Aristotle's word for 'love' / Plato's 'Platonic' love???

Discussion in 'Ελληνικά (Greek)' started by edwardtheconfessor, Oct 6, 2013.

  1. edwardtheconfessor Senior Member

    English - British
    Hi everyone. I'm doing research for a thesis (postgrad level),
    Aristotle's Metaphysics ',Book XII, Parts 6, 7.
    I have no Greek. I'm not a Greek scholar at all, I'm afraid.
    I have an English translation (by D. W. Ross, Classics online). Very important for me to be clear in what sense exactly he means 'love' here.
    It is very important to my argument on this particular point (he is talking here about the 'prime mover' as he calls it).
    He talks about this being a primal cause and he mentions love specifically in this connection - if you need the exact para (in English translation)
    I can give that. It's a simple question really: which word does he use? According to Wikipaedia it's 'eros' but can this be right?

    I know the Ancient Greeks had two different words for 'love':
    'Agape' (I won't attempt to transliterate here) and 'eros' love. And they are quite different.
    Which does he use? I rather doubt that he is using here 'eros' as that has overtones of passionate, romantic, sensual and even sexual love. does it not - as the Greeks used it (something their gods were supposed to indulge in but very little to do with practical marriage, families, households etc.)? And it's hard to
    imagine Aristotle ascribing that kind of love to a primal cause as something in the very motivating power behind the universe - isn't it?
    Or have I got this all wrong?

    While we are about it, maybe someone can tell me also which word Plato uses in his 'Symposium'. I may need to refer to this too -
    particularly the speech of Socrates in that wherein her refers to the prophetess Diotima and discusses love as a means to contemplating the divine.
    We get our popular term 'Platonic love' from this, of course; many people use it simply as a euphemism for love without sex, but of course there's more to it
    than that. So: is it here 'eros' or 'agape' love?

    Hope someone can help me out here. Please keep it simple. Like I said; I'm not a Greek scholar.
    Many thanks - edwardtheconfessor
  2. Agró

    Agró Senior Member

    Alta Navarra
    [h=4]φιλία[/h] affectionate regard, friendship

    ὅτι δ᾽ [5] ἐνέργεια πρότερον, μαρτυρεῖ Ἀναξαγόρας
    ( γὰρ νοῦς ἐνέργειακαὶ Ἐμπεδοκλῆς φιλίαν καὶ τὸ νεῖκος,
    οἱ ἀεὶ λέγοντες κίνησιν εἶναι, ὥσπερ Λεύκιππος

    (Aristotle. Aristotle's Metaphysics, ed. W.D. Ross. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1924).

    [h=4]ἐρωτικός[/h] of love

    περὶ τῶν ἐρωτικῶν λόγων τίνες ἦσαν

    (Plat. Sym. 172b. Plato. Platonis Opera, ed. John Burnet. Oxford University Press. 1903.)
  3. sotos Senior Member

    See Liddell & Scott φιλία.*f:entry+group=20:entry=fili/a

    The 1st meaning is "affectionate regard, friendship (not in A. or S.)", which may not be the best for this passage of Metaphysics, I think. Consider meaning No. 5 "the natural force which unites discordant elements and movements, opp.νεῖκος, ", i.e. φιλία is the opposite of νείκος (quarrel,*n:entry+group=9:entry=nei=kos).
    The word φιλία, apart from friendship, had also erotic meaning (-phily), then as today.

    The pair of opposites (like the φιλία - νείκος of Empedocles) was believed by many Greek philosophs as the "primordial principle" of the universe: End - infinite (Plato and Philolaos), Unit - Dyad, Odd - Even (Pythagoras), Ether - Chaos (Orpheus), Fire - Earth (Parmenides). These opposite pairs (according to Freud) are projections of the basic "insticts of life and death".
  4. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Agró has answered your question very nicely. I fail to see how Empedocles’ theory of “love and strife” as mentioned in XII,6 has any bearing on Aristotle’s theory of the “unmoved mover” elucidated much later in the text.
  5. edwardtheconfessor Senior Member

    English - British
    Thank you Agro - please forgive, but I don't seem to be able to get any options here for Greek characters or even accents.
    How frustrating. Sorry.
    Anyway, yes I have followed all the links you so helpfully offer.
    I'm afraid, I can make little sense of your links (sorry once again). The link to the very translator whose version of the 'Metaphysics' I am using should be very helpful indeed - if I could get it to work for me. But alas it seems to turn up nothing of relevance at all. Sorry.

