Platonic love: Wikis


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Plato and his students.

Platonic love, in its modern popular sense, is a non-sexual affectionate relationship.[1] A simple example of Platonic relationships is a deep, non-sexual friendship, not subject to gender pairings and including close relatives.

At the same time, this interpretation is a misunderstanding of the nature of the Platonic ideal of love which, from its origin, was that of a chaste but strong love, that was believed to be elevated above sex.


Amor Platonicus

The term amor platonicus was coined as early as the 15th century by the Florentine scholar Marsilio Ficino. Platonic love in this original sense of the term is examined in Plato's dialogue the Symposium, which has as its topic the subject of love or Eros generally. Of particular importance there are the ideas attributed to the prophetess Diotima, which present love as a means of ascent to contemplation of the Divine. For Diotima, and for Plato generally, the most correct use of love of other human beings is to direct ones mind to love of Divinity. In short, with genuine Platonic love, the beautiful or lovely other person inspires the mind and the soul and directs ones attention to spiritual things. One proceeds from recognition of another's beauty to appreciation of Beauty as it exists apart from any individual, to consideration of Divinity, the source of Beauty, to love of Divinity. The spiritual ideas of Platonic love -- as well as the fundamental spiritual emphasis of all of Plato's writings -- have been de-emphasized over the last two centuries.

The English term dates back as far as Sir William Davenant's Platonic Lovers (1636). It is derived from the concept in Plato's Symposium of the love of the idea of good which lies at the root of all virtue and truth. For a brief period, Platonic love was a fashionable subject at the English royal court, especially in the circle around Queen Henrietta Maria, the wife of King Charles I. Platonic love was the theme of some of the courtly masques performed in the Caroline era—though the fashion soon waned under pressures of social and political change.


The very eponym of this love, Plato, as well as the forementioned Socrates, lived in a period where homosexuality and pederasty were central to the "Greek history and warfare, politics, art, literature and learning, in short to the Greek miracle".[2][3] The concept of Platonic love arose in Plato's early writings such as Symposium and Phaedrus, within the context of the debate pitting mundane sexually expressed pederasty against the philosophic – or chaste – homoeroticism.[4] Specifically, in Symposium, Alcibiades attempts to seduce Socrates, but Socrates rebuffs this pursuit and responds that if he does have this power to make Alcibiades a better man inside of him, why would he exchange his true beauty (i.e. the intellectual realm) for the image of beauty (i.e. the physical beauty) that Alcibiades would provide. However, Plato's opinions in the late period of his life are reflected in the last dialogue, Laws, where he condemns homosexuality as "unnatural".[3][4]

Regarding Socrates, John Addington Symonds in his A Problem in Greek Ethics states that he "...avows a fervent admiration for beauty in the persons of young men. At the same time he declares himself upon the side of temperate and generous affection, and strives to utilize the erotic enthusiasm as a motive power in the direction of philosophy." According to Linda Rapp, Ficino, by Platonic love, meant "...a relationship that included both the physical and the spiritual. Thus, Ficino's view is that love is the desire for beauty, which is the image of the divine."[5]

See also


  1. ^ "Platonic love". Retrieved 2007-11-09. 
  2. ^ W.A. Percy, III, "Reconsiderations about Greek Homosexualities," in Same-Sex Desire and Love in Greco-Roman Antiquity and in the Classical Tradition of the West, ed. B. C. Verstraete and V. Provencal, Harrington Park Press, 2005, pp.47-48
  3. ^ a b Homosexuality (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  4. ^ a b Plato on Friendship and Eros (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  5. ^ "Linda Rapp in glbtq"

External links

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