Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Love: Plato vs Aristotle
He whom love touches not walks in darkness – Plato
While Aristotle may have a little interest in erotic love (eros), he isn’t half as interested in it as he is friendship (philia). For Plato however, the best kind of friendship is that which lovers can have for each other. He believes it is a friendship that is born out of love, and that in turn feeds back into love to strengthen and develop the relationship. Similar to philosophy, love aims at transcending human existence. How so? It connects it with the eternal and infinite. Therefore, achieving the only species of immortality that is open to us as human beings. Neat-o! Not only does friendship strengthen and develop love, but it also transforms it from a lust for possession into a shared desire for a higher level of understanding of the self, the other, and the universe. All in all, friendship transforms love from a lust for possession into an impulse for philosophy. So what does this mean? Friendship takes our humanly need of something we want and turns into something we must have. Essentially meaning we must have love. I wonder what Aristotle would say. Nietzsche explains it better in his book The Gay Science by stating, “Here and there on earth we may encounter a kind of continuation of love in which this possessive craving of two people for each other gives way to a new desire and lust for possession – a shared higher thirst for an ideal above them. But who knows such love? Who has experienced it? Its right name is friendship” In other words, if erotic love can be transformed into the best kind of friendship then it can open up a blissful life of shared understanding in which desire, friendship, and philosophy are in perfect resonance with one another. Like many other Greeks of his time and social status, Plato is most interested in the same sex desire that can exist between an older and a younger man, but there is no reason to suppose that his theory of love does not also apply to other kinds of erotic relationship. Does this mean Plato may have been gay? If so, I wonder if he was the younger boy or the older man. With that being said, Plato distinguishes the kind of love that can give rise to friendship from a baser kind of love that is enjoyed by those who are more given to the body than to the soul. Rather than underpin the search for truth, this baser kind of love is almost designed to impede it. It is said that the lover feels the utmost joy when he is with his beloved and the most intense longing when they are separated. I can relate to this on a personal level. I always feel so happy and at peace when I’m hanging out with the people I love the most. However when we’re apart it’s like all I do is look forward to being together again. Aristotle may feel this way about people but would probably never verbally state that he loves them. He’d probably only call them friends. I bet it’d suck to be friend-zoned by Aristotle.