74. Lysis by Plato (c.399-387 BC)

My version is part of the Penguin edition Early Socratic Dialogues, edited by Trevor Saunders. (ISBN 9780140455038)
My thoughts
My own naïve and unstudied thoughts on Socratic arguments so far is that they are based on a chain of assumptions which lead to a unsatisfactory conclusion because they treat generalisations as facts and fail to recognise exceptions. For instance, take the Socratic argument that possession of knowledge allows someone the freedom to do as they like (as no one with knowledge of good would knowingly do evil) and with that freedom comes happiness. So to be happy, one must be educated. While there is no doubt a lot of truth in that statement, being educated is certainly no guarantee of being happy.
In Lysis, the dialogue revolves around the concepts of love and friendship. Hippothales, a teenager fancies himself in love with a younger boy, Lysis, who is best friends with another boy Menexenus. Socrates questions Menexenus on reciprocal and non-reciprocal friendship to discover, in the case of non-reciprocal friendship, which party is the friend – the loved or the lover, or indeed neither? It is a typical example of Socrates saying black is white, then arguing it is black, then arguing it is white again, while everyone else merely agrees with him or admits confusion.
He then turns to Lysis and explains that bad men can never be friends with any other men as they are unstable, while good men can be friends with like good men. But then because he includes usefulness as a necessary criterion for friendship, how can good men be friends as the second man could be of no use to the first man who is self-sufficient, and without usefulness, how can there be affection? He then suggests that like cannot be friend to like as envy and hatred will arise from their competition, before coming back again to now suggest friendship cannot exist between like and like, or opposites. So the good man can be friend to no one?!
At this point my brain exploded and left me no choice but to admit defeat.
Aristotle gets closer to the truth for me when he stresses the idea of mutual or reciprocal goodwill as essential to the definition of friendship, as we will discover in his Nicomachean Ethics.

And of course the picture at the top of the post shows that famous duo Bill and Ted meeting Socrates, and expounding their own definition of friendship “Be excellent unto each other, …… and PARTY ON DUDES!”
Personal rating : 2
Kimmy’s rating : Kimmy sat on the couch beside me with her head on my leg. Her love for me and our family is definitely five star.
Next : Time for a change, and Aristophanes’ comic play The Ecclesiazusae

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