“Why is Diotima a Woman?”
Diotima, one of Socrates’ greatest instructors from Symposium, which is a clever work by the magnificent work from Plato. Diotima is one of the most significant philosopher women. Before we can explore the idea of why Diotima is a woman, we should first discuss a little about her life. Diotima was born possibly around 470BCE and died 410BCE. In this essay, I would explain how Diotima is a woman and argue how De Beauvoir’s account of Women as “Other” challenges Halperin argument of why is Diotima is a woman. I would also give my own reason why I believe Diotima is a woman.
The first is logical fact that Diotima is a woman and not a man. If Diotima has been portrayed as a man, then Socrates would be having an erotic desire for a much older and wiser male but that is not the case. Diotima is in fact, a woman because Plato said, “love I once heard from a woman of Mantinea, a woman who was wise about many things and put off the plague for ten years by Athenians” (Symposium, 201d). But, by having a woman to educated Socrates in the ways of Eros, Plato wanted to avoid and rule out any ideas that he was Socrates real lover. Plato provides his modern readers with some enlightening to search for a positive logical to why Diotima is a woman.
Another reason why Diotima is to be a woman is that how her speech is mainly significant. All the men who had spoken before Socrates had relayed the story of Diotima arguing based on the same set of expectations which never questions the Symposium. This also follows on the unnecessary relationship between lovers and the beloved. We can believe that Plato wanted this speech to be clear on the most important and by making Diotima a woman, it helps stand out amongst the orders.
But when Diotima speaks, her voice is very foretelling and oracular. This makes sense because it idols love in Greek Mythology and in Simone De Beauvoir description in Woman as Other, “We will then attempt to positively demonstrate how “feminine reality” has been…why a woman has been defined as Other…” but does this truly define Diotima as a woman?
And the last reason why Diotima is a woman is that it may have come from the idea of reproduction. Socrates, a man seems to know nothing of the kind of love that already exists. But by inserting Diotima into Socrates’ account of Eros, this can help his point by attempting to give all side of a fair chance. For example, Helen Foley emphasized, “Although women, in fact, had played a virtually in no public role other than in religious” (Halperin, p145). Diotima knew of the love that is between a man and a woman. This uses “women” to license the male speech by striking a feature of classical Greek culture.
David Halperin argument in Why Diotima is a woman comes on the ideology of two reasons. The first reason is he believes that Plato couldn’t afford to portray the youth of Socrates and been having to pretend to be a much older and wiser lover which can. But, the practices are to be highly unpredictable and unreal. This was not on women but on men and it proves that the “sexual difference” about the male identity and the woman identity and how it differs from each other. (Halperin, p 113-114). Halperin then goes into the how his idea of Diotima might
The second reason to Halperin argument is the harmonizes nicely with the previous one. This happens when Diotima’s discussion of erotic issues that significantly produces and followed by any of the “correct paederasty” as she would call it (Halperin, p116). However, by contrast, Diotima is not a personally implicated in the content of the erotic discipline she is aspiring and pederast to Diotima’s identity. Whether she was a real person or a literary imaginary character in Plato mind.
Simone De Beauvoir Woman as Other concept is about the ideology of how woman’s truth has established and what is the importance of woman as Other is from the man’s point and from the woman point as well. Woman as Other. De Beauvoir goes on explaining how the relationship between male and female provides difference individuals terms and yet this very uniqueness that is denied to the woman.
She also explains the separate roles that men and women play in the world. She brings up the female reproductive just like how Diotima did in the Symposium to Socrates. De Beauvoir states that “those who made and compiled the laws, being men, favored their own sex…” (Woman as “Other”, p31) and Diotima states “such a man makes him instantly teem with ideas and arguments about virtue-the qualities a virtuous man should have and the activities in which he should engage.” (Symposium, 209c). Both De Beauvoir and Diotima speaks on the idea of how male present. But among this, De Beauvoir thinks that among the blessings, Plato thanked the gods for was and the first being born free and not a slave.
What Halperin fails to argue and addresses is that fact that Plato never really made it clear on a woman. This is not only a set discussion but, it is also added more confusion to where Plato’s stance on Diotima. Halperin then argues De Beauvoir on the sexual relationship between women and how it may reveal with clarity and the sympathy on an erotic sensitivity (Halperin, p136). But, what Halperin fail to understand from De Beauvoir point is that she talks on the idea from two perspectives, one from a male and one from a woman.
The only real help that it gives is the argument on the idea that there is a meaningful reason why Diotima is in Plato’s Symposium with the others. However, it points to her sexual experiences, which differ so greatly from Socrates and to the other thinkers in the Symposium. But at this point in time, Diotima understands that she uses the idea of reproduction often in her speech to Socrates. This is when she said, “birth and reproduction in the beautiful” (Symposium, 206e).
Why Plato makes Diotima a woman according to Halperin, Plato provides his modern readers with some encouragement to search for a positive theoretical length to Diotima being a woman. Plato also may have also decided to imagine a female character for this role because one main point Diotima gives is a criticism of the general freedom of thought that we’ve seen in the previous speeches in Socrates’ himself. But, the sole female contributing to the Symposium and to Diotima’s unique gender identity which echoes in her argument (Halperin, p117).
In my opinion, I do believe that Diotima is, in fact, a woman. My reason is that she gives off this persona of a woman. It is in the way that she speaks to Socrates and the way she describes Love and her tone of how she speaks. From reading the article that Halperin present doesn’t make me agree with him on what he thinks about Diotima, it’s in contrast he delivers. Most of his argument I agree with him and some I don’t. I believe that he was focus too much on defining contrast on Diotima’s character and not on her personality and the what she defines herself towards the other speakers during Plato’s Symposium.
In Conclusion, David Halperin has carried on a clear point on why Diotima may be a woman. He may not accept this idea, but his contact is disproving of others may lead him down a path to no answer. But his “no answer” may have been the best thing to his argument. Even through Halperin put too much focus on the defining Diotima, rather than understanding the overall idea of her presence. Because if Diotima was defined as male, I believe that Plato wouldn’t have shown any real attitude on a woman in his other writing, especially with Diotima.
1) David Halperin, “Why is Diotima a Woman?” in One Hundred Years of Homosexuality: and Other Essays on Greek Love. (London: Routledge, 1990): 113-151.
2) Plato, Symposium. Trans. Alexander Nehamas and Paul Woodruff. Plato Complete Works. Eds. John Cooper and D.S. Hutchinson. Hacket, 1997. pp. 475-505.
3) De Beauvoir, Simone. “Introduction,” The Second Sex. Trans. C. Borde and S. Malovany-Chevallier. (Knopf, 2009).
“Why is Diotima a Woman?”