Plato’s Phaedrus

Ecclesiastes 1:9 New International Version (NIV)  What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

When you think of Greek philosophers, Plato should be the first name that comes to mind.  Socrates taught him, and he taught Aristotle.  However, most experts agree that Plato was “the man”.  He established the the first institution of higher learning, the Academy.  His works proved pivotal in the history of Ancient Greek and Western philosophy.  He lived for about 78 years from around 425 to 347 BC., which was a few hundred years before Jesus Christ.  

Ecclesiastes was written about 450 BC or perhaps 50 years before Plato’s most famous writings.  It’s a book of wisdom written by King Solomon (or perhaps other authors as the origin is not certain.)  Undoubtedly it influenced Greek philosophers.

Following is an excerpt from Plato’s Phaedrus.  I find it fascinating for a couple of reasons.  First, it sounds Biblical.  Was Plato an admirer of King Solomon?  I suspect so.  Second, Plato is spot-on in describing human feelings that existed about 2400 years ago, which are equally applicable to our modern society.  Here’s what he wrote:

“Love is some kind of desire; but we also know that even men who are not in love have a desire for what is beautiful.  So how shall we distinguish between a man who is in love and one who is not?  We must realize that each of us is ruled by two principles which we follow wherever they lead: one is our inborn desire for pleasures, the other is our acquired judgment that pursues what is best.  Sometimes these two are in agreement; but there are times when they quarrel inside us, and then sometimes one of them gains control, sometimes the other.  Now when judgment is in control and leads us by reasoning toward what is best, that sort of self-control is called ‘being in your right mind’; but when desire takes command in us and drags us without reasoning toward pleasure, then its command is known as ‘outrageousness’.”

The moral of Plato’s story:  don’t confuse lust with love, and pursue reason over pleasure.  It sounds like great advice for couples today!   

Leave a Reply