|Part of a series on Love|
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Platonic love in its modern popular sense is an affectionate relationship into which the sexual element does not enter, especially in cases where one might easily assume otherwise. A simple example of platonic relationships is friendship between two heterosexual people of the opposite sexes.
At the same time, this interpretation is a misunderstanding of the nature of the Platonic ideal of love, which from its origin was that of a chaste but passionate love, based not on uninterest but virtuous restraint.
The term amor platonicus was coined as early as the 15th Century by the Florentine scholar Marsilio Ficino as a synonym for amor socraticus. Both expressions signify a love focused on the beauty of a person's character and intelligence rather than on their physical charms. They refer to the special bond of affection between two men Plato had highlighted in a dialogue, and exemplified by the affection between Socrates and his young male pupils, in particular to the one between Socrates and Alcibiades. On Ficino and the Symposium
The English term dates back as far as Sir William Davenant's Platonic Lovers (1636). It is derived from the concept in Plato's Symposium of the love of the idea of good which lies at the root of all virtue and truth.
Ironically, the very eponym of this love, Plato, as well as the forementioned Socrates and Ficino, all belong to the community of men who desire boys, and they all engaged in chaste but erotic pedagogic friendships with youths. The concept of platonic love thus arose within the context of the debate pitting mundane sexually expressed pederasty against the philosophic – or chaste – pederasty elaborated in Plato's writings (Symposium, Phaedro, Laws, and others).
Regarding Socrates, John Addington Symonds in his A Problem in Greek Ethics states that he "...avows a fervent admiration for beauty in the persons of young men. At the same time he declares himself upon the side of temperate and generous affection, and strives to utilize the erotic enthusiasm as a motive power in the direction of philosophy." According to Linda Rapp in glbtq, Ficino, by platonic love, meant "...a relationship that included both the physical and the spiritual. Thus, Ficino's view is that love is the desire for beauty, which is the image of the divine."
Because of the common modern definition, platonic love can be seen as paradoxical in light of these philosophers' life experiences and teachings. Plato and his peers did not teach that a man's relationship with a youth should lack an erotic dimension, but rather that the longing for the beauty of the boy is a foundation of the friendship and love between those two. However, having acknowledged that the man's erotic desire for the youth magnetizes and energizes the relationship, they countered that it is wiser for this eros to not be sexually expressed, but instead be redirected into the intellectual and emotional spheres.
To resolve this confusion, French scholars found it helpful to distinguish between amour platonique (the concept of non-sexual love) and amour platonicien (love according to Plato). When the term "Platonic love" is used today, it generally does not describe this aspect of Plato's views of love.
The understanding that Platonic love could be interpreted as masculine eros, albeit unconsummated, is intimately linked with the construction of a homosexual identity, and the cultural model of platonic friendship / pederasty was used by educated gay men since the early Renaissance.
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