The fact that the society has been involved in advancing feminism and gender equality, there is a fact that gender cannot ignore; no man is an island. The love and want of a soul mate keeps every man and woman searching for the ‘other half’. However, if this is necessary for the human race, why is it that the purpose and the meaning of it has eluded us? From the Plato’s symposium, in the epoch when the seeking for knowledge was as a pathway to enlightenment, the term love was a concept that was not well understood. This symposium serves as a pamphlet that shows the guidelines as seen by the philosophers at the time of Plato. The intervention of the Greek gods in their speeches is interpreted to mean different aspects of love and even their effects on the people.
The symposium is a gathering of academically diverse and actually wise men who share same mind about love. The love between women and men is disparaged as lewd and procreant and the love between boys and men are praised as beneficial to wisdom.
What is Real Love – Plato on Love
Plato postulates that, humans are made up of three planes: Body (Soma), Soul (Psiche) and the divine consciousness/ spirit (Nous). In all these three dimensions, humans search for eternity and completeness. This is because as divine creatures, humans would have an innate wish to go back to their original state i.e. the state of union with God. From that, it can be deduced that, love is force that drives man towards the original condition- the creator.
From the physical plane, beauty is a key attribute of the divine. According to Plato, people have a natural tendency to consider beauty and even to search for beautiful bodies. Gorgeous forms instigate the humans to spread the seeds of eternity so as to give life to another being who will continue apiece of those who brought him to life.
In a higher realm, the psychological plane, Man has a natural tendency to seek for the divine and should feel encouraged towards upright people so as to give birth to moral virtues and even to spread the seeds of eternity through building projects and also reaching objectives that will end up leaving traces of their existence.
Eventually, in the highest realm, love seems to be the sentiment that rolls back everything back to unity.
So, as Plato defended, real love is when one finds another one whom he/she can manifest love in the three levels of existence and in addition feel fulfilled in all the dimensions i.e. Physiological, physical and the spiritual planes.
Ideals of Love in Plato's Symposium
Plato considers love as a necessary in the life of man that enables him/ her to acquire joy and courage while living or dead. What is love? How does it feel like? How does it come about? These questions are difficult to explain, yet they are somehow understood. The Plato’s symposium, which dates back in the start of the middle period, Plato introduced his Eros theory (Eros usually was translated to mean love). This dinner party had the discussion of love as the main topic.
The notion of love was understood at the end of the party came about gradually. This transformed from all speakers who spoke at the party and this was in comparison of the whole process of understanding the love that Socrates was trying to explain in his own speech.
It is in the same symposium that Plato introduces his Eros theory. Fro these dialogues the western culture was also discussed- for instance the image of two lovers as being the others half, which Plato assigns to Aristophanes in the Symposium. Besides, the “ladder of love,” through which a lover can ascend to direct cognitive contact with beauty itself. The Phaedrus reveals love as being the great “divine madness” through which the wings of the lover’s soul may sprout, allowing the lover to take flight to all of the highest aspirations and achievements possible for humankind. In both these two cases, Plato regards sexual or physical contact between the lovers as not only wasteful but also degraded forms of erotic expression. Since the goal of love/ Eros is real beauty and that real beauty is the form of beauty (what Plato calls beauty itself) so eros only finds its fulfillment in Platonic philosophy. He further postulates that, unless it channels its love power into what he calls higher pursuits, which result in the knowledge of the form of beauty, eros is subject to frustration. It is form this reason there for that Plato thinks that, many people squander the power of love by restricting themselves to the pleasures of the physical beauty.
Why do People Suffer for Love?
From this point of view, it is effortless to identify the reasons behind unhappy relationships. Humans focus on the physical dimension of love that is seeking for only the physical fulfillment and in turn neglecting the other aspects of psychological and the spiritual. Where a couple can give rise to off springs in the physical realm, but they cannot give rise to virtues together, or even to be united in a higher plane, then according to Plato this is not true love. This is simply satisfaction of the instincts, which is not only temporal but also fades away in the long run.
Unluckily, many become aware of the spiritual and psychological dimensions of love when it’s too late and also when the two people have taken different bearings. In such at times the couple is united by merely the obligations of their physical existence but spiritually they are not together.
Is Platonic Love Impossible?
Soul mates are people (couple) who walk together towards the superlative world, they are spiritually, physically and psychologically together- in that, they complement each other in each of the three realms of existence.
Some people think that platonic love is sexless, but rather, it is love that is not commanded by instincts, not ruled by the satisfactions of the body, but a kind of love that fulfills the spiritual needs and that brings forth not only off springs but also virtues to the world.
In the contemporary society, people are used to love that is just based on the physical realm, that this form of love that transcends the frontiers of the earthily or material life is related to the impossible love. May be the contemporary society would have a lot to borrow from the ancient world.
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Plato, Christopher, G. The symposium. New York: Penguine Classics, 2003.
Price, A. Love and Friendship in Plato and Aristotle. London: Oxford University press, 1990.
Campos, Thais. What is Platonic Love – Plato's Philosophy and the Art of Loving. 10 Aug 2010. 9 October 2010 <http://www.suite101.com/content/what-is-platonic-love--platos-philosophy-and-the-art-of-loving-a260700#ixzz12535H6gi>.