Love - it is a feeling that has bewildered and intrigued human beings for centuries, and philosophers have been tackling this enigma since the beginning of time. Let’s embark on a fascinating journey through the philosophy of love, starting with the brilliant insights of Plato and culminating with Simone de Beauvoir’s masterful reflections. Be prepared to uncover the many layers of love and dive into the depths of human emotions.
Plato: The Divine Ascent of Love
In the Symposium_, Plato presented us with a beautiful vision of love through the celebrated speech of his character Diotima, an insightful philosopher who describes the divine ascent of love. According to Diotima, love compels us to move beyond the physical and reach towards the intellectual.
The ultimate goal of this ascent is influenced by the ancient Greek concept of beauty: appreciating the beauty of a single body, extending to appreciate the beauty in all bodies, and eventually recognizing the beauty of the soul. Ultimately, this culminates in an understanding and appreciation of the eternal and divine concept of beauty itself. To learn more about Plato’s ideas, check out our article on The Philosophy of Plato: Ideas That Shaped the World.
So, for Plato, love is the pathway to wisdom and transcendence, in which we strive to discover the divine beauty that exists beyond the material world.
Aristotle: Love as a Partnership
Aristotle, Plato’s most famous student, had a slightly more grounded approach towards love. He divided love into three types: Philia (friendship), Eros (passionate love), and Agape (selfless love). However, Aristotle’s focus was on the development of a loving partnership.
He believed that such a partnership is formed between two people who share common goals, values, and virtues. In a strong and loving partnership, individuals seek the good of their friends and lovers, helping each other grow and become better versions of themselves. For Aristotle, love is not just about passion but also about becoming virtuous and emotionally intelligent members of society. Discover more about Aristotle’s thoughts on friendship in our article Aristotle on Friendship: Building Strong and Lasting Bonds.
St. Augustine: Love, God, and Transformation
The Christian theologian St. Augustine further expanded the concept of love by intertwining it with his profound understanding of God. Augustine said that to truly love, we must first understand and love God. God’s immeasurable love for us can, in turn, teach us how to love one another, transforming our earthly relationships.
Augustine’s love philosophy emphasizes the importance of selflessness, humility, and divine grace. He reminds us that our love should aspire to reflect the perfect and unconditional love of God. Learn more about Augustine’s life and work in our article Augustine of Hippo: Life and Work.
Schopenhauer: Love as a Mere Illusion
In stark contrast, Arthur Schopenhauer, the 19th-century philosopher, saw love as an alluring illusion. He believed that love is merely a biological trick designed to ensure the continuation of the human species. The passionate feelings we experience when falling in love are, in reality, only a temporary and fleeting phenomenon.
Schopenhauer’s pessimistic view of love can be seen as cold and disheartening, but it also serves to remind us that love can be a powerful force, capable of capturing us in a whirlwind of emotions and desires.
Simone de Beauvoir: Love and the Authentic Self
Simone de Beauvoir, the influential existentialist and feminist philosopher, wrote extensively on love and its connection to one’s authentic self. She believed that for love to be true and enduring, both partners must recognize and respect each other’s separate existence, individual freedoms, and personal growth.
De Beauvoir argued that a healthy love relationship fosters mutual growth and authenticity, rather than forcing one partner to sacrifice their identity or independence for the sake of the other. In short, love should empower and enrich the lives of those involved, allowing them to choose and create their own paths.
From Plato’s divine ascent to Simone de Beauvoir’s empowering vision of love, philosophers throughout the ages have grappled with understanding the complexities of human emotions. While each philosopher offers a unique perspective on love’s meaning and purpose, one thing is clear: love is a profound mystery, captivating and confounding us all. To explore more philosophical perspectives on love and relationships, read our article Understanding Philosophical Perspectives on Love and Relationships.