Friday, July 18, 2014

Platonic Love, From Plato's "The Symposium" Translator: Benjamin Jowett

"When a man loves the beautiful, what does he love?"
 I answered her, "That the beautiful may be his."
 "Still," she said, "the answer suggests a further question, which is this: What is given by the possession of beauty?"
 "That," I replied, "is a question to which I have no answer ready."
 "Then," she said, "let me put the word 'good' in the place of the beautiful, and repeat the question: What does he who loves the good desire?"
"The possession of the good," I said.
 "What does he gain who possesses the good?"
 "Happiness," I replied; "there is no difficulty in answering that."
 "Yes," she said, "the happy are made happy by the acquisition of good things. Nor is there any need to ask why a man desires happiness; the answer is already final"
"That is true," I said. "And is this wish and this desire common to all? and do all men always desire their own good, or only some men?-what think you?"
 "All men," I replied; "the desire is common to all"
 "But all men, Socrates," she rejoined, "are not said to love, but only some of them; and you say that all men are always loving the same thing."
 "I myself wonder," I said, "why that is."
 "There is nothing to wonder at," she replied: "the reason is that only one part of love is separated off and receives the name of the whole, but the other parts have other names."
"Give an example," I said.
She answered me as follows: "There is poetry, which, as you know, is complex and manifold. And all creation or passage of non-being into being is poetry or making, and the processes of all art are creative; and the masters of art are all poets or makers."
 "Very true."
 "Still," she said, "you know that they are not called poets, but have other names; the generic term 'poetry' is confined to that specific art which is separated off from the rest of poetry, and is concerned with music and metre, this is what is called poetry, and they who possess this kind of poetry are called poets."
 "Very true," I said.
"And the same holds of love. For you may say generally that all desire of good and happiness is due to the great and subtle power of Love; but those who, having their affections set upon him, are yet diverted into the paths of money-making or gymnastic philosophy, are not called lovers-the name of the genus reserved for those whose devotion takes one form only-they alone are said to love, or to be lovers."
"In that," I said, "I am of the opinion that you are right."
 "Yes," she said, "and you hear people say that lovers are seeking neither for the half, nor for the whole, unless the half or whole be also a good. And they will cut off their own hands and feet and cast them away, if they are evil; for: they love them not because they are their own, but because they are good, and dislike them not because they are another's, but because they are evil. There is nothing which men love but the good. Do you think that there is?"
 "Indeed," I answered, "I should say not."
"Then," she said, "the conclusion of the whole matter is that men love the good."
 "Yes," I said.
"To which may be added that they love the possession of the good?"
 "Yes, that may be added."
 "And not only the possession, but the everlasting possession of the good?"
 "That may be added, too."
 "Then love," she said, "may be described generally as the love of the everlasting possession of the good?"
 "That is most true," I said.

 (From Socrates' speech on Love)

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