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Nine Thinkers
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Each chapter in this volume is dedicated to an idea that helped shape our world. We begin with Plato's inspired discussion of the many faces of love in The Symposium, in which he suggests that not all love is equal. In the second chapter, Aristotle cast aside religious dogma and uses logic and reason to build a moral theory. The third chapter belongs to French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes, who argued that his essence exists in his mind alone. The fourth chapter looks at the incredibly influential Immanuel Kant and his critique of empirical and rational thought. Karl Marx's controversial theory of class struggle follows in chapter five. Chapter six delves into Sigmund Freud's theory of the subconscious, while chapter seven looks at Jean-Paul Sartre's lecture 'Existentialism is a Humanism'. John Rawls and his case for justice as fairness is the focus of the eighth chapter, while the final chapter is dedicated to Júrgen Habermas and his conception of ideal speech community.

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ISBN: 9781301590858
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Nine Thinkers

Hercules Bantas

Published by the Reluctant Geek

Smashwords Edition

Copyright Hercules Bantas 2012

Plato and Love

Aristotle and Virtue

Descartes and Existence

Kant's Concepts and Intuitions

Marx and Class Struggle

Freud and the Unconscious Mind

Sartre and Existentialism

Rawls and Justice as Fairness

Habermas and the Ideal Speech Community

Each chapter in this volume is dedicated to an idea that helped shape our world. We begin with Plato's inspired discussion of the many faces of love in The Symposium, in which he suggests that not all love is equal. In the second chapter, Aristotle cast aside religious dogma and uses logic and reason to build a moral theory. The third chapter belongs to French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes, who argued that his essence exists in his mind alone. The fourth chapter looks at the incredibly influential Immanuel Kant and his critique of empirical and rational thought. Karl Marx's controversial theory of class struggle follows in chapter five. Chapter six delves into Sigmund Freud's theory of the subconscious, while chapter seven looks at Jean-Paul Sartre's lecture 'Existentialism is a Humanism'. John Rawls and his case for justice as fairness is the focus of the eighth chapter, while the final chapter is dedicated to Júrgen Habermas and his conception of ideal speech community.

Plato and Love

In The Symposium, Plato was not simply talking about love and sex, but about the desire for the good and the beautiful. Through the speeches made by the guests at a party held to honour the victory at a dramatic competition of Agathon, the host, Plato examines love and desire in all its various incarnations- from the purely physical attraction between individuals, to the driving spiritual desire for union with the divine. This guide will run through all the speeches, and trace Plato's arguments as he builds his concept of the true purpose and motivation of love.

Ancient Greek had two terms that corresponded to 'love' in its modern usage: eros, which is synonymous with sexual love; and philia, which is synonymous with affection (Kahn, 1996, p. 258). Plato chose the former, eros, on which to base The Symposium for several reasons. First, eros can be defined as a one way love in that the loved object does not need to return the love or reciprocate in any way (1996, p. 261). Second, and this is developed the text of The Symposium, eros does not need to be between two humans, which opens the possibility for a human to love a non-human, even non-physical, entity and not be loved in return (1996, p. 261). Third, eros refers to a powerful desire on the part of the lover, a need to have, or be with, or participate in something which the lover lacks (1996, p. 262). This 'lack', Plato argues, is for what is 'beautiful' and closely relates to what is 'good' (1996, p. 260). In effect, the principle of love described by Plato in The Symposium is best understood as a rational desire directed towards the 'good' and the 'beautiful'.

Plato presents his philosophy in The Symposium through a series of speeches on love given by a group of friends gathered together at a party. The first speaker is Phaedrus, who begins by explaining that Love is the oldest of the gods and has been an aspect of human life since the beginning of human existence. He then goes on to establish the importance of love to both the individual and the community by connecting love with that which is 'noble',

The principle which ought to guide the whole life of those who intend to live nobly cannot be implanted either by family or by position or by anything else so effectively as by love. What principle? you ask. I mean the principle which inspires shame at what is disgraceful and ambition for what is noble; without these feelings neither a state nor an individual can accomplish anything great or fine (Plato, 1951, p. 42)

The speech of Phaedrus establishes the necessity of love if an individual wishes to live a noble life, or a state rise to greatness. He illustrates the centrality of love in the pursuit of nobility by, first, arguing that the shame an individual feels if they perform a cowardly or dishonourable act is greater if that person's lover is aware of the act (1951, p. 42). Second, by pointing to the heroic or noble deeds performed by people in the name of love, often sacrificing their lives for their lovers (1951, p. 43). The power of love, he argues, could motivate an 'army of lovers' who would, due to 'their avoidance of all dishonour and their mutual emulation' would be capable of defeating practically the whole world (1951, p. 43). The first speech by Phaedrus, therefore, links love with the pursuit of an honourable and noble life, and love is still on a physical level and between two people.

Pausanias follows Phaedrus and in his speech, he splits love into two separate and distinct forms to reflect the two incarnations of the goddess Aphrodite with whom love is intimately connected,

If there were a single Aphrodite there would be a single Love, but as there are two Aphrodites, it follows that there must be two Loves as well. Now what are the two Aphrodites? One is the elder and is the daughter of Uranus and had no mother; her we call Heavenly Aphrodite. The other is younger, the child of Zeus and Dione, and is called Common Aphrodite. It follows that the Love which is the partner of the latter should be called Common Love and the other Heavenly Love (1951, p. 45).

Pausanias then moves on to define the distinctions between the two forms of love, which are quite marked, even though sexual attraction is still the motivation behind both. Common Love, based purely on physical beauty as the attraction between lovers, contains no intellectual elements. Heavenly Love, however, relies upon an intellectual and emotional attraction and, while there may be a physical attraction, is not completely reliant on physical beauty. Pausanias argues that endeavours made by an individual in the name of Heavenly Love are honourable and invariably lead towards the good, while those associated with Common Love are not always for the betterment of either of the parties involved or of noble intent (1951, p. 47).

At the conclusion of Pausanias's speech, Plato has established that love is a sought after and important aspect of human. His argument is that life is better for those who have love or a desire for love when compared with those who have not. He has also begun to make a distinction between love