Know it all (KIA)—the author imagines this to be a cis-gender, heterosexual male, a stereotypical mansplainer, but it could be anyone, really.
Knows more (KM)—the author imagines this to be someone who presents as a woman, the usual victims of mansplainers, but it could also be anyone.
The characters meet in the kind of place people might meet and have a conversation. It could be a train, a food court, a post office, or even an open marketplace (Agora).
Our characters come across one another and greet each other in the usual ways.
KIA: Hey, what’s up?
KM: I have to go to a lecture on Socrates as the father of philosophy, which excites me as much as watching algae grow on paving stones.
KIA: I love Socrates! What’s wrong with you? Haven’t you read the dialogues?
KM: I’ve read them.
KIA: Most people who read them love them.
KIA: How can so many people be wrong? The people who understand him love him.
KM: So, I don’t understand him?
KIA: It’s just that most scholars find the dialogues enthralling.
KM: If you didn’t know, the dialogues are written by Plato. Socrates is just a character.
KIA: I see no reason to think Socrates wasn’t as Plato portrayed him. Anyway, Plato is just as good.
KM: Plato’s Socrates is not the same as everyone else’s Socrates. And I’m no more fond of Plato than Socrates. They both seemed to be a bit too fond of tyrants.
KIA: I thought you would like Plato because he was an early feminist.
KM: How is he an early feminist?
KIA: He wanted women to be trained as men and to share in rule as philosopher queens.
KM: Why did he want them to be trained as men?
KIA: To rule equally as men.
KM: Then why couldn’t men be trained the same as women?
KIA: Women had been deprived. He wanted to lift them up.
KM: Lift them to the level of men?
KM: So men would have to lower themselves to be equal to women?
KIA: No, that’s not what he meant.
KM: I think it is.
KM: Well, he said, “We will not then allow our charges . . . to play the parts of women.”
KIA: Because men and women would play the same parts.
KM: And he said men shouldn’t “imitate a woman young or old”
KIA: Well, of course, no one should be false to himself.
KM: By being “involved in misfortune and possessed by grief and lamentation”?
KIA: He only meant we should respond to tragedy rationally.
KM: By “rationally,” you mean “like a man.” He also said no man should act as “a woman that is sick, in love, or in labor.”
KIA: But, still, he felt that women could be elevated.
KM: And he felt they needed to be elevated.
KIA: He wanted them to make society better.
KM: By not being women.
KIA: But he recognized the potential in women.
KM: Excuse me if I’m not flattered by his opinion that I can be a worthwhile person if only I try to be more like men.
KIA: He didn’t mean it that way. He recognized many wise women.
KM: Diotima wasn’t a real woman.
KIA: Many people believe she existed.
KIA: Because Plato used people’s real names.
KM: How do you know?
KIA: Because they match historical accounts of the people.
KM: Do they match historical accounts of Diotima?
KIA: There are no historical accounts of Diotima.
KM: So why do you think she was real?
KIA: Why would I think she wasn’t?
KM: Because there is no record of her other than Plato, and Plato rarely made mention of women?
KIA: He spoke fondly of Aspasia.
KM: Socrates liked Aspasia because she wasn’t a shrew, which is what he thought his wife, Xanthippe, was.
KIA: But Plato respected the opinions of Aspasia and Diotima.
KM: Because Aspasia knew how to manage a household and Diotima spoke of non-physical love as ideal Forms, but he had to invent Diotima to make his point.
KIA: Still, it was a woman who instructed the men on love.
KM: Yes, and she taught that the only true love was between men.
KIA: She taught that love was of the mind. Of ideas.
KM: And it is men, not women, who are ruled by their minds. Ultimately, The Symposium is just about Plato’s ideal forms, love being one of them. He speaks of true love between men because he didn’t see women as being capable of true understanding.
KIA: Not all the men. Not Alcibiades. He was a libertine and a horrible traitor to his country.
KM: And friend of Socrates—someone who wrestled with him, slept with him, and drank with him.
KIA: But Socrates rebuffed him.
KM: And everyone else. Or, all the men, anyway.
KIA: Socrates hated Alcibiades.
KM: But they slept together? As enemies do?
KIA: Again, nothing happened.
KM: Some might think naked wrestling is something.
KIA: But Socrates didn’t respond.
KM: I find it interesting that Alcibiades expected all wrestling matches to become sexual.
KIA: How do you know that?
KM: Why else would he be surprised that Socrates didn’t respond?
