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When we are younger, our relationships may be more anchored in the physical than in the spiritual and emotional. But there is a certain kind of love at the basis of any lasting relationship, and at the center of that spiritual connection are the teachings of the philosopher Plato.

What is platonic love?

You have probably heard of a “platonic friendship” or the “platonic ideal”. These are terms that emerged from Plato’s considerations, but were not coined by the philosopher himself. Rather, the idea that two people can have a fulfilling relationship without sexual contact arose from an extrapolation from Plato’s work The Symposium, in which Socrates describes the human understanding of love like a ladder. Each step of the ladder indicates a higher level of love, from being in love with a beautiful body to loving beauty itself.

In an abridged viewThe ladder goes something like this: love for a beautiful body, for all physical beauty, then for a greater reverence for spiritual beauty than physical beauty. Eventually this is overtaken by the love of the beauty of knowledge, and finally the love of beauty itself.

In his conception at the time, Plato’s concept of love differed greatly from our understanding today. First of all, in 5th century Greece, romantic love was reserved for homosexual relationships between men. who only married women to meet reproductive needs. The concept of love as a ladder was introduced in the 15th century through the writings of the Italian scholar Marsilio Ficino, who after slate, first coined the term “platonic love” or “amor platonicus”.

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Per Ficino’s interpretation, the highest order of love was not a sexual endeavor, but rather linked to something much spiritual, in that he wrote that love “does not desire this or that body, but desires the splendor of divine light that shines through the body, and is amazed ”. and impressed by it. “However, since the 16th century the term platonic relationships has been used to clearly describe those in the friend zone, since platonic love has little to do with sex. However, this was just the evolutionary course of the term – and it may not be entirely correct.

Platonic love still involves a deep, spiritual connection that is different from the concept we hear a lot about today. As the Conversation Notes, Platonic love is probably best embodied in a monologue at Aristophanes’ symposium, which basically distills that love is the search for the Platonic ideal of a soul mate:

Love is born into every human being; it calls back the halves of our original nature together; it tries to make one out of two and to heal the wound of human nature. So each of us is a “suitable half” of a human whole … and each of us is always looking for the half that suits him.

This is essentially the core of Platonism, which Dictionary.com defined as “love for the idea of ​​beauty, seen as the termination of a development from the desire for an individual and love for physical beauty to love and contemplation of spiritual or ideal beauty”.

This can affect your approach to partnering or improving your relationship with your current partner.

How platonic love can help your relationship

While sex is important, you can keep Plato in mind by viewing your relationship as a kind of spiritual fusion. You are not so much connected to a person’s body as to their soul, or maybe it is the looser, more abstract idea of ​​what their love means to you that keeps the flame burning.

The basic attraction – or the first step in the ladder – forms the connection or stimulates the urge to join forces. From there, scale the steps until a higher level of mutual understanding is formed. It may not have been Plato’s true intent over 2,000 years ago, but his concept of love can be instructive to anyone in a relationship today.