The Nature of Love Explored in Plato’s Symposium Essay

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The Nature of Love Explored in Plato’s Symposium

In classical Greek literature the subject of love is commonly a prominent theme. However, throughout these varied texts the subject of Love becomes a multi-faceted being. From this common occurrence in literature we can assume that this subject had a large impact on day-to-day life. One text that explores the many faces of love in everyday life is Plato’s Symposium. In this text we hear a number of views on the subject of love and what the true nature of love is. This essay will focus on a speech by Pausanius. Pausanius’s speech concentrates on the goddess Aphrodite. In particular he looks at her two forms, as a promoter of “Celestial Love” as well as “Common Love.”
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In this type of love the two can “properly” satisfy their desires, on both an intellectual and a physical level. Pausanius uses this face of love as his ultimate ideal, hard to recognize and harder to achieve. “Common” love was far more likely to occur. This form of love comes from the other side of Aphrodite, created from Zeus and Dione. This Aphrodite inherits aspects from both the male and the female parents. This makes “Common” love more frequent between men and women (though Pausanius does touch on “common” love in males). “Common” love is the love that “ordinary people experience.” (Symposium 181b) It is described as “totally random” (Symposium 181b) and happens when there is a physical attraction between two bodies. This form of love is slandered by Pausanius saying that it does not “properly” satisfy the needs of the lovers as it only operates on the physical level. This form of love is the one apparent in Euripides’ tragedy Hippolytus.

In Hippolytus, Euripides tells the story of Phaedra’s love for Hippolytus. Phaedra is the stepmother of Hippolytus and she falls madly in love with him. The love described in this play is clearly the same love as Pausanias relates in the Symposium. Pausanias defines “Common” love in two parts. The two main aspects of “Common” love occur at random. These criteria are that it must occur between a man and a woman,

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