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Views of Plato and Nietzsche on Romantic Relationship

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Our topic for research is the views of Plato and Federick Nietzsche on love sex and marriage. The paper describes the views of each philosopher on love, sex and marriage and to understand it with a contemporary point of view. The paper includes terms like homosexuality, how sex is for producing kids than loveAlso to learn more about both of the philosophers including research that expand our knowledge.

Love, Sex and Marriage when it comes to defining them there are several definitions and has a wide range of opionions and the topics are very subjective. Love is a complex set of emotions, behaviors, and beliefs associated with strong feelings of affection, protectiveness, warmth, and respect for another person. Marriage is the process by which two people make their relationship public, official, and permanent. It is the joining of two people in a bond that putatively lasts until death, but in practice is often cut short by separation or divorce. Even though they are popular opinions they’re still opinions and they change with situations and people. We have taken two philosophers who have exerted a great influence on Western philosophy : Plato and Federick Nietzsche.

Plato is an ancient Greek philosopher, student of Socrates, and teacher of Aristotle. His writings explored justice, beauty and equality and also contained discussions in aesthetics, political philosophy, theology, cosmology, epistemology and the philosophy of language. Sometime around 385 B.C.E., he founded a school of learning, known as the Academy, which he presided over until his death. His final years were spent at the Academy and with his writing. His work covered a broad spectrum of interests and ideas: mathematics, science and nature and morals.

Federick Nietzsche was a German philosopher, essayist, and cultural critic. His writings on truth, morality, language, aesthetics, history, nihilism, power, consciousness, and the meaning of existence have exerted an enormous influence on Western philosophy and intellectual history. One of his famous statement that ‘God is dead’ is a rejection of christianity as a meaningful force in contemporary life. His other works were an endorsement to self perfection through creative drive and his concept of a 'super-man' or 'over-man' (Übermensch), an individual who strives to exist beyond conventional categories of good and evil, master and slave.

Aristotle, is not interested in erotic love know as Eros, as he is interested in friendship known as philia but according to Plato the best kind of friendship is that which lovers can have for each other. It is friendship that is born out of erotic love, which means philia out of eros. The aim of erotic love (eros) is to transcend the existence of human, at connecting it with the eternal and infinite and thereby at achieving the only species of immortality that is open to us human beings. Philia strengthen and develop eros also, it transforms the person’s desire to understand self, the other and the universe.

Plato’s theory of love is there in Phaedrus and the Symposium. Plato is very much interested in the same sex desire that can be between an older and a younger man, but this doesn’t mean that his theory of love does not apply to other kinds of erotic relationship. He distinguished between two kind of love, love that can give rise to friendship and a baser kind of love that is enjoyed by those who are more given to the body than to soul. He says, the lover is happiest when he is with his beloved and sad when they both are separated. By being separated, the parts are going to die from which the lover’s wings grow and he faces the intense pain which makes him prize his beloved above everyone else, makes him unable to think a bad thought about him and let alone to betray or forsake him. In Phaedrus Plato emphasizes the relationship that love has to the divine and hence to the eternal and infinite and in the Symposium, he emphasizes more the relationship that it has to practice of philosophy, the search for happiness and the contemplation of truth. There is a term known as Platonic love which is named after Plato which means a type of love, or close relationship that is not romantic. The concern of Platonic love invented by Plato is growing through the amount of closeness to wisdom and true beauty from carnal attraction to souls, and eventually union with the truth. Platonic love is contrasted with romantic love. There are two types of explanation of love in Plato’s Symposium - Vulgar Eros aLso known as Earthly Eros and Divine Eros also known as Divine Love. Vulgar eros is material attraction towards a beautiful body for physical satisfaction. But Divine eros is different, the journey begins from physical attraction i.e, attraction towards beautiful form or body but transcends gradually to love and supreme beauty. The concept of divine love was later transformed in platonic love. Vulgar eros and divine love are connected and part of the same continuous process of pursuing totality of being itself, with the purpose of mending human nature, eventually reaching a point of unity where there is no longer an aspiration to change. In Symposium , Eros is discussed as a Greek god – the king of gods. He has also given a concept known as Ladder of Love. It says each step nearer to truth further distances love from physical beauty of body towards love that is more focused on knowledge and the essence of beauty. The starting of the ladder is with carnal attraction of body for body, progressing to a love for body and soul . In time with consequent steps up the ladder, the idea of beauty is eventually no longer connected with a body, but entirely united with being itself.

Plato describes different ways in which people love. Some people only use their lovers for gaining pleasure— especially sexual pleasure—out of all others. Others genuinely care about the growth of their partner’s character, and, while they are attracted to their beloved’s body and experience sexual desire, sex is a secondary objective or such lovers. They see their lover’s beauty as inspirational, something respectable and valuable, something that arises feelings of awe and happiness , not something that is to be exploited for one’s own personal physical gratification. Plato believed that one will experience both of these desires in himself and that these forces will fight against each other for primacy.Plato thought that love should be pure and sexual relationship should be confined to producing children over only physical pleasures.

