Love and Friendship in Plato and Aristotle

Love and Friendship in Plato and Aristotle

Love and Friendship in Plato and Aristotle

Love and Friendship in Plato and Aristotle

Synopsis

This book explores for the first time an idea common to both Plato and Aristotle: although people are separate, their lives need not be; one person's life may overflow into another's, so that helping someone else is a way of serving oneself. Price considers how this idea unites the philosophers' treatments of love and friendship (which are otherwise very different), and demonstrates that this view of love and friendship, applied not only to personal relationships, but also to the household and even the city-state, promises to resolve the old dichotomy between egoism and altruism.

Excerpt

As an account of love, Socrates's contribution to the Symposium has deficiencies to make one glad that it does not constitute Plato's final word. It invites supplementation in a number of respects.

It is distinctive of being in love that it stands much closer to feeling in love than loving stands to feeling love (if 'loving' means an affection that amounts to a particularized altruism). It would be possible, if unlikely, to love someone without ever feeling affectionate (though not without appropriate feelings, for instance of sympathy), but not to be in love without ever, indeed frequently, feeling in love. Feelings are part of the essence of being in love; they are a corollary of loving in the case of creatures with relevant feelings. An impassible god can love, but not be in love. To be in love without having the concept is to be confused by one's feelings (like Cherubino); even if I am a creature of feeling, I can love without having the concept and yet lack any feelings that confuse me. Hence, as Socrates reports Diotima, it half distances her from his ostensible topic that she shows so little interest in the phenomenology of love. The mythical description of Eros has its graphic moments: at one point, it seems to reflect the rhythm of genital sexuality (203e1-4); more specifically, we meet the topos of thurauliā,of the lover waiting outside the door (203d2-3, cf. 183a6, Phdr 252a6-7). Yet even those details were only inserted to illustrate an a priori principle that love, as a kind of desire, arises from a state of lack and poverty that it is constantly trying to escape. Only, I think, in the ascent-passage are we offered glimpses through the eyes of the lover himself (e.g. 210c7-8, d3-4, d7, 211d8-e4), and those in very general terms. Plato wishes rather to characterize certain roles in an abstract way than to convey what it is like for a subject to fill them. Even the object of love is cut to the measure of the argument: it is presented as 'beautiful and delicate and perfect and blessed' (204c4-5) not as a product of idealization, but as the formal complement of the lover's poverty. The results are illuminating, but always . . .

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