Analyzing Platos Phaedrus

Love, being one of the central concepts of Platos dialogue, Phaedrus, had provided as an extensive discussion of this common yet misunderstood concept. The Phaedrus, through the lips of Socrates would provide us a unique way of understanding love that is far beyond the popular concept of love in the past and in todays world.

For both Symposium and Phaedrus, Plato regarded love that is directed only on physical beauty and pure sexuality as a mere waste of time. Love in this earthly form is a degraded and corrupted form of love from its purest sense. For Plato, the goal of love is not to define and discover what is already in this world but to discover and see what is beyond this realm. Hence, Plato is talking here the world of forms wherein the real beauty is the Form of Beauty itself. We can find in the world of forms the purest and the source of all what we can see in this world (e.g. perfect love). Unless love is directed towards the sought of these higher form of wisdom, love cannot go any further. It will become stacked to world that is corrupt and degrading (247d - e). Therefore, for Plato, a lover must see beyond what the human eyes can see. Though Plato does not discourage physical beauty in its self, Plato prescribed that we must take a look past what the physical world manifest. This is because the real beauty cannot be found in its physical form but rather to the intellectual realm which can only be reached by your intellectual dedication

What is the ultimate expression of love then The answer in this question lies on the Platonic Socrates discussion on Phaedrus. According to him, love in its highest term and form is expressed by some kind of madness. In this proclamation of Socrates, it is important to note that he had shown earlier that madness is not as bad as the common first impression. For Plato, being mad will not do bad things exclusively. He debunked the earlier speech redelivered by Phaedrus (even Socrates first speech). These two speeches spoke of madness as something that is exclusively bad and shall not bring any benefits for the lover and the beloved. In these new position however (third speech), madness is seen as the highest expression of love. He argued that madness can be inspired by the gods. This includes the different kind of madness which was referred as divine madness. This includes gift of prophecy, mystical rites and rituals, poetry and finally loves itself (244b-245a). This argument cleared madness in terms of love from a negative connotation.

Being passionately in love is being mad. Madness in this term is like the possession of something that is outside the lover. The highest form of love is an individual who is mad and obsessed to his or her pursuit of wisdom. The individual dedicate himself to the pursuit of things that is outside him and the realm that is beyond our current world. What he is mad on discovering about is the Truth, the Beauty and the Being in its purest form which cannot be found here on Earth but on the world that is higher and beyond our comprehension.

The pursuit of love is most important in the development of a person. To explain this, we must first understand Platos conception of the structure of the soul. He compared the soul to a chariot with a pair of winged horses and a charioteer. For Plato, each part of the chariot corresponds to each part of the soul. The charioteer is the reason, the first horse correspond the spirit and the second and the last horse is the impulse. According to him, gods have a fully functioning, noble and good charioteers and horses. However, for mortals, one of the horses is not functioning as its best. One of the horse is a corrupt horse that loss its wings and causes the chariot to fall in to the ground. The chariot will have a difficulty in flying towards the heaven where the Good, the Beauty and the Wise can be found. It is impossible for the chariot to make way upwards unless the other horse has been patched up. (246a)
The only cure for this kind of shortfall of the chariot is to heal the other horse. The only thing that will make possible his flight upwards is the desire for the quest of true knowledge. As the chariot realized that what he needs to seek can only be found above, he will be able to heal the short fall of the other horse and can make it way above in the realm of true knowledge and the gods wherein the true love of wisdom can manifest.

You may notice that Plato provided an extensive account of the different provinces of love. It is important for Plato to discuss love, it sources and its derivative to be able to define it. If he did not make this kind of effort, our conception of love will be stuck to a mere common way of interpreting love affairs which is shallower than it must be (i.e. exclusive to sexual and romantic affairs). For Plato, love is more than the physical contacts of the body and the urge and desire that envelop it. Love is not just a province of the physical realm but rather a province of realm of the forms or the realm of gods (245e).

By proving that the love is more than physical contact, Plato had proven us that love or at least true love is one of the goals that we should strive and aspire. By establishing the importance of love, he can then argue for the one of the most important way of living the human life. It is important to note here that the love that Plato is speaking is love for wisdom. This love of wisdom can be interpreted as the philosophy itself and its object. In this sense, Plato is encouraging that we must engage in philosophy.
You may ask, why philosophy What is the importance of studying philosophy What is the significance of loving wisdom For Plato, the pursuit of wisdom is the most essential goal of man. Wisdom is concerned with the things that are beyond this world. Plato believes that humans are not destined to be stacked in the affairs of this world. The true place of human is not here on earth but in a world that is beyond this earth where the real and true wisdom and knowledge lies.

Another important concept that will arise in our discussion of love is the famous Platonic love. What then is Platonic love Platonic love is indeed a kind of love that involves friendship while lacking sexual intimacy. However, there is another important factor that is important to note in defining Platonic love. For every mutual love, we must remember that something is shared between the two lovers. In a romantic love for example, the two lovers share and enjoy their passions. For two best friends, they share both commitment and trust. In a Platonic love, there is also a thing that is being shared by the two lovers  intellectual bond. Intellectual bond or the sharing of two Platonic lovers is their quest for the pursuit of both wisdom and knowledge (249a).

We had learned in Phaedrus a new spectacle on how we can see love. Rising from the conception of love that is shallow and only concerned earthly elements such as eroticism, emotions and passions, Plato had taught us how we can extract more out of love. Expanding the province of love not only here on earth, we had learned from Phaedrus that love is not only an affair of humans but also an affair of the world beyond us which we are ought to discover.


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