Plato’s theory of love is one of the most interesting philosophical propositions of this thinker from ancient Greece.
The world of love and personal relationships is already, in itself, something to which we attach great importance, and when this field joins that of the approaches of one of the great figures of philosophy, the result is a theoretical heritage which is a real eye-catcher. However, this philosopher conceived love in a very characteristic way, since this linked him to his theory of knowledge and ideas.
Below we will see what are the main characteristics of Plato’s theory of love and how it related to his philosophy.
Before we can understand how Plato conceived love, we need to be clear about one concept: dualism. This is a philosophical current to which Plato belonged and which, after his death, was adopted by many other renowned thinkers, including, for example, René Descartes.
What is dualism? Well, basically, and simplifying a lot, in the belief that reality is made up of at least two independent substances and that they can never be mixed at all: matter and spirit, also sometimes understood as the world of events. consciousness. These two substances are independent of each other, in the sense that, although they can “join”, they do not mix and one does not derive from the other.
Plato believed that the human being is essentially a soul trapped in a body, Which in turn moves in an environment that is also only material. In other words, while the mind belongs to the realm of ideas, everything else, the matter to which the mind is anchored, is a kind of material prison.
But the mind has a natural tendency to want to be close to the rest of the ideas, And this is why he perfects himself whenever he is able to see beyond the appearances of the material world of ideas to access the truth behind it, which is universal and cannot be localized in time. and space.
The myth of Plato’s cave, for example, is a mythical story that expresses exactly that: the liberation of the human being through access to the truth, without being deceived by the appearances of the physical world.
Plato’s theory of love
And what does this have to do with Plato’s theory of love? Well, it’s very related, because because this philosophical love can be understood as a state of ecstasy and at the same time of moderate frustration which is experienced knowing that there is something beyond the physical calling us but that, at the same time, it will not be completely delivered to us, because no matter how much we do not want it, we are always chained to the world of the place where to enjoy things depends to a large extent on our proximity in time and space with them and in which it is almost impossible to remain outside the influence that it exerts on aesthetics, appearances.
The Platonic conception of love is therefore that of an impulse that leads us to want to go beyond matter in our experience of something, in access to its beauty, Which for the thinker is due to his proximity to the truth and not to his aesthetic.
In the case of people, this beauty belongs to a spiritual plane that we have intuition on but cannot make our own, because for some reason it is not a material thing. What characterizes love is therefore the search for truth and purity, which has to do with the very essence of beauty and which belongs to a plane of existence totally separate from the physical.
So, in mortal life, platonic love is full of frustration, for although beauty is intuitioned, it is impossible to experience it directly because of the limitations of what is material.
Love like something unattainable
It is sometimes said that the essence of Plato’s theory of love is the impossibility of accessing what is loved. However, the inability to directly access this idea of beauty is only a consequence of Plato’s distinction between the ideal and the material.
This philosopher made his theory revolve entirely around the world of ideas, And thus did not set very strict rules on the specific actions to be followed in order to experience love in a correct way, as if the way we move and act on a physical space is in itself a very important thing.
This is why, among other things, he did not say that love should be expressed by celibacy, as this would be contradicted in his principles based on the case where the experimentation of beauty must be related to the way we experience the material world. . Rather, it was a distortion of the dualistic philosophy used of the popularization of the Abrahamic religions, Mainly of Christianity.
Thus, the brass left the door open to different ways of partially accessing the spiritual world, of transcending the boundaries between matter and what it believed to exist beyond.