    Plato:- There seems little doubt, especially from the Greek words you have kindly highlighted in bold here for me (thank you) that, in the case of Plato's
    (which word I transliterate as 'erotikoz' ... not sure if that last character is meant to be a lower case zeta ? - warned you: I'm no Greek
    scholar!) and 'erotikon' in the actual passage you quote in the Greek .. it is, indeed, derived from the 'eros' root (I am, at least, a reasonably informed amateur philologist). So that seems to have cleared that up. It is 'eros' love. But not here, I think, as merely sensual passion since, from what I know from my own studies of the (translated) text and commentaries on it, Plato (through the 'voice' of Socrates as was his custom of course) is here referring rather to a kind of idealised, love - again very far from the hum drum and workaday world of real everyday life in Ancient Greece.

    Aristotle , however, I see uses a different word altogether, which again you have helpfully highlighted for me. I transliterate this as 'philian' . Not familiar with this word, but I assume it be of the same root from which we get 'philos' as part of the word philosophy itself ; meaning 'I love' (literally 'I love leanring' or 'love of learning' in this case). Or have I missed something important here? It is neither the 'eros' love of sensual passion etc. nor a Platonic love - in the correct Platonic sense as a kind of 'ideal' or (rather theoretical as I understand Plato here) perfect or divine love - and I assume this would also mean the kind of love which inspires, when love inspires at all, the arts and creativity etc. Yes??

    But, no; Aristotle's 'love' here is not that. Neither is it the 'agape' love of everyday human life. There is a whole theological discussion which still continues among the serious minded in the Christian Church today about whether the 'love' referred to in the original biblical Greek of the New Testament means 'eros' or 'agape' love. However, as I am not a scholar of biblical Greek either, I cannot form an opinion on this.

    GREEK INTO LATIN: It might help me here if anyone who is both a scholar of Greek and Latin knows which word(s) the early Latin translations of these works by Plato and Aristotle use. Would it be simply amor for both of them? It is important in my research, for I am also following the etymological trail by which we Teutonic speakers understand our word for this ('love').

    One wonders: If Aristotle had had a better word in his native Greek for 'love' to convey what her refers to in connection with his 'prime mover' as ultimate causation which is not itself caused and cannot be altered or acted upon by any Earthly power - and it is the only emotion, and that in its purity and as an abstract concept that I read him here as meaning ... would he then have used a different word, or even invented a new one???

    I'd be most interested in more informed feedback on some of this.
    Many thanks - edwardtheconfessor
  6. edwardtheconfessor Senior Member

    English - British
    Sotos and fdb - actually this discussion IS indeed most useful and helpful to me. I thank you.

    I have studied Empedocles a little, some while ago now when I was still a student, but I obviously need to brush up on him. I presume you are here referring to his poem 'On Nature' ? One of the problems we have with all the pre-Socratics of course is that so much of their work has only come down to us in fragmentary form. Pythagoreans like Philolaos could also have some relevance here (though we don't have a lot to go on, in his case), and yes I do, in fact, need to refer to Parmenides in respect of his theories about the true form of the sun and the moon, for this too is very pertinent as I shall explain in a moment. Plato, too - Aristotle's tutor and founder of the Academy ... because Aristotle's model of the then known universe (what we would today call the solar system) was, in fact, an improvement of one originally proposed by Plato: Plato's earlier model, however, still included some reference to gods and mythology. It was shorn of this and replaced by mathematics by Plato's friend Eudoxus of Cnidos. The reference to Freud is not without relevance here either - as we now go on to explain.

