Plato and love
Society’s current strides in the advancement of feminist ideas and the equality of the sexes, tends to create ideas that women and men can sufficiently survive without the other. However, in a time a homosexuality and liberation of women’s subordination of men, humanity cannot ignore the fact that neither sex can survive without the other. Love and the want of a soul mate keeps each member of man and womankind in constant search of the perfect person with whom to become one. Yet if this bond is a necessity of the human race then why has the meaning, purpose and pursuit of it eluded us for so many generations. There has yet to be a one universal explanation of love and there has yet to be one who understands its powers fully. As we see from Plato's Symposium, even the wisest of men, in a time when the search for knowledge was seen as the pathway to enlightenment, couldn’t adequately define love and its implications on the human spirit.
Though many of the guidelines and characteristics of love set forth by Plato provide important incite to the meaning of love, some have become antiquated and cannot apply to modern society. The Symposium outlines the different popular views about love during Plato’s time. Plato intentionally portrays some as ignorant and others as valid thoughts on the phenomenon of love. Within the discourse, the speakers told of the characteristics of the gods related to love as a definition of what love is. Within each of the lectures given, Plato injected certain messages he sought to relay about love and its effect on people.
The speeches started with Phaedrus who stated many of the powers of love. He spoke about honor between someone and their beloved as a great virtue in a relationship. The major point relayed by Phaedrus’s speech was that a man of any nature would rather suffer humiliation in front of a great mass of people or all of mankind itself than to suffer the loss of respect or the loss of dignity in front of their lover. Our beloved stirs within us emotions that lead to noble actions. When interjected into modern society this idea creates two separate connotations when related to the male female relationship and its stereotypes. For the male, to suffer indignation in front of a lover translates into the loss of one's masculinity and the inability to protect their lover. For the female, it may consist of a fear of inferiority that creates a striving towards honor and providing for the male a constant venture in the relationship. Phaedrus points out an important truism in male female relationships that fear guides our actions. Fear of inferiority, fear of humiliation, and fear of loosing the respect of the one they love all drive the lover to nobler actions than they would otherwise be inclined to undertake.
Phaedrus soon builds on this point by stating that a true test of one's love for their mate is the value of their life. Comparisons between the fates of Achilles and Orpheus are brought up to emphasize his point. As we learn from the legend of Achilles, a man was rewarded for the value he put on his friends life. Achilles sacrificed his own life in an attempt to obtain revenge for his friend. For this act Achilles was rewarded and seen as a hero. Yet on the opposite side of the spectrum we learn of Orpheus who was punished for his selfishness, because he chose his own life over the life of his beloved. These examples help Phaedrus to show how the bonds of love can make a man dare to die for another.
Later on in the text we find a less dignified motive behind the sacrifice of one's self for another from the woman who teaches Socrates the meaning of love. We are once again faced with the idea of respect as one of the driving forces in love. The woman proposes that the main motive behind the sacrifice may be that it is a way to gain immortality. By dying for another they would be considered a hero. This may have been a valid