On Plato and “Love”

Love is a lofty concept, and in a sense it is something very concrete to the human mind. It is something we actively seek and yearn for, and yet, very few of us make an attempt to understand it. I could write for days about that notion alone, but today I’d like to talk about platonic love. The way we understand it, it is a friendship devoid of any erotic or romantic components and undertones, a sort of relationship composed of a kind of distant affection. But is that actually what Plato intended? After all, he is the man for which the term platonic is used. It indicates a concept that comes from his school of thought, and I don’t think that our contemporary definition of love in its platonic form would not make any sense at all. In fact, I think Plato would indeed gasp in horror and maybe even mild disgust at our rather severe bastardization of his notions on love.
It is important to understand that Plato was first and foremost a philosopher, a lover of knowledge. His ultimate concern was to create a fellow lover of knowledge, but lover is a more important word than you might think. What do you think of when you think of a lover? A midnight tryst? A night of passionate sex? Perhaps that feeling you get when your in the arms of the one you love. For Plato, all of the things that we normally associate with eros, more commonly referred to as romantic or erotic love, are an important part of one learning to cultivate a love of knowledge, to becoming a philosopher.
Plato sees eros as being an absolutely central part of his love equation.
Think of falling in love. Your heart races in the presence of the one you love, you might even tremble slightly in anticipation of their passionate embrace. That feeling that you can do anything, that adrenaline rush, that feeling of complete rapture and euphoria, that feeling of complete love… Along with that comes something equally beautiful, an all consuming desire for them, and the drive to make the life of your love better. Through this process, through loving an individual in all ways; physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually, we gain a truly deeper appreciation for that person.
It was Plato’s hope that we would experience this kind of love, and we would learn to extend that love, and its associated feelings of total goodness, and in turn learn to love knowledge and humanity in the same way. He had hoped that through eros, we would learn to love all. So platonic love the way we see it, is quite the opposite of what Plato had originally intended. Platonic love is indeed wholly erotic, and it is that element of the erotic and romantic that, in his mind can lead us to a love of both knowledge and humanity.

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4 thoughts on “On Plato and “Love””

  1. I think what you say here may be true. I agree people fail to understand love. I have done what Socrates does to Meno within the dialogue “Meno”, eliminating contradictions within life. I find a totally differing definition of love as a result. I find love to be the foundation to everything within life, the one substance philosophers were looking for back when. Plato discovers love, but seems to fail to identify it as the origin to life. The brain develops from love. It has an unconscious aspect (soul), a subconscious aspect (creative) and conscious (experience). That is how I begin to define love. The soul simply acts and records. The creative brain maintains reality, provides energy to problem solve, problem solves and provides feedback about internal reality. The conscious is about perception, association, evaluation and decisions about external reality. The soul always begins from a neutral, nonactive, state. This is a state without thought, simply a seemingly otherwise empty state of respect, without prejudice, for all that exists. I could not be in this state until I rid my brain of the monkey-moo I previously used to cover up and destroy my ability to be love. I was scared to be pure love because I thought love hurt. Today, I enjoy this state regularly. I think this is what Plato may have been thinking about love. Once this state is achieved, then love becomes passion when actively enjoying life. This is my take.

    Thanks for letting me share,
    Daniel E. Rider Sr.

    Like

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