Monday, August 29, 2005

Plato On Love

Over the weekend, my friend Parvez has given me a treat by recommending me to the work of Plato which has a particularly non-platonic exposition on the matter of "Love". The work is titled Phaedrus and is a free form conversation between the fabulist Phaedrus and the greek philosopher Socrates. To gain a flavor of the work, consider the following statement on the definition of love by Socrates before he goes on to express anything related to it :

"Every one sees that love is a desire, and we know also that non-lovers desire the beautiful and good. Now in what way is the lover to be distinguished from the non-lover? Let us note that in every one of us there are two guiding and ruling principles which lead us whither they will; one is the natural desire of pleasure, the other is an acquired opinion which aspires after the best; and these two are sometimes in harmony and then again at war, and sometimes the one, sometimes the other conquers. When opinion by the help of reason leads us to the best, the conquering principle is called temperance; but when desire, which is devoid of reason, rules in us and drags us to pleasure, that power of misrule is called excess. Now excess has many names, and many members, and many forms, and any of these forms when very marked gives a name, neither honourable nor creditable, to the bearer of the name. The desire of eating, for example, which gets the better of the higher reason and the other desires, is called gluttony, and he who is possessed by it is called a glutton-I the tyrannical desire of drink, which inclines the possessor of the desire to drink, has a name which is only too obvious, and there can be as little doubt by what name any other appetite of the same family would be called;-it will be the name of that which happens to be eluminant. And now I think that you will perceive the drift of my discourse; but as every spoken word is in a manner plainer than the unspoken, I had better say further that the irrational desire which overcomes the tendency of opinion towards right, and is led away to the enjoyment of beauty, and especially of personal beauty, by the desires which are her own kindred-that supreme desire, I say, which by leading conquers and by the force of passion is reinforced, from this very force, receiving a name, is called love."

Of course he later even concedes that certain forms are madness are a heavenly blessing and it is better to be in that state than make sense. If this whets your appetite, please consider reading the full text.

This definitely requires 2 dictionaries and a bottle of scotch :)

2 comments:

Megha said...

Thank you for reiterating my point about your blog being in the 2D + BOS (that's 'two dictionaries and a bottle of scotch') league. Of course, pretty much any post on your blog (except the last PSW/SPW one) can stand testimony to it. And yet .. when I use the phrase on you, I get mocked and heckled. There is no justice in this world, I tell ya!

Priyanka said...

desire, which is devoid of reason

even desire has a reason..or so i think. after all why can't chemical reactions be a "reason"?
ok, ok. i know that is not what Plato meant.
:)