Plato on Love

Richard H Kraut*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Eros and Philia are the two Greek words, which can be translated as love in English. This article focuses on the idea that Plato weaves around the emotion of love. On the one hand, there is the verb philein and its cognates (philia is the noun, philos the adjective)-a word we use all the time when we talk about philanthropy, philosophy, philharmonic, and the like. On the other hand, "to love" is also the proper translation of the verb eran. Eros is the name of this psychological force, erastês designates a lover, and erômenos is the one who is loved. Erôs is characterized here as a desire. That does not mean that whenever someone wants something, he loves it. The relationship goes in the other direction: whenever someone loves, he wants. This thesis says nothing about what kind of desire one has, when one loves. It may be a desire that Plato would locate in the appetitive part of the soul, but it need not be. The word Plato most often uses for desire in the passage examined in this article, as so often, is epithumia. But an epithumia can be any sort of desire-it is not necessarily an "appetitive" desire for food, drink or sex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Plato
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199892044
ISBN (Print)9780195182903
StatePublished - Sep 2 2009


  • Eran
  • Erastes
  • Eros
  • Love
  • Philanthropy
  • Philharmonic
  • Philiea
  • Philosophy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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