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Platonic love: a guide to love in modern times

Platonic love: a guide to love in modern times

August 4, 2022

The platonic love It is a concept that is widely used today when we want to refer to a romantic yearning to remain united to an unattainable person . However, the term has its origins in a philosophical theory very old and difficult to cover with a single phrase.

Rescuing some of the key ideas of what love was for Plato can serve to remind us of a useful lesson.

What do we understand today for platonic love?

Plato was not so egocentric as to put his name to one of his contributions to philosophy. The term "Platonic love" it was coined for the first time by the Renaissance philosopher Marsilio Ficino , and it is very difficult that when we refer to this concept we use it with the same exactitude with which Plato used it, since both our context and our way of thinking are very different from what was usual in Athens more than 2000 years


But nevertheless, this concept is usually used to refer to an impossible love for different reasons. It can be a corresponded love, in which the person in love is frustrated in their attempts to approach someone, or can be used to refer also to those cases in which the moment in which someone is conquered this person stops appearing perfect , so that what attracted us to it at first is never achieved.

In any case, to learn to reflect on what we experience when we fall into this type of love, it is worth remembering some of the main aspects of what Platonic love really means.


Keys to understanding platonic love

What exactly do we mean when we refer to this type of love? Through these four points we will try to explain it.

1. Platonic love is "true love"

For Plato, the types of love that are based on the pleasures that our senses provide us are rather banal forms of affection . Platonic love is the purest form of love because it is not based on an exchange of physical or material qualities. It is also because, in addition to being disinterested, it never lets us access what we love.

More about the different ways in which humans express this feeling:

  • "Types of love: what different kinds of love are there?"

2. Platonic love is never reached

According to the concept of platonic love, beauty has divine essence , and therefore can never be reached by the human being. So how is Plato talking about love in such positive and optimistic terms? The answer is that, for the philosopher, love drives us to improve ourselves to be closer to the desired beauty and this is a good thing in itself.


In short, the existence of what we know today as Platonic love means that there is something in us that can propel us towards self-perfection. There is a paradox: we struggle to get closer to something that, by definition, is inaccessible and infinitely far from us.

For Plato, ask questions about the nature of things through philosophy it is a clear sign of what it means to look for an immeasurable beauty . The wise people are also those who, like Socrates, seek knowledge while accepting their own ignorance. In that harmony is the ennoblement of the soul and the virtue of which Plato speaks.

3. Platonic love is universal

Platonic love does not consist in the attraction towards a concrete person to whom we have idealized. It is rather, a force that seeks us to find the essence of beauty in its different expressions . What matters is the divinization of beauty and goodness, concepts that for Plato are linked together. For this philosopher we do not fall in love with the people, but with the beauty gaps that we can find in them.

That explains why, paradoxically, beauty is unattainable but also omnipresent. Plato believed that the world we experience through the senses expresses two realities: a material, in which everything that is directly perceived through the senses is found, and another ideal, in which the essence of beauty is found . That explains why we can find the essence of beauty in all places and people imaginable, depending on the degree to which our virtue allows us to glimpse the ideal world in the materiality that surrounds us.

Therefore, if we obey what Platonic love is, To believe that a person is perfect is, in reality, to find in that person forms of expression of a beauty that does not belong directly to her or is exclusively in her . Every time we see perfection in something or someone, we are glimpsing the same thing.

Four.It is expressed in an intellectual way

Platonic love is a type of love that, for the Greek philosopher, manifests itself in a non-exclusively physical way, since it refers to an object of desire that is beyond the material. This is not limited to being an ethical norm of behavior on how to treat the loved one, but it has to do with the same conception of what beauty is for Plato. The beautiful is inseparable from the good and the authentic, and the authentic can only be recognized through the intellect .

In the same way, the beauty that we find in a body is actually beauty that belongs to the spiritual plane. For Plato, someone who experiences this type of love longs to spiritually access his object of desire.

Guide to love in modern times

In practically all the cases in which we talk about platonic love, there is a factor that should be taken into account: idealization . For Plato, love is in a balance between what is known and what is ignored, and this rule can also be applied to our relationship with people. This is because, when we idealize a person, we are perceiving him as a practically perfect being just because we do not know him enough as to see that it is not.

Now, if the essence of what is beautiful is unattainable, concrete people are not so. The impossible love can stop being it when, for one reason or another, there comes a point where we can "conquer" that person ... and that allows us to know more. Then a question appears: Is the end of impossible love the end of Platonic love?

Idealize ... or live the love in spite of its bad things

Not really. For Plato, the attraction we feel for a person always goes beyond the physical, and therefore spend more time with her and discovering its different facets does not have to mean that we "domesticate" the essence of the beautiful that we find in this . There will be something in this person that will remain unattainable, although we will not know why, since we still do not understand and intellectually conquer that which attracts us.

But this type of persistent idealization is not the most usual in our days.

Is your platonic love or simply someone inaccessible to you?

Beyond what in ancient Greece was understood by Platonic love, to idealize someone is usually to ignore that person not because of their ability to keep the attractive whatever happens, but because of our difficulties to connect with her , either because we recently know her or because she only lets us see one of her facets.

The latter becomes evident, for example, in the phenomenon fanboy or fangirl that have originated the world famous people. Celebrities have such a massive marketing machine behind them and so efficient image consultants that we only know the most graceful and admirable part of their person. To a lesser extent, The same thing happens with people who, despite being attracted by their appearance, never connect with us at all .

Curiously, it is aesthetics and material, that which was less important for Plato, which leads us to idealize our neighbor: almost never an intellectual approach. Perhaps it would be useful to think more often about this fact.


How Romanticism Ruined Love (August 2022).


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