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Thread: Plato's Theory of Love: Rationality as Passion

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    Plato's Theory of Love: Rationality as Passion

    Plato's Theory of Love: Rationality as Passion

    Lydia Amir

    One of the most influential traditions of love in the Western world is Platonism. Originating with Plato’s writings on love (mainly the Symposium whose explicit subject is the nature of love and Phaedrus, but also the Republic and the Laws), the tradition flourished through Aristotle, Plotinus and the revival of neo-Platonism in the Renaissance. But Plato’s influence expanded beyond the tradition he started: the Courtly Love of the Middle-Ages, the Romanticism of the 19th century, important characteristics of religious love and even many Freudian ideas are rooted in his theory of love (de Rougemont, 1983). Today, interest in Plato’s view of love is being renewed (Nussbaum, 2001, chapt. 6; Levy, 1979; Vlastos, 1973; Moravicsik, 1972).

    In the popular mind Platonism is associated with the concept of Platonic love, which is understood today as a non-sexual relationship between heterosexual friends. As the concept of Platonic love is far from doing justice to Plato’s complex theory of love and sex, French scholars found it helpful to distinguish between amour platonique (the concept of non-sexual love) and amour platonicien (love according to Plato) (Gould, 1963, p. 1).
    Two rectifications of the popular concept of Platonic love seem necessary in order to appreciate the relevance of Plato’s theory of love to contemporary problems. The first is related to the non-sexual aspect of the loving relationship, for Plato’s theory of love includes sex. The second is related to the heterosexual aspect of the loving relationship. Indeed, Plato considers love between people solely as a homosexual phenomenon, whereas his discussion of sex includes both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. The sociological setting of Platonism explains it: in 5th century Athens, apart from some outstanding exceptions, like Pericles’ legendary love for Aspasia, men were married for reproductive ends, yet reserved the term ‘love’ and the passionate activity of sexual love for homosexual relationships (Gonzalez-Reigosa, 1989; O’Connor, 1991; Tannahil, 1989). Nevertheless, in my opinion, nothing in Plato’s philosophy stands in the way of adapting it to modern times, when due to their education and to political changes, women earned the right to love and to be loved as equals to men.

    When one dispels these misunderstandings related to the popular notion of Platonic love, one finds a great richness and depth in Plato’s theory of love. In explaining why love is so important to us and yet why it fails us so often, Plato’s view of love seems applicable to our time. It is common knowledge that a very high rate of divorce threatens our marriages. We expect a lot from the sexual passion we call love, but usually end up disappointed when the romance goes away. Yet we keep getting married, thinking that we are going to be the ones that will beat the system. If we fail, we change our partner and try again. We end up our love life as we began it, confused, afraid and as disappointed as we were hopeful.

    The malaise that characterises our love lives naturally finds its way to the philosophical consulting room. In this paper I shall attempt to show how Plato’s view of love can be helpful both in dispelling our confusion about love and in proposing some solutions to our suffering.

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    Re: Plato's Theory of Love: Rationality as Passion

    Plato writes for the true meaning of homoeroticism.

    The love who grows between a young boy and an elder soldier is something good.
    It helps both of them to be brave on the field of a battle because the elder soldier doesnt want to be looked weak by his younger comrade and,in the other hand,the younger wants to be as brave as his lover.

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