QOTD (2012-10-16); or, Eros Continued

From Kenneth Dover’s memoir, Marginal Comment:

The need to expound the Symposium in lectures and in print made me sort out my own ideas on sexual love, and thinking about it in Greek rather than English was a great help. Our use of the word ‘love’ has got us into a mess: ‘love thy neighbour’, ‘I love making love’ (= ‘fucking’) ‘on the carpet’, and so on. In Greek the verb phileîn and the noun philia denote the affection, ranging form intense to mild, which one may feel for a sexual partner, a parent, a child, a friend, a colleague, a nation or a place. The verb erân and the noun eros denote ‘love’ in the sense which it has in the English phrases ‘to be in love (with…)’ and ‘fall in love (with…)’, not just simple lust (for which Greek has other words) but the exclusive and obsessive lust which one feels for a particular person. Most of us are so constituted that we necessarily desire the satisfaction of lust by orgasm. Most of us also are capable of affection, and beauty is one (but only one) of the stimuli which evoke it. Affection sometimes generates eros, especially when consummation is physiologically easy and socially tolerated. Conversely, lust commonly generates affection, and its satisfaction may generate eros. It seems to me, therefore, that eros is not like a chemical compound, possessing properties which differ from the properties of any of its constituents, but like a chemical mixture, in which the constituents may be put together in any ratios and retain their own properties.

Kenneth Dover, needless to say, was once the President of my college. My day-to-day life may be full of busywork and departmental requirements, but it’s in thinking of the ways in which what intelligent people once said about love still remain within the walls of this university that I really spend my days.

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