Most inferences of Plato’s work say that, because men don’t have a womb, Plato is strong on the belief that all homosexual sex is against nature.Importantly, however, he stresses that the same point applies to masturbation, sex with infertile women, and couples who would not produce good children. Plato does not only accept that any procreative sexual activity is good, but only that which produces good children as an outcome. According to him, marriages are arranged to ensure that parents are of the psychological types which suit each other and that they are in absolute physical health for giving birth to good children , neither the wife nor the husband should be drunk when copulating, as alcohol compromises the quality of the seed; moreover, only people of certain ages are to produce children, that too for no longer than 10 years.

According to Plato, sex is natural but not a means to get the pleasure one would desire. To respond when we see beauty in a way that one would want children is not the most practical response to it. Beauty arises in an individual much deeper longing, which he needs to gain awareness of and which one needs to fulfill. Plato proposes an understanding of the meaning of beauty that cannot be depleted by any amount of sexual relationships. Even if one would not agree to it, his point makes one rethink what is so distracting about beauty that the desire has no ending.

Marriage- is a legal or formal union recognized by two people as partners in a personal relationship (historically and in some jurisdictions specifically a union between a man and a woman). When two people make a public pledge or commitment to each other to share and live their lives together that is recognised socially, legally and sometimes religiously. According to many Christian denominations, a marriage is a union between a man and woman, instituted and ordained by God as the lifelong relationship between one man as husband, and one woman as wife.In ancient Greek culture, the purpose of marriage was to reproduce, establish a family, and to have heirs who would carry on the family name,lineage and memory. In Plato's days there was no prejudice against men having sex with other men. Sex with the same gender was quite common and accepted in the Greek culture, but men did not marry other men. Because there would be no conception and birth so marriage was not necessary. Plato is one of the most influential philosophers in the world. He has contributed in many fields like ethics, metaphysics, cosmology, politics, etc. One of his most famous works is the Republic, which contains how a philosopher runs a wise society. From his works it's assumed that Plato never married or have any offsprings

Plato viewed marriage in an unconventional way, it was a bit different from the original concept of marriage. According to his depictions of an ideal state, the state should monitor and have a control over human reproduction. As per the philosophy of eugenics, temporary marriages shall be arranged in a festival, where the matches shall be chosen by the selected Rulers. Plato understood that this would not be accepted by the common people so it was done in secret. In Plato's republic a number system was introduced in which your mate would be chosen by selecting a 'marriage number.' According to this concept the people with similar qualities will be matched together so that they can procreate. Everyone chose the names from the lot and the mate they get is chosen by God himself and if you draw a blank you are considered unfit for offsprings. Plato also wanted the offsprings to be taken away from the biological parents and wanted them to be raised in common nurseries. Plato's reason for restructuring marriage was to abolish the concept of private family and to give power to the state, to discourage personal interest and to encourage common good and to increase the strength in the state. The reason was also to improve human conditions, the logic behind it was if people with good qualities bred then the outcome would also be good. His main aim was to bring unity among people and to have atleast some citizens in the state who had the best interest of the state. His main idea behind this was to find the best race, and the best people for this society.

However, Plato realised his error that even though people with similar qualities mated, it's not necessary that the offspring would have those 'golden' qualities of the parents. Aristotle also firmly criticized this theory of Plato. He said that this theory of Plato was unworkable. As Plato has not taken into consideration the fact that natural love a parent would have towards his or her child and the emotions associated. Plato had assumed that the love for family can be transferred to the fellow citizens. Plato himself never a marriage. He viewed the institution of marriage only as a means to procreate and to establish a family.

The choice of Nietzche, as a philosopher who contributes in a unique way to discussion of love may not seem to be immediately validated. It is argued that Nietzsche's philosophy, while dealing in a more obvious way with issues such as 'truth' ;'perspectivism' & 'will to power' is no less concerned with the Platonic & Aristotelian exploration of 'the good','practical wisdom' and 'the meaning of love'.

Nietzche explains love via his concept of Amor Fati or 'love of fate' . He talks about how we should accept life as it is & live a higher existence.( which he named as Übermensch)

Nietzche never goes in depth when it comes to the term 'love'. Our idea of love could easily fall in line of course with his idea of the Dionysian ( a figure who lives his life based on the impulsive & in harmony with natural world).Contrast to this is the Apollonian (which is a figure which puts humans as higher than nature through constructs of knowledge.)

