Plato’s bond of love : erôs as participation in beauty
Ware, Lauren Patricia Wenden
In his dialogues, Plato presents different ways in which to understand the relation between Forms and particulars. In the Symposium, we are presented with yet another, hitherto unidentified Form-particular relation: the relation is Love (Erôs), which binds together Form and particular in a generative manner, fulfilling all the metaphysical requirements of the individual’s qualification by participation. Love in relation to the beautiful motivates human action to desire for knowledge of the Form, resulting in the lover actively cultivating and bringing into being new beauty in the world, and in herself. Chapters 1 and 2 of this thesis offer a survey of the arguments and examples Plato puts forward in the text of the corpus regarding the nature of Forms and the nature of participation, alongside a framework of the traditional interpretations of these two Platonic concepts in the literature. Chapter 3 turns to a close examination of Erôs in the Symposium, arguing that the love Plato presents in this dialogue is of a different sort than appetitive emotion. It is an aesthetic and intellectual attraction, capable of stimulating cognitive achievement. Erôs, however, does not stop there. The lover is led not only to contemplation of beauty, but to the generation of beauty, which is the subject of Chapter 4. The emotive-turn-to-cognitive relation of Erôs, I argue, is the clearest picture Plato paints of how possession of properties can be explained through participation in Forms. Erôs leads the lover to produce beauty in the world and in the soul, which explains how love in relation to the beautiful can lead to becoming beautiful. The object of love is the generation of beauty, the mortal mechanism of participation in the Form by which the lover herself becomes beautiful. Finally, Chapter 5 focusses on beauty itself and its role in moral education. Beauty, for Plato, is required for creative generation and can be understood as a uniquely powerful virtue of soul.