Socrates' Eros Essay
What is Eros? It is the ancient Greek word for love. Rephrasing the question, we see the classic question put forward by philosophers, artists and heartbroken couples, what love is. From ancient to modern time, love as an important part of humanity attracts humans to explore its essence. Long marching through discovering continuously renews people’s cognition of love. Is love beautiful? Is love ugly? Moreover, is love somewhere between them, and is “just average-looking”? Unlike soul’s immortality, love is spirit which is immortal and mortal. Socrates introduced a paramount concept of being “in-between” in logic to describe love. What will this “in-between” concept bring to the ancient Greek philosophy? And what is the soundness in the existence of being mortal and immortal? It all dates back to the time in the Symposium.
It starts from “Is love the love of nothing or of something” (Frag 199 e, Symposium). Socrates searches the essence of love from observing the fundamental feature of love which linguistically is a verb involving a subject and an object. Without the reception of the object, the sentence will make no sense or more acturately incomplete. When people talk about love, it has to be the love of something.
Socrates also added another indispensable feature of love which is somehow controversial that he said “At the time he desires and loves something, does he actually have what desires and loves at that time, or doesn’t he? ” and “Ask yourself whether it’s necessary that this be so: a thing that desires something of which it is in need; otherwise, if it were not in need, it would not desire it. I can’t tell you , Agathon, how strangely it strikes me that this is necessary.”(frag. 200 a Symposium) Two key words are found in those paragraphs, “at that time” is the first one which implies love is not eternal and it is changeable. I could love something for now, but it is possible that I will not love it in the future.
Another key word is “in need” which implies love of something is desired psychologically. People usually say that humans want what they want not what they need. It is in terms of materiality. For example, if I am hungry and I am in need of food, it is necessary to say I desire food. The need absolute leads to desire; however, the other way around is not necessarily true. For instance, after dinner, I need more dim sum. I am no more in need of food but still desire some. Here in this paragraph, need and desire are interchangeable words in the basis of psychological definition. Use the same example, even though I am fed well, the desire or the need for a taste remains. Socrates put some words to explain himself on those points above that “would someone who is tall, want to be tall? Or someone who is strong want to be strong”. (frag. 200, b Symposium) Definitely, when someone is tall , he or she has no desire for being taller or we could say, no love for his or her tallness, but it is still predictable, when the psychological state changes, like meeting someone taller, the love for being tall will emerge again.
The relationship of love and beauty is addressed by the dialogue between Socrates and Agathon. “Wouldn’t love have to be a desire for beauty and never for ugliness? And so love needs beauty, and does not have it. So! If something needs beauty and has got no beauty at all, would you still say that it is beautiful? Certainly not”.(frag. 201 c Symposium) There is one flaw in the reasoning of Socrates that there is a fact that love is sometimes comparable. For instance, that I prefer apple to banana, from which we could conclude that I love apple more than banana. Here we find out that love could possibly need beauty, but we don’t know how much the need is; therefore, love could get some beauty instead of not at all. It follows that love could be beautiful.
Two concepts that follow along Socrates’ Eros are “in-between” in logic and love is spirit between immortality and morality. When exploring the essence of love, people including Socrates will think of the comparison with soul. Since love and soul are both invisible, whether they have some similarities dominates the rest of dialogue in the Symposium. Socrates think love is not like soul which is immortal. Love is not mortal either. He thought it is somewhere between the two states. It’s “in-between”. It’s quite hard to imagine the “in-between” state existing in the immortality and mortality case. If we interpret immortality as eternally exists and mortality as temporarily exists. There is no “in-between” state. However, this concept of “in-between” did give us a lot of reflections on the previous philosophical ideas. If there is a form of beauty, is there also a form of ugliness which could be defined as upsetting. The “in-between” could be defined as the void of certain form for either beauty or ugliness. If the definitions of beauty or ugliness have something to do with fluctuation of emotions, the void of both forms of beauty and ugliness will not cause any emotional change. We; therefore, say something is neither beautiful nor ugly. However, there is another state that something acquiring both forms from which we could sense some twisted feeling is both beautiful and ugly like the art of violence and horror movie. The “in-between” concept brings there is a state that both opposite states exist at the same time or there is void between both opposite states.
Even the essence of love remains mysterious. Socrates’ work leads us to a clearer understanding what love is. And the “in-between” state in logic also arms us with a strong think kit to explore the philosophy in the past and the future and further the discovery of truth.