A Critique and Understanding of Plato?s Theory on Love

Plato provides a persuasive theory on love throughout his exchange of ideas in the Symposium and the Phaedrus. However, there are three objections worth arguing to Plato?s theory which include the following: 1) his characteristics of love are expressed from a cultural setting (in relation to sexual attitudes and perceptions of beauty), 2) Plato focuses on a love of assets rather than of persons, and 3) Plato?s theory on love is self-centered. With these objections, there are three modifications to help one gain a better understanding on the purpose of love which are 1) Plato?s theory can really only be understood from a cultural context, given that there is a high prevalence of homosexual love, 2) loving a person for the sake of boosting one?s utility is wrong and insufficient to explain a truly altruistic and proper notion of love, and 3) there is a difference between loving a person?s traits given that loving a person?s qualities and loving a person mean two different things. Ultimately, it is important to show that Plato can meet the objections and that his theory can still offer helpful insights into the understanding of love in our own lives.
Given that Plato is reflecting on love from a cultural context, it is important to assess this theory its specific time period. Context is pertinent to his theory and since Plato has many characteristics that help define love, it is certain that these descriptions are culture bound. Plato?s theory in relation to homosexual relationships is fitting to ancient Greek history, politics, art, and literature. In the speeches of Phaedrus, Pausanias, Eryximachus, and Aristophanes throughout the Symposium, Plato sets up a cultural setting of his theory illustrating that male homosexual love, male beauty, and the value placed on this type of love is deemed worthier than heterosexual love. For example, Pausanias speech distinguishes between there being two types of Love?Common and Heavenly. It is mentioned in this speech that one should give more favor to Heavenly Love than to Common Love given that ?the Love of Heavenly Aphrodite is purely male (hence this love is for boys)?That?s why those who are inspired by her Love are attracted to the male: they find pleasure in what is by nature stronger and more intelligent? (181c-181d, p. 37). In contrast, the Love of Common Aphrodite is ?truly common? and this love is the love felt by the vulgar, who are attached to women no less than to boys? and as one should call it?fits the nature of both the female and male (181b, p. 37). Here, a question needs to be addressed which is, are males stronger and more intelligent or this is favored due to being a cultural notion claim as a natural construct of the time period?
In the speech of Eryximachus, Plato?s definition of love is simplistic and somewhat distorted by the speaker?s arrogance?given his profession eliciting an ?art? to love. Eryximachus' thesis, is that love "directs everything that occurs, not only in the human domain, but also in that of the gods? (186b, p. 43). Eryximachus does not do much to support this theory but gives four examples to what Love directs: the body, music, the seasons, and the gods. Other than these small examples, the argument is not developed any further. Eryximachus? lack of knowledge on love is exposed by an absence of supporting points to his thesis. Eryximachus' thesis is general and not thought out well.
In addition, Eryximachus does not push any boundaries in defining love and articulates an argument, which every member agrees with in the Symposium. The best example he asserts is that the best weather is made from a perfect mixture of hot and cold or that?hot and cold, wet and dry?are animated by the proper species of Love, they are in harmony with one another: their mixture is temperate, and so is the climate? (188a, p. 45). While this may be a valid point, it does not prove Love is actually bringing such polar opposites to harmony. Eryximachus does not have any support to back up his arguement, yet another example of how his assertion is weak. On the other hand, however, this argument of Eryximachus cannot be disputed by anyone, because it is almost common knowledge. Not one person in the Symposium can disagree with the fact that the best weather is