The Symposium, by Plato, is a road. A road that takes us down a country of thoughts, initiating us on a journey of ideas and concepts of love. When we arrive at the end of that road we arrive to a destination at which we have many pieces of a puzzle, but not a definite answer on that which we are seeking. What is love? Which of the speakers is right? We know one thing: The Symposium was written well after Socrates’ death. Plato, the agreed-upon writer, was bitter at the rubble of Athens for killing his master, and he thought of old Socrates as he wrote his mind into the pages of his work. I think this is the very solution to the problem; anyone who understood absolute love would never have commanded Socrates to kill himself. Indeed, the very steps towards self-discovery would have taken Athens on a journey that would have enlightened it against the the very folly that called for the philosopher’s death. Plato was, quite literally, writing Socrates into his works for the very purpose of remembrance.
I believe Plato argues that if we can look to Socrates and see past what he seemed to be in order to see him for what he was, we would be willing to spend a lifetime attempting to reach his great state of understanding. Moreover, if after our entire lives we were only able touch but the bottom of Socrates’ feet, we would be much better off than most other human beings would. Therefore, we arrive to the conclusion that true love is understanding, found by those who have an absolute goal, and that a true philosopher is the only one able to reach that goal. Our visions of love are limited by our experiences in life (hence our examples of speakers in The Symposium) and we cannot extend beyond that, in order to reach a goal, unless we are willing to suffer to attain it, to look outside our own experiences.
Plato is, simply put, making the point that no mere follower, lawmaker, doctor, comedian, dramatist, or drunkard, could best Socrates at anything. Socrates was a true philosopher, always seeking wisdom in all places, unbiased towards man or woman, seeking everlasting beauty, truth and understanding wherever he went. Therefore, from each character, we gather bits of Plato’s mind, puzzle pieces through which we can know and understand one of the great philosophers of all time. Let us picture Socrates that very morning, at the door of Agathon’s house; he looks back smiling at us, for we had begun the journey, followed the path, arrived at our destination, and gathered the pieces with which we could complete the puzzle of love.