The following is a discussion on Plato’s Symposium that has different elements of love. The essay examines different views based on Plato’s theories of the soul where he describes the three aspects of the soul, which includes appetitive, rational and spirited. The aim of this essay is to develop a philosophical discussion on love, which does not receive attention but inspires and controls human action more than any other emotional force.
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The Symposium Discussion on Love. The discussion in Plato’s Symposium begins with Phaedrus who describes romantic love as the oldest form of love. He is of the view that love was the oldest god and had no parents (Plato 172). He describes this type of love as inspiring and evidenced in war when soldiers fight and die in battle to show that they are brave and courageous.
When driven by this love, human being is capable of doing anything possible to attain it (Plato 178). When viewed from Plato’s perspective on soul this kind of love is for appetitive soul that is driven by instinct rather than critical thinking and reason.
The second person to present his view on love in the Symposium is Pausanias who describes two types of love. The first type of love is heavenly and the second one earthly (Plato 182). The heavenly love is the best form of love and involves honoring one’s partner intelligence and wisdom. Its main aim is not to gratify itself but appreciate others. The earthly form of love is also described as the common type of love, which involves desire for sex (Plato 182).
The third person to make presentation is Eryximachus who is a physician and love according to him is in everything including plants, animals and forces of nature such as rainfall and sunshine (Plato 186). He describes love as a powerful force and is either healthy or unhealthy. Unhealthy love seeks to gratify its carnal desires without considering the consequences and the feelings of the other person (Plato 186). However, the healthy love is virtuous and too powerful that it can cure all illnesses (Plato 187).
The most interesting of the presenters is Aristophanes who gives a mythical description of origin of Eros love. He narrates how people had doubled bodies with four hands, four legs, and rounded faces. These types of beings were all female, all male and androgynous, which had both the male and female characteristics (Plato 190). These beings were very powerful such that they attempted to dislodge the gods.
The god Zeus rather than destroying them with thunderbolts opted to cut them into two such that they would retain their original form in order to offer their worship and sacrifices to the gods. They were weaker and could not dislodge the gods. When the human beings were cut into two, there was agony and pain as they sought the replacement of the other half.
He describes coitus as an act of finding the other half and the idea of finding the other half when looking for a life partner seems to have originated from this myth (Plato 190). This myth explains the origin of homosexuality and lesbianism in that those who originated from all male beings became homosexuals looking for their male counterparts whereas lesbians originated from the all female beings. Heterosexuals originated from androgynous beings.
This does not explain the aspects of self-sacrificing where one may be a heterosexual but out of love defend his male friends. It explains that the whole purpose of love is to procreate as well as find fulfillment in the other half (Plato 193).
The other explanation is from Socrates where he describes his attempt to seek love from Diotema who instead gives him wisdom about what is love (Plato 201). Here Socrates explains love as a great chain that links our love from the lowest to the highest level, from the most carnal to the highest and the most spiritual. It is born of resource as the father and poverty the mother (Plato 203).
He further explains that love is not a god, but a great spirit that moves between gods and human beings. Though it is not a god, love is immortal but seeks to be a god by producing beauty through children, ideas and wisdom. This beauty is demonstrated by paintings, work of art and political reforms. Socrates admits that most of the descriptions of love are usually a carnal desire to posses beautiful and desirable things that belongs to another person (Plato 207).
Plato’s Theory on Human Soul. This description involves the metaphysical inquiry about human soul. Plato explains that human soul exist and is not a single entity because it would be difficult to explain the human cravings such as the desire to commit crime and the ability of the same human being to restrain him or herself from committing that crime (Plato 317). The human soul has three aspects according to Plato.
The appetitive, which is the primitive aspect of human being, is concerned with survival instincts such as eating, drinking, sex and the need for pleasure. This aspect of the soul according to Plato is most dominant in the artisans, the workers and slaves (Plato 318). The other human aspect is rational soul, which is the logical thinking aspect of human being.
The imaginative aspect of human being thinks carefully about the consequences of an action. It restrains if the appetitive drive and is most dominant in the philosophers and kings (Plato319). The third aspect of the soul is the spirited soul that craves for honor, appreciation and wisdom. It inspires the acts of courage and recognition, which is most dominant in soldiers, athletes as well as nobles (Plato 320).
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Ranks of Love. Having looked at the aspects of the soul, Plato describes the ranks of love. They can be associated with the type of souls as classified by Plato. The first aspect is the self-seeking love, which is selfish and seeks to benefit from the good of others without offering anything in return. It is exploitative and results to feelings of exploitation and resentment (Plato 325).
The second rank as described by Socrates is where the lover first appreciates the beauty of the body. This love is described as vulgar as it is rarely satisfied with one body. The lover tries to get many partners, which is not recommended before knowing that it is not right. After sometime, the lover discovers that all the bodies are similar because nobody is more beautiful than the other is and this is the third rank (Plato 328).
The fourth rank lover realizes that beauty of the mind and conscience is more beautiful and appealing than the physical beauty. With this realization, the lover ascends to the fifth rank, which is the rank of appreciating the beauty in the activities of other human beings. He realizes the importance of institutions in the society and may get an opportunity to govern and lead many people. His soul also evolves to be more rational rather than appetitive.
The final level is the appreciation of beauty, through work of art and paintings. Many people appreciate it in their daily life that is why there are quality products available for them. At this level one looks for ways of sharing the wisdom of beauty with other people like the philosopher (Plato 330).
The ranks provided in this discussion assist individuals to appreciate love whether at the lowest or highest rank. Rather than remain at the lower and canal nature of love, this understanding makes us ascend through the ranks. Love is a subject of philosophical inquiry. It is imperative to know the nature and types of love as without this knowledge one might confuse the purpose and place of this emotion and its manifestation.
Love may express itself as Eros when its purpose is to seek romance and procreation. It may be expressed as philia when it aims at creating mutual understanding in the society. In addition, it may be expressed as agape, god kind of love that is unconditional and is available to everyone. According to Plato, love is critical in the development of the society as it creates a bond that brings people together to build a harmonious society.
Plato. Plato: The Collected Dialogues of Plato, Translated by Gebundene Ausgabe. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1871. Print.