KIA: I think he was just disappointed Socrates didn’t return his feelings.
KM: Maybe it was just because Socrates was so old?
KIA: Socrates wasn’t interested because he was concerned with more important things.
KM: Maybe Socrates wasn’t interested because he wasn’t gay.
KIA: Socrates was a philosopher. Alcibiades wasn’t a serious thinker.
KM: Do you think Alcibiades might have represented Plato’s feelings?
KIA: What? Why?
KM: Well, I mean. Plato was gay, wasn’t he?
KIA: Why would you say that?
KM: Hey, remember in the Republic where it says women should do physical training like men? You know, naked? And it says it would be hard to look at the naked women, especially the ones who are ugly or old.
KIA: I’m sure he was just addressing the concerns of the day.
KM: Oh, I’m sure. By the way, who did Plato marry?
KIA: I don’t know. No one does.
KM: Socrates had two wives (see Myrto). So did Aristotle. If Plato had one, don’t you think someone would have mentioned it?
KIA: What does that matter, anyway?
KM: Well, it’s consistent with him being gay.
KIA: And why would Plato portray himself through such an awful person as Alcibiades?
KM: Maybe Plato wasn’t proud of his feelings.
KM: Maybe Plato wasn’t proud of his erotic love for Socrates, so he portrayed it in a disgusting manner.
KIA: Why wouldn’t he be proud? Homosexual relationships were encouraged in his society.
KM: I didn’t mean he was ashamed of being gay, but embarrassed that his own feelings for Socrates weren’t returned. Also, maybe being embarrassed by his less than “Platonic” love for Socrates. Also, it was Plato, not Alcibiades, who was the wrestling champion.
KIA: I think Plato was just committed to higher ideals.
KM: Or maybe Plato was wrestling with his own daimons, and he could only express them through a drunken Alcibiades.
KIA: That makes no sense.
KM: Did you see what I did there?
KM: Wrestling with his daimons? ‘Cause he was a wrestler? ‘Cause Alcibiades wrestled Socrates naked? ‘Cause daimons are spirits that impart wisdom and not demons?
KIA: Oh, yeah, I get it. Who do you think you are, anyway, Mark Henderson?
KM: If only Plato had made more puns instead of wrestling naked boys.
KIA: Like Socrates, Plato was a man of wisdom and honour, not a profligate!
KM: Sure. That’s why he shows the struggle only to have love of reason to win in the end. The lust of Alcibiades is defeated in the ultimate wrestling match.
KIA: Maybe he wasn’t interested in teenagers.
KM: Wasn’t Xanthippe a teenager at the time? You know, when Socrates married her.
KIA: No one knows for sure how old she was [typically claimed to be an older wife, the exception to the rule of girls marrying as teens].
KM: Socrates was 55 when his oldest son was born.
KIA: Xanthippe may have married late. It’s possible she was in her 20s.
KM: Seems likely, right?
KIA: Of course it does.
KM: It really doesn’t. Most girls married in their teens. Socrates died at 70, and his friends were worried about his sons being fatherless, because they were still young.
KIA: Of course they were concerned.
KM: Sure. Perfectly normal.
KIA: It is.
- Yes, if you’re an old man who married a child.
KIA: Poor guy. Xanthippe was a total shrew.
KM: According to Socrates.
KIA: According to everyone around him. She was angry all the time.
KM: Everyone around him only knew about her through him. Maybe she was angry because she was forced to marry a middle-aged man while she was still a child.
KIA: But Socrates was well-respected.
KM: By Plato and who else?
KIA: All of Athens.
KM: That’s why they killed him?
KIA: He was a pillar of the community.
KM: What did he contribute to the community?
KM: What did he contribute to Xanthippe?
KIA: He took care of her.
KM: With her own money. She came from a wealthy family. Socrates wasn’t working and bragged that he never asked for payment.
KIA: Socrates was a stonemason and a soldier.
KM: He did all that before Xanthippe met him. Most of it before she was born.
KIA: He wasn’t just a layabout.
KM: In the Apology, he said his search for truth had reduced him to poverty because, you know, he wasn’t working.
KIA: That was at the end of his life.
KM: Right, exactly when he was married to Xanthippe. He wasn’t doing any paid work, and she lived off her family’s wealth.
KIA: Well, there’s a lot more I could tell you about Socrates, but I have some appointments I need to prepare for.
KM: Oh, sure. I look forward to hearing from you. Maybe you can deliver the next lecture on Socrates and Plato.
KIA: Maybe I can.