    To take you all into my scholastic confidence here, as I feel I must if other members are to be relevantly helpful: the title of my thesis is:
    THE CASE AGAINST THE UNIVERSE (that's not quite its full title, but that will do). I'm not, of course, seeking to disprove the actual existence of the universe itself (obviously!). What I am seeking to present are arguments both for and against any proposition that this universe is self-explicit, governed by known and predictable laws (without which, of course, there could be no science in the first place) for its regulation, these being sufficient unto themselves, the universe itself being, even of its creation, random, perhaps even some species of 'accident' (though by whom or what and how ???) and in need of no further speculation regarding either its causation, its continuation nor, indeed, its now predicted with some scientific detail, likely future and ultimate fate.

    I am a trained scientist and a philosopher - and also a qualified cultural historian. I am seeking to argue against the aforesaid proposition, but by first presenting the evidence on both sides of this argument, before laying down any conclusion (or 'verdict' as I analogise it). I also seek to de-construct the proposition, adjunct to the above, that this (self-explicit and sufficient unto itself) view of the universe is, and historically logically always was, the 'default' one - all earlier (pre-Galileo/Copernican) models of it being dismissable on grounds that these were based on mythology, polytheistic paganism and primitive superstition and that the view that any intelligent or intelligible or wilful meaning or purpose to it is a monotheistic line of argument which was overturned by the advance of physical science from the Renaissance onwards. This, perhaps, explains my intense interest in Aristotle's exact meaning on the point of 'love' in relation to his 'prime mover' as primal cause of all there is (i.e. this universe). My evidence for and against the historical part of this proposition also draws on 'testimony' from Newton, Einstein, Hoyle and others, right up to the physics and cosmology of scientists like Stephen Hawking. I am NOT writing a species of Christian apologetic, neither will any of my evidence, on either side of the argument, draw from sacred or religious scriptures, religious belief nor any kind or arguments of theology. It is intended to be an analysis logically argued on scientific (including historical scientific) evidence for and against.

    I hope this helps explain my interest here. Any further relevant pointers here would therefore be much appreciated.
    Many thanks - edwardtheconfessor
  7. sotos Senior Member

    I suppose the theme of de-construction keeps this thread marginally in-topic, as we have to talk about language and words. Possibly you have to include in your work some paragraphs on the semantics of words like "love" and "hate" or other pairs (chaos-order, light-dark etc), possibly referring to Freud, the first de-constructionist. These pairs are dominant in the Greek mythology and physical philosophy. I suppose those fathers of philosophy, althouth orthologists, had not got rid of their pagan background and therefore accepted the unpredictability or chaos in the universe. This is expressed in the Gr. mythology by the unpredictable intervention of the gods. You could possibly comment on the semantics of the words "uni-verse" and the equivalent Gr. "sym-pan", the first implying the sense of "one", the later not. At least the Greek word does not imply that "all is one".
  8. edwardtheconfessor Senior Member

    English - British
    Fascinating, Sotos - and most helpful. I think perhaps, if we are to continue this most edifying discussion, we need to start a new thread - perhaps entitled something like 'Ancient Greek (and Latin) choices of terminology for describing the universe ( and parts of it)'??
    Or we could even get into other etymologies altogether - including, perhaps the GERMAN Das All, Weltall and Natur ?? Not quite sure where a thread like THAT needs to go - in the grammar and etymologies section, I guess??

    For example: with the greatest respect, and thanks, my research suggests that the most common Ancient Greek term for 'universe' was 'to' pa'n' ... Again that's an attempted transliteration (I don't know for the life of me why I CAN'T get Greek characters here on my reply toolbar ... how silly! But there it is!) ... anyway, an analogy has been made in this to the minor deity Pan - a very ancient (pre-Hellenic period) nature and pastoral divinity originally, as you probably know. One way of translating that Ancient Greek word would be (loosely) 'the all/Pan' (to', I understand was used as here roughly equivalent to our definite article?).

