SummaryWhile reading about Diotima, what could be concluded is that there is much dispute over whether she was an actual person or a Platonic character. This chapter on Diotima laid out various arguments and counter-arguments to prove the actual existence of Diotima historically.
In the Symposium, Diotima was a priestess from Mantinea who postponed a plague and taught Socrates the nature of Love. Most of the arguments put forth are based on analyzing the Symposium. The first idea put forth to solve the puzzle of Diotima’s existence is that the Form of Beauty is inconsistent with Plato’s Form of the Good. Another argument given to separate Diotima and Plato is that the Form of Beauty is on the level of appearances and not that of Platonic Ideas or Forms. Another argument made is that it is unusual for Plato to cast a woman in one of his dialogs. Similarly, Socrates would never have learned from a woman. One other argument made to suggest that Diotima was a mere character is, that Diotima is not referenced in anything historically except the Symposium. Lastly, that the Symposium was not one of Plato’s philosophical works, but him trying to show that he could write comedy as well as tragedy. That if this were so, Diotima would be a character put in the dialogue for comedic purposes.
These arguments are then countered. The first claim is that Socrates was known to exchange ideas with women. This is proven in Meno, saying that he sought religious advice from men and women priests and priestesses, thus proving (if we take Plato’s descriptions to be factual) that Socrates did converse with priestesses. Secondly, there is a brass overlay above a cassette which is supposed to be Socrates and Diotima because of the resemblance of Socrates in this statue and others from that time period. Also, along with the brass overlay, there was a copy of the Symposium. With all of the various arguments presented, it is disputed whether or not Diotima actually existed or if she was a fictional character.