What the philosophers think about love

Love. It's been the focal point of philosophers and scientists for centuries. Although we may understand some of the biological urges of love and sex, it still manages to take us by surprise, our impulses baffling us. Here's what the philosophers have had to say about it over time.

 

Plato: The other half

Plato bust

Why should it be that those looking for love feel a lack, while those in love feel complete? 

In Plato's The Symposium (385–370 BC), a group of men are sat around, merrily drinking and exchanging wisdom on the topic of love. The group take it in turns to deliver speeches in praise of Eros (love). One such fellow, Aristophanes, addresses this matter during his rather curious speech.

Aristophanes suggests that nature as we know it is somewhat different to how it once was, in particular, the make up the human body. 

 

"The shape of each human being was a rounded whole, with back and sides forming a circle. Each one had four hands and the same number of legs, and two identical faces on a circular neck. They had one head for both of the faces, which were turned in opposite directions, four ears, two sets of genitals, and everything else was as you would imagine from what I've said so far."

 

Also different were the sexes, of which there were three. The sphere with two male bodies (child of the Sun), the sphere with two female bodies (child of the Earth), and the third one of each (child of the Moon). 

They were happy, but as is the case with human nature, they strived for more and attempted to ascend Olympus to take on the gods. Of course, Zeus was having none of it and as a punishment he chopped them in two. Humans were destined to roam the Earth desperately seeking their other half.

This myth is very progressive as the three sexes created three sexualities: 

  • The children of the Sun became homosexuals 
  • The children of the Earth became lesbians
  • The children of the Moon became straight

When the halves find each other, they fall in love and become whole. Love itself comes from human imperfection, lack and need.

Next page: Platonic love as the most true form of love...

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