“Evil is the vulgar lover who loves the body rather than the soul, inasmuch as he is not even stable, because he loves a thing which is in itself unstable, and therefore when the bloom of youth which he was desiring is over, he takes wing and flies away, in spite of all his words and promises; whereas the love of the noble disposition is life-long, for it becomes one with the everlasting.” – Symposium by Plato
Contemporary love carries blessings and predicaments; the latter only if misunderstood and approached with misplaced expectations or in short only if ignorance and confusion over the human condition prevails. In the beginning stages of the platonic ladder of love, love is ephemeral, since the object of love is physical beauty by which itself is easily movable onto another person. However, once the lover realizes the beloved’s divine beauty of the soul he will move on in cases when the beloved is ugly in body and beautiful in soul. At the next stage, the lover sees beauty of morality and social justice. Finally the lover moves onto to finding beauty in acquisition of knowledge and freedom from attachment, which enables the lover’s faculties to find absolute beauty which does not vary according to its diverse beholders.
Love as understood by the ancient Greeks such as Plato has modern applicability still. In his classic work Symposium, following his famous dialogue format Plato describes 5 views over the subject of love or eros delivered by speeches given by recognizable figures. One speech given by Greek playwright, Aristophanes, is one that has endured, which proclaims in short the idea of soulmates and seeking one’s other half, since the pair were once whole but were separated. Through his comical speech Aristophanes argued that love is the solvent to the divine punishment incurred upon humans for their arrogance against the gods. Until one finds the other half, one will always exist as part of a whole in constant pursuit of the other half.
Ultimately, however, Plato inserts his conception of love through the speech delivered by his champion protagonist Socrates, who uses the Socratic method to arrive at his conclusion within his dialogue that he first uses with a priestess named Diotima and later with his company at the symposium. Socrates adds to Aristophanes view by declaring that one does not seek the other half unless it is good in nature. Therefore, feeling wholeness is not the end goal in its entirety, rather achievement of goodness or absolute beauty are key and the only object of love. According to the discourse, love is possession of the good as a permanent state. The problem lies when individuals do not identify the object of their love or desire, which is the thing that underscores their motivations for their desire.
Furthermore, for Socrates love has two forms, which both involve creation and both aim to fulfill human beings’ desire for immortality. To possess something means to recreate it consistently, which is why the first form is made possible through procreation and through guardianship of the generational line. Since reproduction is the closest means by which to obtain immortality, love serves the end. For instance, last names are passed onto new life created, by which proceeding creators inherit renewed time for living. The second form of love is made possible through creation of timeless works as derived by the mind or body. Socrates offers Homer’s Odyssey as an example of creation earning a mortal man the closest in narrowing the gap for achieving immortality.
Whether you believe in Plato’s theory on love or not, he offers much for discussion in an attempt to answer a central subject to the human condition that is love, purpose, and fulfillment.
“And the love, more especially, which is concerned with the good, and which is perfected in company with temperance and justice, whether among gods or men, has the greatest power, and is the source of all our happiness and harmony, and makes us friends with the gods who are above us, and with one another.” – Symposium by Plato