Friday, November 03, 2006

Plato's Theory of Love

Plato's Symposium is the greatest book on the theory of love in western philosophy. It is very good in theory of course but the way Plato and his Greek friends put their theory into practice however (old men with young boys) will look suspect in the modern age, but that doesn't diminish or take away from its profundity. And anyway it is okay with me since I am more of a theory person, even when it comes to things like love. I have struggled with the book in the past and actually have read it only in small abridged excerpts.

Here is a very good introduction to Plato's philosophy of love that I came across recently. I actually haven't read it in full, in fact I slept yesterday reading it but thought it will be useful to put it here as a public bookmark.

The wiki article on Symposium has this line in the introduction, "It is a gathering of intellectually diverse, and apparently wise men who are of one mind about love, that the best kind is between an older man, the "erastes," and his beloved boy, the "eromenos." Love between men and women is disparaged as procreant and lewd, and love between men and boys is praised as conducive to courage and wisdom." In case you were worried, I am not really a proponent of "Greek love" as the only kind of love possible. I believe a heterosexual love can also transcend the lewd and philistine procreational impulse and aspire to reach some artistic or spiritual plane. Wow! Did I just say that? :)

I had tried writing about a wonderful book, Love and Friendship by Allan Bloom, which contains a long and brilliant essay on Symposium apart from brilliant put-downs of Freud, Nietzsche and the modern feminist and sexual liberation movements, in the past but actually couldn't really summarise everything well. Check it out anyway if you want here. A better summary and some quotes from the book here.

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