Plato, Love and Philosophy

Love, in its narrowest and widest meaning and discussion became the most central element of one of the most discussed and merited dialogue of Plato, the Symposium. In the said dialogue, the characters including Phaedrus, Aristhopanes, Agathon, Eryximachus, Alicibiades and Aristodemus together with Socrates had expressed their judgment, analysis and opinions on the nature of love. As the usual trend on all Platos dialogue, the earlier speakers had expressed their own speech about the subject (i.e. Love or the nature of love). Later on, they shall be examined by Socrates himself using his own method (i.e. Socratic Dialectic) which will later debunk or prove the inconsistency of their arguments. This classic flow of the dialogue is seen in the Symposium as the last speech delivered by Socrates had proved that the earlier speeches of the said guests were proved inconclusive, untrue or ill-founded.

If we can name one single thing that the Symposium had taught us, it is our redefinition and reconsideration on how we understand love and its nature. As said, earlier, Plato, through Socrates had managed to widen our conception of love from a simple romantic affair to one of the most celebrated activity of humanity. In short, the Symposium had provided us a better and more definite understanding of love and its nature. In this paper, we are going to state the significance of these ideas provided by Plato through Socrates and shall later relate its importance to other fields of knowledge that are significant in the Greek community.

Prior to the reading and understanding Symposium, there is a great chance that a common man will see love as a mere affair between a man and a woman. Love can be regarded as the mere bond between lovers or couples. However, with the help of the speech of the said speakers such as Agathon, Aristopahnes, Alicibiades etc., our perspective on how we see love had widen. It almost seems with our two eyes alone, we are not able to see the real nature of the world around us. However, as we read the insights, theories and opinions of these speakers, it now seems that a new order was introduced to us. Rather than seeing love as a mere affair between two lovers and couple, love become a renewed entity that is or is becoming the central element wherein almost all things revolves. How is this possible How does a very common element or topic such as love managed to renew its definition from a mere humanly affair toward a divine concept. Well, Socrates is the one we must consult.

According to Socrates (through Diotima), love is neither a god nor mortal. Arguing so, will backfire against the loves inclination towards happiness and beauty. As argued, love is a spirit who bridges the gap between the realm of the gods and realm of the humans. This can be seen on how humans communicate to gods and how gods communicate to human. As a spirit, love is the messenger between the two. As stated, Gods do not mix with men they mingle and converse with us through spirits love instead, whether we are awake or asleep. (Plato 203a) Prayers and rituals are made possible through the love of the humans on gods. Blessings and gifts are made possible through the love of the gods on humans.

In this respect, Plato had provided us a new perspective on how we can see love. We learned here that love is neither a god nor godly affair, neither an exclusive affair of the mortal. Instead, love is an instrument that can be used the mortal or by the human to communicate with gods. At the same time, love is also the instrument of the gods to communicate with humans. This discussion will be important if we contextualize the Platonic idea that concerns the world of forms. The idea of Plato, of the people who he regarded as the lovers of wisdom corresponds to this concept. Being a lover, humans are drawn towards the pursuit of wisdom. As can be seen in Platos numerous dialogues (i.e. The Republic, Phaedrus and Symposium), the real wisdom cannot be found and revealed in the realm of the humans. In short the real wisdom lies on the realm that is beyond this world. In many respects, wisdom is attributed to gods and the world of forms which is a place wherein the real knowledge and the real wisdom can be learned. In this respect, being a lover or possessing love bridges humans and gods. Being a lover gives the human a chance to have a glimpse of the world beyond theirs (i.e. world of forms) and at the same time, gods are given the chance to attract humans towards them. Gods are also able to share the wisdom and knowledge they possess to humans through the help of love. Again, this proved the significant role played by love between gods and humans.

Another significant move done by Socrates is his extension of love from mere sexual and romantic affairs towards a more intellectual pursuit. Reproduction or giving birth is made possible through the love between couples. However, on Socrates speech, love does not only produce another human being. Love produces ideas that are immortal and lasts despite the death of its parent. As stated, . . . would look up to Homer, Hesiod, and the other good poets with envy and admiration for the offspring they have left behind  offspring which because they are immortal themselves, provide their parents with immortal glory and remembrance. (Plato 209d) Human beings are capable of immortality. The first is his or her bearing of an offspring and the other one is bearing of ideas, worthy of surviving for ages.

From these concepts of Plato, through Socrates, they had provided us new lenses on how we can see and define love. Love had expanded from its usual definition that is concerned in mere romantic and sexual affairs. Love is now a tool of gods and humans to communicate. Lastly, love is a powerful force that can widen and heighten the awareness of humans to reach a higher goal in the world beyond this earth. In this sense, the highest form of lovers is the lovers who are engaged in the love and pursuit of wisdom.

These new conception of love and later on, philosophy as a whole (since the highest form of lover are the lovers of wisdom) had a big implication on how we will see other fields of knowledge prominent in the Greek era. Philosophy, now being the highest form of activity of man outmatches any field of knowledge. Rhetoric, sciences, education and poetry are merely disciplines of field of knowledge that are just concerned to the material world. All of them are just trying to mirror images. In short, they are providing us an image of another image. Almost seems a picture that took another picture. For Platos standards, this is not that an honorable act. It is important to note that for him, we should be engage in the affairs that will give us a glimpse of the world beyond us, simply the world of forms. Fields like rhetoric, sciences, education and poetry are just affairs of the world and do not directly orient us towards the pursuit of knowledge that is heavenly. This explanation places philosophy among these disciplines. This is because philosophy or the love of wisdom itself pushes us to love the things that are beyond the earth. Philosophy obliges its followers to move pass what the eyes can see. Philosophy urges its student to discover what is really there and not what only manifest in the world.

The earthly characteristics of these fields of knowledge are very clear. Rhetoric for example is concerned with the persuasion of its audience through words and arguments that are not necessarily true. As long as it rings good to its listeners and able to persuade them, rhetoric is acceptable. Sciences have an edge to rhetoric. Sciences try to answer question, removing biases as much as possible. However, we must still take note that the method of science are merely exclusive on what is observable. In short, sciences are for this earth alone. Education falls on the same pitfall. Education is concerned with the things that concerned our earthly existence, unable to tackle what is the world beyond us. Poetry suffers the same fate. Much of poetry is based on the feelings and emotions of the poet that are worldly. It is subject to the opinions of its creator and not influenced on the wisdom that philosophy offers us.

Summing it up, Plato, through Socrates had provided us new standards in assessing disciplines of knowledge. This standard had given a very important influence on how we see love. The conception of love had expanded from a mere human affair towards heavenly affairs. This new standard had put philosophy on the foreground since philosophers are the lovers of wisdom. This provided as a new light, a new goal and a new end that we must all pursue. Plato had taught us that we must take a flight away from the earth that we live in and take a quest that is aimed for the discovery of the world of forms, which are beyond what our eyes can see.


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