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[837a] and desire and love (so-called), if we are to determine them rightly; for what causes the utmost confusion and obscurity is the fact that this single term embraces these two things, and also a third kind compounded of them both.

How so?

Friendship is the name we give to the affection of like for like, in point of goodness, and of equal for equal; and also to that of the needy for the rich, which is of the opposite kind; and when either of these feelings is intense we call it “love.” [837b]


The friendship which occurs between opposites is terrible and fierce and seldom reciprocal amongst men, while that based on similarity is gentle and reciprocal throughout life. The kind which arises from a blend of these presents difficulties,—first, to discover what the man affected by this third kind of love really desires to obtain, and, in the next place, because the man himself is at a loss, being dragged in opposite directions by the two tendencies,—of which the one bids him to enjoy the bloom of his beloved, while the other forbids him. For he that is in love with the body [837c] and hungering after its bloom,1 as it were that of a ripening peach, urges himself on to take his fill of it, paying no respect to the disposition of the beloved; whereas he that counts bodily desire as but secondary, and puts longing looks in place of love,2 with soul lusting really for soul, regards the bodily satisfaction of the body as an outrage, and, reverently worshipping temperance, courage, nobility and wisdom, will desire to live always chastely in company with [837d] the chaste object of his love. But the love which is blended of these two kinds is that which we have described just now as third. Since, then, love has so many varieties, ought the law to prohibit them all and prevent them from existing in our midst, or shall we not plainly wish that the kind of love which belongs to virtue and desires the young to be as good as possible should exist within our State, while we shall prohibit, if possible, the other two kinds? Or what is our view, my dear Megillus?

Your description of the subject, [837e] Stranger, is perfectly correct.

It seems that, as I expected, I have gained your assent; so there is no need for me to investigate your law, and its attitude towards such matters, but simply to accept your agreement to my statement. Later on I will try to charm Clinias also into agreeing with me on this subject. So let your joint admission stand at that, and let us by all means proceed with our laws.

Quite right.

I know of a device at present for enacting this law,

1 Cp.Plat. Sym. 183d ff.

2 A play on the assonance ὁρῶν=ἐρῶν.

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