The concept, origins, and nature of love have been the major concern of philosophers and scientists across time. Its complicated analysis is explained by the fact that love is studied in multiple disciplines, including philosophy, epistemology, biology, and even religion, because this concept spreads on all types of relationships including affection, passion, and friendship. When it comes to platonic love, Plato believes that this type of relationships is premised on spiritual ties, but not on physical ones. A sexual nature of relationships, however, does not define accurately whether platonic love can be romantic or not. On the one hand, spiritual connection implies individual’s elevated and special attitude to another person in terms of emotional and psychological interaction. On the other hand, spirituality has nothing in common with romanticism, because the latter could imply sexual relations and affection. In Plato’s Phaedrus, the philosophy considers Eros as a threat to the philosopher’s soul. Similarly, Socrates compares platonic love with divine madness that should be controlled by a soul. In contrast to Plato’s outlook on platonic love, the contemporary writer focuses on the concept of platonic love as “an affectionate relationship into which the sexual element is side-tracked” (Nwogu 78).With regard to the above, the concept of platonic love could be perceived as the romantic relationships premised on strong spiritual connection.
In Plato’s Phaedrus, the concept of platonic love does not have any relation to sexual attraction. Specifically, the dialogue is premised on the love of one person for character traits of another person. Specifically, Plato’s compares platonic love with friendship without the presence of erotic love. This type of love is possible when it comes to love for parents, children, and other relatives. However, when it comes to homosexual relationships or love between a man and a woman, Plato considers it difficult to develop platonic relationships. In addition to this, Nwogu (76) also questions the possibility of developing the friendly relationship between a male and a female.
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On the one hand, purely physical love is not always enough to meet the spiritual and social needs of individuals. Physical relationships can satisfy certain human needs, but for a short moment. On the contrary, the importance of spiritual satisfaction is indispensable to a person, because it allows them to harmonize their emotional state. Although platonic love is essential, it does not imply that a person is merely incapable of having sexual relationships. Rather, platonic love is often more relevant in specific context, particularly when it comes to admiration of other people’s talents and gifts. At the same time, it should be stressed that “since individual involved are sexually capable, the reason platonic love or friendship can be difficult is plain genetics” (Nwogu 80). Certainly, a biological aspect plays a crucial aspect in managing human relationships. However, when it comes to platonic love, the question of genetics is not relevant, because this type of love is premised on social and cultural dimensions rather than on physical attraction.
While putting all remarks about sexual relations and physical attraction, friendship seems to match all features and definitions of platonic love, because this type of love could be based on unconditional love that endows relationships with confidence, trust, and respect. Even in Plato’s Phaedrus, the emphasis is placed on the discussion of close relationships between two men who are fond of speeches and polemics. Hence, to be friends excludes the possibility of being in love, “… I don’t think I should lose the change to get what I am asking for, merely because I don’t happen to be in love with you” (Plato 231). Therefore, there is a strict distinction between friendly relationships and platonic love according to the philosopher. However, the position is not justified, because friendship implies a sort of love and respect for a person, whereas platonic love denies the possibility of sexual intercourse.
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The criticism of Plato’s deliberation on platonic love could also be revealed in the philosopher’s analysis of the madness of love that is confined to man’s pursuit of pleasure and beauty. However, the pure concept of love should be conceived as a synthesis of platonic love and physical relationships. In fact, sole attention to physical beauty could not be regarded as love, but a mere attraction and obsession of a man with beautiful bodies. Such a consideration contradicts the modern understanding of platonic love and the concept of physical attraction. To be more exact, although platonic relations are devoid of sexual relationships, man’s constant obsession with pleasure and desire distort the understanding of platonic love, which is purely an admiration by character traits. According to Nwogu (86), “selfishness gave birth to greed and greed gave birth to materialism – everything that can be touched or seen with the eyes is real”. In this respect, Plato’s conception of love of a man to a boy is distorted, because platonic love cannot be confined to the suppression of physical desire. A synthesis of the ancient and contemporary outlook on platonic love leads to the assumption that platonic love is not compatible with the concept of love between a male and a female. The possibility of engaging into passionate, but purely chaste relationships could be considered as a sort of platonic connection. The Platonic ideal, therefore, is premised on virtuous restraint of sexual pleasure, whereas interest in personal qualities comes to the forth. In contrast, the possibility of friendship, as it is defined in modern setting, is excluded, particularly, when it comes to the spiritual connection between a man and a woman, unless these individuals are bound with family relations.
Prior to understanding what platonic love is, it is essential to understand the biological, physical, social, and cultural underpinning of love in general. From one perspective, to love a person and to be in love with a person are completely different things, because it defines the depth of affection and attraction of a person. In the majority of cases, being in love can be transformed in friendly relationship or in the feeling of hatred and ignorance. The second step in understanding the signs of platonic love is comprehension how deeply a person can be engaged into platonic relations. It is logical to expect that individual can experience feeling that do not relate to physical attraction, but powerful connection and attachment between individuals. As soon as these differences are confined, individuals should distinguish between friendship and platonic attachment, which defines the nature of love.In order to understand which type corresponds to the relationships, it is necessary to conduct a comparative analysis.
In conclusion, platonic love should not be confused with romantic relationships; neither should it be represented as an attachment between friends. Rather, platonic love is something in-between, because it explains the attachment between individuals who admire personal virtues, talents, and gifts and who exclude the possibility of sexual relationships. In this respect, both ancient and modern interpretation of the issue could be a subject to heavy criticism, because ancient variant of platonic love relates the man’s obsession with the beauty of human bodies. The temptation is one element of platonic relations and, therefore, platonic love is represented as suppression of sexual desire. Lastly, the modern understanding of platonic attachment is too broad because it implies friendly relations as well.