The Goddess and Diotima: Their Role in Parmenides’ Poem and Plato’s Symposium

Part of the Women in the History of Philosophy and Sciences book series (WHPS, volume 3)


While female characters play a central part in Greek comedies and tragedies, this is not the case in Greek philosophical texts. There are, however, two important exceptions: in Parmenides’ poem and Plato’s Symposium female characters—an unnamed goddess and the priestess Diotima—have unique access to philosophical truth, which they convey to their male pupils. This chapter poses the following question: Why did Plato and Parmenides choose female characters as a precondition for the philosophical quest for knowledge? It is argued that both the goddess and Diotima tell a truth that is beyond the reach of ordinary human knowledge, from a perspective of the Other. While Parmenides uses a female non-human character to expel everything female from true thinking, Plato uses Diotima to destabilize the notions of male and female and thus to point towards a non-gendered subject of philosophy.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of BergenBergenNorway

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