The Symposium was written between 385-370 BC by Plato. The script is a philosophical writing whose fundamental theme is love. Through the text, Plato presents a discourse on the origin, purpose and the various aspects of love. In the symposium, the subject of love is surveyed in a series of discourses presented by people who in attendance of a dinking party. It was expected each and every man who attended the party ought to present a speech on the subject of love. The party concerned in the text took place in Athens. Agathon’s house was the venue of the party. In the text, there are seven important discourses presented by men of different professions. The men included Phaedrus, Pausania, Eryximachus and Aristophanes. Moreover, Agathon, Socrates as well as Alcibiades also gave their speeches. This paper discusses the relationship existing between love and either wisdom or virtue as presented in by Socrates, Augustine and Kant.
Socrates presents his discourse on love as a reply to the views presented by Agathon. He argues that initially he was of the same opinion as Agathon. He considered love to be a delicate, prudent and beautiful. Therefore, each and every virtue possessed by men are gifts received from god. Consequently, Socrates viewed love as a god. However, he explains that an encounter with a woman changed his view of love. The woman who caused the change in Socrates’ view point was called Diotima of Mantinea. During their meeting, the woman taught him concerning love. Therefore, Socrates beliefs pertaining to love mirrors the beliefs of Diotima. From Diotima’s beliefs, love was a spirit rather than a god as viewed by Socrates. Furthermore, she clarifies that love is also not mortal. Diotima points out that the spirit is a product of the combination involving poverty and resource. Therefore, Socrates asserts that love on its own is neither wise nor beautiful. Therefore, the attributes of love advanced by Agathon are non-existent.
Additionally, Socrates holds the opinion that love is the longing for things such as wisdom as well as beauty. It is the desire of love to bring forth beauty. As a result, Diotima relates love to reproduction due to pregnancy. Socrates points out that when we see things or people considered beautiful, we get to study about beauty. Consequently, a yearning for beauty is birthed in us. The desire is slowly cultured until it grows fully to the point where a person loves beauty on its own. According to Socrates, a person attains the highest point of love at that moment. Therefore according to Socrates, love is the source and strength of virtue hence love makes people good.
Augustine’s view of love in deeply intertwined with his Christian convictions. Therefore, according to Augustine it is impossible to discuss love without mentioning God. He argues that love is not a vague feeling that a person possesses. He rather points out that love must be positive and certain. According to Augustine, love is pure and its purity is philanthropic and not egocentric. Therefore, love is not a selfish endeavor. Augustine points out that man is inherently selfish therefore love is difficult. In the time past, Augustine states that he wanted nothing but love and be loved in return. The love he felt was beyond the fondness of one mind to another. Moreover, it traversed the arc of the bright beam of friendship. The love that Augustine had was contaminated by bodily desire. For instance, the building up of morass and adolescent sexual desires produced confusing signs in his mind. As a result, the confusing signs he calls mists obscured and clouded his heart. Therefore, he was not in a position to differentiate between the unblemished light of love from the darkness of lust. Both love and lust therefore produced an overwhelming drive that took advantages of the desires of his body. Subsequently, he found himself in whirlpool of sin. Ultimately, he surrendered completely to lust. More importantly, Augustine acknowledges the failure of his family to help his marriage that was on the brink of collapse.
Augustine suggests that the inherent selfishness of man is the cause of three primary sentiments that are responsible for an apprehensive and emotional life. The emotions are desire, grief and unfounded joy. Desire is the love people have for material things and men fear losing their possessions. Grief is the outcome of the pain man endures psychologically upon the realization of his/ her fears. Augustine points out that unfounded joy is when we rejoice over things that will eventually be lost. Therefore, he points out that love is measurable based on the relationship it has to a given object alone. Hence, according to Augustine there are two objects upon which love hinges on: material love and eternal love. Material love is transient in nature while eternal love is enduring to the end. A significant view held by Augustine is that material love has an evil associated with it. The evil will cause a person to either eradicate or defend themselves against any plausible threat. As a result, such a person may pot to dominate over everyone in their surroundings. Alternatively, the individual may decide to eliminate any potential threat. On the other hand, eternal love is based on God’s love. Augustine points out that the love man has for God causes growth of confidence. Consequently, there is no fear of losing possession. However, the fear that exists becomes the source and a fountain of wisdom to men.
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The views of love among the three philosophers are different and influenced by various inclinations they hold. Regarding Kant, his beliefs on love are shaped by his attitude that is based human inclination as far as ethics is concerned. Kant had a duty-oriented ethic, therefore, he frequently compares duty to self-love as a method of inclination. Additionally, Kant contends that the demands of the moral law include people acting as an obligation to duty rather than out of personal inclinations. Consequently, such an act inherently produces subordination of love.