Plato’s Ideas of Love
Uploaded by planotJ on Oct 26, 2011
This paper explores ways in which Socrates’ prayer at the end of The Phaedrus reflects Plato’s ideas of love. (7 pages; 3 sources; MLA citation style)
The ancient philosophers seem far more accessible to me than some of their later comrades; it’s easier to understand Plato and Socrates than Hegel and Kant. And who can imagine one of our solemn moderns being interrupted by an attack of the hiccups?
The speeches in The Symposium are clearly written, and yet each reflects the character of the speaker. As usual, Socrates can’t resist the opportunity of picking an “opponent” to pieces when he takes Agathon through a series of questions and answers about whether love is the love of something or of nothing.
The point is that these men are quite obviously enjoying their debate, and because of this, and their quest for understanding of basic human issues, they retain a great deal of relevance for us today.
At the end of The Phaedrus, a companion piece to The Symposium, Socrates utters a prayer. It’s very short, but it sums up Plato’s ideas of Love as expressed by Socrates in The Symposium.
II The Prayer
I’m using the Jowett translation found on-line, and this is the prayer as given in that text:
“Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who haunt this place, give me beauty in the inward soul; and may the outward and inward man be at one. May I reckon the wise to be the wealthy, and may I have such a quantity of gold as a temperate man and he only can bear and carry. -- Anything more? The prayer, I think, is enough for me.” (The Phaedrus, PG).
We can break this into several “sections” that will help us understand how it contains Plato’s idea of Love. The first section is the salutation to Pan; the next the mention of the other gods; the third, the idea of the duality of man; and the fourth the connection between wealth and wisdom. It is the third section, which considers the dual nature of man, that is the most important.
There is something else to consider briefly, and that is the capital “L” on the word “Love.” Love, to the ancient Greeks, was not an emotion but an entity: Cupid (Eros). Later generations have done him a disservice by turning him into a chubby cherub...