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The symposium, now almost a national institution, is by no means a new phenomenon. The term itself means literally "a drinking together, usually following a banquet or social gathering at which there is free interchange of ideas." The prime example, the Symposium of Plato, represents one of the great works of Greek philosophy. Certainly an interchange of ideas with Plato offers an experience of immeasurable value, the recording of which conveyed a great boon to mankind. We question, however, whether some of the more recently published symposia are equally valuable.
For the favored few, occasional modern symposia may preserve much of the original meaning. Sometimes participants will gather and, abundantly dined if not wined, commune with each other. Through shared experiences and mutual criticism they enhance each other's knowledge, and cast significant light on important problems. That these gatherings often owe their existence to subsidies, and serve to illustrate the
THE SYMPOSIUM. JAMA. 1963;184(7):583-584. doi:10.1001/jama.1963.03700200105023