Plato on Love

Richard Kraut

in The Oxford Handbook of Plato

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780195182903
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Plato on Love

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Eros and Philia are the two Greek words, which can be translated as love in English. This article focuses on the idea that Plato weaves around the emotion of love. On the one hand, there is the verb philein and its cognates (philia is the noun, philos the adjective)—a word we use all the time when we talk about philanthropy, philosophy, philharmonic, and the like. On the other hand, “to love” is also the proper translation of the verb eran. Eros is the name of this psychological force, erastês designates a lover, and erômenos is the one who is loved. Erôs is characterized here as a desire. That does not mean that whenever someone wants something, he loves it. The relationship goes in the other direction: whenever someone loves, he wants. This thesis says nothing about what kind of desire one has, when one loves. It may be a desire that Plato would locate in the appetitive part of the soul, but it need not be. The word Plato most often uses for desire in the passage examined in this article, as so often, is epithumia. But an epithumia can be any sort of desire—it is not necessarily an “appetitive” desire for food, drink or sex.

Keywords: love; eros; philiea; philanthropy; philosophy; philharmonic; eran; erastes

Article.  13838 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Classical Philosophy

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