When it comes to love 'specifically'Nietzsche says that he would probably think of it as merely an emotional impulse which can be put in use to reach a more ideal existence as love exhibits both the Apollonian & the Dionisian.

Nietzsche says that his craving for love was only paired by his fear of it.

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He seemed to embody Schopenhauer's popular parable which talks about the porcupines who needed to huddle together for warmth and who struggle to find the optimal distance which makes them feel sufficiently warm without hurting one another.

'Let a man suffer!'let him get sick!'exclaims Nietzche. This sickness would make him a stronger person which will then allow him to reflect about life. It will also make him value the presence of another person (his wife). Men have gone to war and so it is in our genes to fight. A man who is afraid of his wife has no right to live in this world. Nietzsche concludes by quoting,; What does not kill you only makes you strong

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, the rebellious philosopher , firmly maintained that a strong bond of friendship is the vital ingredient for a successful marriage. To him, friendship was the highest and the purest form of love. He held that good friends could inspire each other, and push the other to his/her limits, helping them realising the ideal of Übermensch(superman). Friendship is crucial, as highlighted by his popular quote,

'It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.'

His views on marriage might be inclined more towards pragmatism rather than fleeting romantic tendencies. He held that a marriage based on romantic and sexual feelings would be unable to last long.This raises the question about a successful base for marriage. Nietzsche answers, “When entering into a marriage one ought to ask oneself: do you believe you are going to enjoy talking with this woman up into your old age? Everything else in marriage is transitory, but most of the time you are together will be devoted to conversation.”

He asks people not to marry for love, or physical attraction as such feelings won't endure for long, thus won't help a marriage last.he says that to last a lifetime, we must choose a partner with whom we connect. a connection that goes beyond physical attraction, in the realm that exists even when these evanescent romantic ideas disappear.Then naturally, one should marry someone they love talking to as ' Most of the time in married life is taken up by talk.'

With the astonishing frequency of the current divorce rates, and impulsive marriages, his philosophy on marriage does seem pragmatic and highly relevant, now more than ever. He wants to prepare couples for the inevitable end of the high of love. However, this does not have to be the end of the marriage and it won't, as long as the bonds of marriage are forged with the fire of friendship.

'For as long as I love you I shall render to you the actions of love; if I cease to love you, you will continue to receive the same actions from me, though from other motives' - Friedrich Nietzsche

However, such a realistic approach is not a characteristic of modern marriages which accounts for its failure. 'It is obvious that all sense has gone out of modern marriage; which is, however, no objection to marriage but to modernity.'

Today, couples go into marriages already making plans for divorce , which due to it's inflated frequency has carved it's way into normality. This is a red flag, as the institution of marriage quite possibly is one of the pillars supporting society and civilization itself. Broken homes, insecure children, light marriages are destroying the social structure. It is chaotic.

He held that instead of transient romantic feelings, one should enter the institution of marriage based on the potential to create children who would be able to live up to the ideal of Übermensch. This, he believed is a must for society to flourish.

'Everything about woman is a riddle, and everything about woman has one solution: it is called pregnancy. Man is for woman a means: the purpose is always the child.” From Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Nietzsche

This quote has been interpreted differently by face value, it reeks of misogyny as it seems to suggest that women's primary purpose in life is to procreate. However, it may be symbolic of the potential for, Nietzsche may be suggesting that entered with the right person, a marriage has the capacity to awaken and inspire the creativity . It is symbolic of the novel.

While suggesting this, he is also aware of the fact that such an idealistic marriage is almost always inconceivable for the ordinary men. 'Marriage was contrived for ordinary people, for people who are capable of neither great love nor great friendship, which is to say, for most people--but also for those exceptionally rare ones who are capable of love as well as of friendship.' However,he suggests that marriage can be liberating to those who are capable of great friendship.

Nietzsche was a firm believer of gender roles. He held that men are naturally attracted towards obstacles and challenges while woman seek peace and comfort. These attributes,he believed were the catalyst for growth in life. Hence, the wife should let the husband suffer for his own good.

All becoming and growth, everything that guarantees the future involves pain” From Twilight of the Idols by Nietzsche. He understood that pain was a Necessity for evolution, it makes us who we are.'Whatever does not kill me makes me stronger” as he famously said in the Twilight of the Idols.

All of this is based on the elegant idea of friendship that inspires each other, not the one based on mutual benefits. It might seem similar to the very absurd romantic ideals he discards. However, unlike the love based solely on the hormones that gives one a feeling of high where a person bends and sacrifices his ideals, best friends can take a stand against each other. They're not looking for approval from each other, they are looking out for each other.

This is perfectly exemplified by this quote- 'If you want a friend, you must also be willing to wage war for him: and to wage war, you must be capable of being an enemy.”

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Views of Plato and Nietzsche on Romantic Relationship. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 24, 2024, from
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