    The word 'universe', however, according to my research has quite a different origin: it comes into English via the Old French and ultimately derives from Latin (of course) meaning, literally 'one (of) something rotated, rolled or changed' or possibly 'everything rotated as one' or 'everything rotated by one '- which brings us back with Aristotle and his 'prime mover' again, does it not? (check out Lucretius' 'Der Rarum Natura', Book IV (line 262) - and Cicero's use of the term also - using the poetic contraction 'Unvorsum').
    It really would be so very helpful, as I've said above in reply to Agro, to have some illumination on this from a bi-classic linguistic scholar (i.e. Greek AND Latin).
    I'm afraid I am no Latin scholar either! Sorry. So I must keep this particular thread here (about Aristotle's use of 'love' (or 'philia' ?) ) in connection with his 'prime mover' as discussed by him in 'Metaphysics' open, very much so.
    Incidentally, I can find no reference to 'universe' at all in 'Metaphysics' (but then, of course, I only have an English translation) ...

    Let me know if you think it would be of use here to start a new thread, as I suggest above?
    Many thanks - edwardtheconfessor
  9. sotos Senior Member

    You can open a thread (or two) on the words "universe" and "sympan" or whatever, either here or in the "History of languages & etymology".
    It doesn't seem that the god's name Pan is related to pan (=all). The first is probably cognate to the L. "faunus". The second is the neutral of the word pas meaning "all"
    Regarding the subtleties of words related to love (philia, eros etc), my opinion is that you shouldn't attempt a conventional semantic insight, especially if you don't know greek well. You may treat them all together as a group of words which project or externalize the freudian "life insticts" or an equivalent concept. If Arist. believes that love (in any form) is the prime mover, then he is a pre-christian prophet (as some christian fathers do accept) and the dogma "God is love" is not originally christian. But this school of thought is not much "against the existence of universe". On the latter, I believe you can find more material in some buddhist schools.
  10. ireney

    ireney Modistra

    Greek Greece Mod of Greek, CC and CD
    Mod note: Please keep your Q&A in a purely linguistic frame.
  11. Αγγελος Senior Member

    I don't know whether this is of any help, but:
    - eros CAN be used in a non-sexual sense (one does speak of ho eros tes eleutherias = the love of liberty)
    - agape is not much used in classical Greek
    - philos as a noun means "friend" and as an adjective "dear"; philia means 'friendship', usually without sexual overtones.
    Now when a philosopher posits 'friendship' and 'strife' as the basic forces of the universe, he is fair game for all kinds of interpretation: from purely mechanical attraction (gravity, magnetism, cohesion, adhesion) and repulsion (buoyancy, water and oil not mixing...) of inanimate bodies to cooperation and competition in human society.
  12. edwardtheconfessor Senior Member

    English - British
    Well, thank you (I will not insult you by attempting a transliteration of your name - and as I've said: alas no Greek characters option on here).
    Does this help? ABSOLUTELY!! I see that the etymologies I've traced, through Latin and Teutonic roots, are not astray at all in my thesis on the point of how to interpret Aristotle's 'love' ('philia') as in his 'Metaphysics' here at all. And I think I can see why he chose the word 'philia' rather than 'eros'. GREAT! And the duality of interpretation about dichotomies of affinity (to use a Teutonic equivalent) and discord or repulsion - both of which could have both a physical as well as a more 'ethereal' (I use the word loosely as in everyday English) application - is useful too ... for Aristotle's Prime Mover can be interpreted here as merely the physical mechanism which he thought explained why the planets move in their orbits (we'll leave out discussion of his 'crystal spheres' here) ... but if you read him closely - as I am essaying to do with virtually no Greek (i.e. in English translation) - he intends something much less physically definable - indeed he clearly speaks of this as the causation of the very universe itself (such of it as was known to the Ancient Greeks).
    So; many thanks again. Keep it coming folks. You're really helping me!

    - edwardtheconfessor

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