Plato's Symposium

Plato’s famous Symposium dealt with the purpose and nature of love.  At the house of the tragedian Agathon in the city of Athens, love was examined by a group of philosophers, statesmen and playwrights attending symposium, or drinking party.  The centerpiece of discussion was Eros – the god of love and desire (son of Aphrodite).  Eros was understood to represent erotic love and the force to inspire courage, valor, great works.  It was seen as transcending the physical realm to the spiritual – the liberation of one’s fear of death.

All the speakers agreed that love is somehow linked to creation, beauty and the philosophical quest for truth (Beauty, Truth & Goodness).  That love is noble and good.  Socrates says that in his youth he was taught "the philosophy of love" by Diotima, who was a seer or priestess.  In his speech Socrates asserts that the highest purpose of love is to become a philosopher or, literally, a lover of wisdom.  Love is a means of ascent to contemplation of the Divine.  The most correct use of love of other human beings is to direct one's mind to love of Divinity.  With genuine Platonic love, the beautiful or lovely other person inspires the mind and the soul and directs one's attention to spiritual things.

In 'Why Do Fools Fall in Love', author Anouchka Grose interprets the human element of Socrates musings on love, “…the lover as someone needy and lacking, capable of deceit and manipulation – the idea that erotic love can set you to work, make you think, study and create.  Love is the desire for something one doesn’t have.  Tricky argument:  if someone love/desires things because they are beautiful and good it follows that love itself is neither beautiful or good.  Because love aims at what it doesn’t have, it can propel people in interesting and fruitful directions”.