Questions about likeness and difference dominate the middle section of the dialogue, and yield a dilemma that ultimately frustrates its whole aim. Socrates, borrowing from poets and philosophers, suggests that friendship might be explained by the fact that "God draws like to like." Perhaps likeness is the basis of friendship. It may be more Plato's voice than Socrates that rejects this proposition on the basis of a foundational element in the theory of identity. The problem revolves around the very fundamentals of identity and difference, and is expressed in two ways.

First, "like is drawn to like" seems to imply that bad people can be friends to bad people. This seems intuitively wrong to Socrates, since bad people cannot be true friends to anyone in as much as they are bad. Strikingly, however, Socrates frames this objection in terms of a theory of identity: bad people cannot be truly like other people at all, because they are not like themselves—not at harmony with themselves. Thus, inter-personal identity is thwarted by the remarkable quality of intra-personal non-identity.

The second way the objection to likeness is expressed is through the objection that the extent to which two people are alike is precisely the extent to which they cannot need or desire anything from each other (because, by definition, they already have it). Thus, two people that are partially alike could still be useful to each other, but their likeness is precisely where they are not. Thus, it cannot be the cause of friendship. This important point aligns desire with difference, and excludes desire completely from identity as such. Toward the end of the dialogue, this exclusion, this objection to "like is drawn to like," will foil Socrates's last attempt to explain the desire that leads to friendship.