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The dialectics of eros: from Plato to Dante

By Alexandra De Forest Duer


Though Dante never read Plato's dialogues on love, when examining the texts of Dante one notes the presence of Platonic thought and influence particularly concerning the notion of love. This thesis will focus upon the Platonic notion of eros and how it changes over time, ultimately being integrated into the Christian notion of love as understood by Dante, and how this Platonic influence is instantiated within Dante's poetry.\ud The inherent ambiguity of the concept of love, evident historically through frequent debates concerning its value whether positive, negative or in-between, makes any investigation into the nature of love problematic, often aporetic. One aim of this thesis is to help overcome some of the aporiai of knowledge concerning love through focusing upon one form of love, eros or passionate desire, which we shall use in order to understand love more generally through exploring its points of intersection and overlapping with certain other types of love, each of which emphasizes different aspects of love's character differentiated through culture and period. \ud Significantly eros, as perhaps the most ambiguous type of love, is often characterized negatively. Taking into account Nygren's negative view of eros which he sees as being wholly acquisitive and self-seeking as opposed to the thoroughly selfless Christian agape, we shall consider whether this view tells the full truth about eros.\ud In this endeavour we shall explore the interrelationship of eros and understanding understood as a dialectic directed towards the pursuit of truth, which in both the Platonic and Christian traditions involves the permanent possession of the good, beautiful and true; these converge in Neo-Platonic tradition, forming a unity which in Christianity is identified with God. We shall also explore how various strands of eros relate to and articulate the notion of love of the individual. These explorations cast light on the transformation of Platonic eros by Christian agape into the Latin concept of caritas. \ud In terms of procedure, we shall examine the notion of Platonic eros as presented in the Symposium and the Phaedrus and how this conception is reinterpreted in Dante's Commedia, these texts together acting as a lens which -will enable us better to comprehend the significance of Bros, and of love more generally, through the transformation of eros over time

Topics: B1, BR
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