfect yearning.