Plato’s Views on Friendship and Love

Plato is one of the most prominent people that influenced many philosophical ideas we have in our generation today. He laid the foundation of Western philosophy, religion, science, mathematics, and much more. His ideas were documented and survived for over 2,400 years. As one of the forefathers of philosophy, he had views on many topics like religion, politics, and much more. Love and friendship are also the subjects Plato was very passionate about. To cut the chase, let’s explore what Plato thinks about his views about friendship and love.
Plato’s views on friendship
Lysis is the dialogue of Plato which he uses to express his opinions. In this dialogue, he discusses the nature of friendship by using hypothetical characters. The people he uses are Socrates, Lysis, Manexenus, and Hippothales. Through Socrates, Plato proposed these nature of friendship:

  • Friendship between individuals who are similar: Under this theory, Plato was of the opinion that persons who are similar tend to gravitate towards one another. After all, bad men move towards people like them. And good men find better comfort in the company of other good men. Plato believed this balance would help both parties to be in love forever and not feel insufficient in any area whatsoever.                             
  • Friendship between people who are not similar: This is where the theory of opposites attracting comes in. For example, he believes the full needs the empty. And the empty requires the full. Thus, the friendship between people like these might be sufficient because they need each other.
  • Friendship between persons who are neither good nor bad and good men: Under this head, Plato was of the opinion that there are people who are neither good nor bad. People like these can be friends with good men, but there is a possibility they will end up influencing each other. Thus, there is a bond between them when this happens.
  • Friendship between people who are relatives: Plato believes that people who are relatives should have philia love between them already. However, this does not mean they are friends. So, there ought to be friendship between those individuals that are relatives.

Despite the four notions proposed, there is still some confusion in Plato’s theory at the end of the lysis. Nothing points to what friendship really is or what it ought to be. However, many other philosophers have interpreted the lysis to mean that friendship can only be discovered by an individual. It is only when a person makes friends with wisdom that there can be possible friendship between others who love wisdom. Thus, Plato’s views remain that there can only be friendship between people of like minds.
Plato’s views on love
A famous quote of Plato’s which many people have used when discussing love goes thus: “He whom love touches not walks in darkness.” Plato was a firm believer in love. He believed that the best kind of friendship which can stand the test of time is that which lovers can have for each other. It is a friendship that has its foundation on philia which is simply the kind of love you have for your family. This friendship, Plato believed, feeds on erôs, which is the physical, sexual and romantic attraction between individuals. Plato’s theory of love is explained well in the Phaedrus and the Symposium. Many writers in his era and generation focused a lot more on same-sex desire when it comes to love than the opposite sex desire. According to Plato, the nature of love is three-fold:

  • Erôs love: Erôs love refers to the love which encompasses an intense and passionate desire for something or someone. It is often termed as sexual desire. However, Plato’s writings posit that erôs is a common desire which all human beings have. This need looks for a particular kind of beauty in individuals. The essence of this beauty is to remind us that true beauty does exist, but it only does in the world of forms and ideas. According to Plato, he is of the opinion that we should not love a particular individual. Rather, we should love the ideal beauty they possess. The love should not be physical. Rather, the love should focus on the inner part of an individual.
  • Philia love: This love is the opposite of erôs. Philia love encompasses a fondness for other human beings. The Greeks believe that philia love does not only apply to friendship. It should also cover loyalty to family, job, discipline and much more. According to Plato, friendship must be based on mutual love, respect, affection and much more. The two people who are friends ought to have the same values, beliefs for the friendship to be sustainable. Only then can there be said to be philia love. This love is merely platonic with no strings attached. Plato also believed that Philia love is the foundation for erôs love. Eros love can only grow when the foundation is philia love.
  • Agape love: According to Plato, Agape love means the paternal love God has for man. It also entails the love man has for God. However, we can extend it to also mean brotherly love for all humanity. Thus, strangers ought to have agape love towards one another. It is a love that is strictly based on the fact that we are all human beings. Hence, we should endeavor to show love to one another. If you can successfully master this kind of love, then you are a perfect human being. Agape love is a perfect love and the one all humans should know.

Bottom Line
Plato is the most prominent person that has influenced people’s views on friendship and love. If you go anywhere today, many people know what erôs, philia, and agape love are. The words are used in many conversations all over the world. Now that you know what Plato’s views are, you can have better conversations with people. Alternatively, you can carry out more research to learn more about the Lysis, Phaedrus and the Symposium.
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