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Lacan, Alcibiades and Freud: On Love and Transference

This essay examines why Socrates uses the Symposium of Plato to better understand transference in psychoanalytic treatment. The reason is found in Freud’s argument that transference is true love and that Eros is the subject of the Symposium. Can Socrates be seen as a precursor to Freud? Lacan’s answer is no. The knowledge of Socrates is not the knowledge of Freud. According to Socrates, love is oriented to what is good and the love for the individual is sublimated into a love that transcends the individual. This general idea on love is, in a certain sense according to Lacan, already contradicted by Plato in the final scene of the Symposium in which Alcibiades expresses his love for Socrates. In this exclusive love forces, such as envy and jealousy, come to the fore that do not sit well with Socrates’ metaphysics. The love of Alcibiades is not a failed love, but reveals what is missing in Socrates’ vision. If Socrates evaluates the love object from the point of view of a future satisfaction, Freud conceives the value of the object from the point of view of the drives.

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