Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Plato on The Love of the Half-Creatures

In Plato’s Symposium, there is the description of a drinking party to celebrate Agathon’s victory in a dramatic competition. The partiers compete with each other in making speeches about the nature of love. A man called Aristophanes presents his theory of love by narrating a myth about the origin of the human race. At first, he says, the humans had four arms, four legs, and so on—they were like two humans of our time fixed to each other, and they possessed enough strength and competence to challenge the hegemony of the gods. To outclass the humans, the gods split them two—thus the “half-creatures,” the humans with two legs, two arms, and so on, came into being. From that point of time, the men, who are transformed into the half-creatures, have been lusting for the other half of their body; they try, ineffectively, to satiate this lust through sexual love of the opposite sex. When man loves a woman, or a woman loves a man, he or she is, at a subconscious  level, trying to love the lost half of his or her own body. In his speech, Socrates talks about what he has learned from the priestess Diotima—according to Diotima’s doctrine, love is never satisfied with anything in this world, because nothing in this world can be good—you have to make an ascent from the particulars of this world to the abstractions of the world of Forms to discover the good.

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