Platonic Love

I’ve been thinking about Plato’s Symposium lately. The short book details a social get-together of a group of Greek intellectuals each speaking about the nature of love. Apparently these old guys felt the need to discuss philosophy while consuming large amounts of wine. Anyway, the speech I like best is Aristophanes’ explanation of the origins of love.

He offers that humankind began as spherical beings with four arms, four legs, two faces and opposing genitalia. There were men and women but mostly hermaphrodites. These beings were so complete in themselves, so capable and without need they pretty much ignored the gods, which was a mistake because Zeus took particular umbrage at their arrogant self-satisfaction and split them all in half. Each man became two men, each woman two women and each androgynous one became one man and one woman.

These new beings found themselves lost without their companion half, found themselves subject to all sorts of human foibles, insecurities and fears, which, I suppose, made them more attentive to the gods, at least for a time. The upshot of this bizarre episode was an innate yearning on the part of each new individual to reunite with his or her missing half, which, according to Aristophanes, marked the beginnings of romantic love.

When I think about it, as wonderfully imaginative as his story is, it kind of makes sense that some men and some women would seek soulmates of common gender even though the majority, having been androgynous to begin with seeks union with the opposite sex.

Anyway, as you might expect, Socrates gets the last word and explains in his speech that love of Man, true love, is much deeper than the physical attractions of youth, that, through love, man has access to Absolute Beauty and Goodness which lead him to ultimate truth and bring him as near immortality as Man may ever come.

I bet Socrates and the Buddha would have gotten along well had they known each other.

With Greek Philosophers

With Greek Philosophers

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