It has come to my attention that in the pursuit of gay rights in Western society, some politicians still cling to the belief that the love between one man and one woman is the only love possible, and that it has been this way forever.
I addressed this in one of my papers for university. However, I approached it from a purely biological perspective, investigating the hundreds of thousands of documented homosexual or “deviant” sexual activity in the animal kingdom.
However, we can go back in time to Plato’s Symposium, and investigate the ideas of love, lust, and honour through the lens of the philosophical ancients.
In Plato’s Symposium, some of the most read men in Western Philosophy got together for a drinking party, and fell into the discussion of love.
Plato divided love into either Heavenly or Common. Common love to Plato was based on the body, and the pure sexual attraction between two people. Heavenly love was more pure than Common love, in that it honoured the beloved’s intelligence and wisdom, not only their body.
Aristophanes, known for his comedic take on serious issues, told the Symposium a fable that explained why people are always looking for their “other half”. The original, primal people of earth had two heads, and four limbs, and generally got around by cartwheeling. The heads were either both male, or both female, or the original androgyne - both male and female. Somehow they cartwheeled up to Olympus, and Zeus was more than displeased with his creations coming for an unexpected visit.
As punishment, Zeus split these creatures, dooming them to be separate from their other half for all time.
This explained the presence of both hetero and homosexual relationships in the Symposium. Aristophanes concluded that when you worked with the God of Love, you could find your other half, and live in wholeness.
Socrates, as always, had the last word. The only true love for Socrates was wisdom. Only by searching for wisdom in someone else can you truly find love. This love will bring intelligence into the world, and there is nothing better than a love that brings knowledge. The gender of the person within whom you find that wisdom does not matter.
To Socrates, and much of the symposium, homosexual relationships were not a surprise, or even something of which to be ashamed.
Aristophanes believed that one’s other half would make one whole, regardless of gender, while Plato and Socrates favoured finding love in wisdom and intelligence.
For a society that has been built on the philosophies of these ancient men, a little retrospect would be helpful before jumping to conclusions about the “degeneration” of our society. For all they know, this could be another enlightenment, and they’re just on the wrong side of history.
Emily Towsley, can be found either teasing her cat, or philosophizing with a customer over coffee in her second-life as a barista. Messages of support regarding her addiction to Netflix, and news of vintage teacup sales can be left on her twitter. Her spare time is spent reading copious amounts of books, or working on her latest pinterest project.
Tune in next week on the next philosophical breakdown from your average pedestrian. And feel free to leave her questions on her twitter - she's also up for suggestions on her next topic.