The Heart Collector: Love as Akrasia in Augustine & Plato

It is a curious set of phenomena that goes into humanity’s mental and spiritual lives. At the heart of the human experience there seems to lie a precarious conflict between the manifold forces of the soul, from the rational to the very irrational. And in the psychic life of humanity is this very sum of the multiplicity of emotion and feeling and thoughts which has compelled us to various routes of action, and has remained a dominate theme throughout our history as a species. Emotion over emotion, willed or unwilled intentions, none has been as strong as the experience of the seemingly enigmatic and compelling force we call love.

Love comes in many forms, and love has been the most virulent captivator of the minds of poets, musicians, painters, philosophers, psychologists, and even scientists alike. Love is elevated to a near mystical level in the human spirit or psyche, a force that compels us irrationally, yet in a seemingly good-natured direction. It cannot be quantified or measured, but only by the actions it provokes, and if at that. As it is in 1 Corinthians 13 (4-7): “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”1 Love is the force that is within all of us and does not function in the way other fleeting emotions do, precisely because of its long lasting and non-imposing nature. It can be a violent force, or a subtle gesture, but when talking of the experience of love, it is hard to not have a poetic take on the subject. When looking at love from a differ light, love can incapacitate us unlike other states of being, even more so than anger in some cases. Love also has an ability to not just incapacitate or take over, but compel us to actions with intensity. In this regard both Plato and Augustine view this as is especially true. For Augustine, love is the center piece of both Man’s downfall and salvation. Plato, as well, regards love highly. That is why through examination of the Augustinian and Platonic views of love, the ability of love to dwell in both higher and lower forms of love, and Akratic action in relation to love, we can conclude that indeed love is a form of weakness of will, but not in the usual pejorative sense as a lasting force of humanity.

Definitions and Grounds for Akratic Love

When talking about “Akrasia,” or what is referred to as weakness of will, one seems to recognize its workings yet find it difficult to exactly put it in works. Weakness of will is an action-orientated course of decisions, or actions made against ones better judgment. Even when an action is within someone’s better judgment, there can be a momentary or temporary lapse or falter in judgment for a time. Akrasia can also be described as acting against one’s best intentions, or acting within contrary or conflicting intentions from what originally was the best ones. Also, the grounds for Akratic action must be made when (as Aristotle points out) they are on free terms, when there is no compulsion in one’s ability to make decisions or a set of actions which can constitute a weak-willed orientation of said actions.2 Love can fit into this definition as a fundamental part of the human state. Love can be a factor in someone’s Akratic form of action. There are motivations and judgment in one’s actions. Motivations for one’s action and judgment of a said action can be combined, and intentions for an action can be formed from the workings of judgment. Motivation also is suited for weak-willed actions since motivations cause a strong action at the time against original intention from better judgments.3 Love is one motivation for actions that can be considered against one’s better judgment, since a better judgment out of ordinary ones in a colloquial sense has to do with reason and practical thought processes, whereas love is an emotional state that could be somewhat rationalized but ultimately does not come from a rational place.

Love is of a different sort of judgment that can use reason to its advantage, mostly likely perusing loved and/or sexual objects, but love itself is a more ephemeral force then standard logic. Love also acts out in the biological level too as something beyond the confines of a mental calculus, but one that many poets or even common language refers to as “the heart” or the seat of the passions.4 Love is unlike other desires in its ever-present nature, and not as transient or fleeting like normal appetites.

Motivations and more fundamentally desire that serve as an irresistible and irrational compulsion within are intimately linked with one another. Desire can serve as the motivation for one’s action, which can imply an outcome that originally has to do with satiating that desire, and of course there are differences in the degrees of strength between some desires and motivations to do things given the level of the desire in our valuations and the time in which the desire has appeared. Also desires can motivate us for not necessarily good or beneficial things. Our better judgments can form evaluations of our desires, and our motivations for achieving such desires that do no benefit to us in any immediate sense can overcome our better judgments.5 This is all rudimentary explanation for defining Akratic action, but beyond the typical desires that one describes Akratic actions to, such as intoxication or gluttony, love can also have a motivation that can lead to what is considered Akratic actions. Desires are manifold, fleeting, and are a seemingly constant assault on our faculties of judgment that pulls us in their differing paths.

There are differing types of love that are defined, such as motherly or parental love, sibling love, romantic love, but the core of the definition which serves our purposes would be the Greek concept of eros. “Eros” can be defined as erotic or familial love. Eros also implies instinctual desires of a sexual nature, and in a Platonic context, eros is the ability of love to transform lower desires into higher ones (which we will cover later). Eros can more broadly be defined as the life-motivational force, or need to desire life and beauty on an instinctual level.6 The intense desire of love is used for many different things, such as sexual desire, or love for a habitually idealized object. But eros is a dynamic concept, which incorporates the base drives and the transformative aspects of love towards higher ends.

Thus love is an intense desire, but it is a different sort of desire from the base or lower ones such as ordinary desires of the appetite. However, precisely because it does not lead to typical self-serving ends, it can fluidly pass between higher and lower goals or desires. Love can be a destructive or detrimental force as well as a force for good. Love can produce an immediate instinctual drive towards the loved subject, and does not work in the way raw lust does. As the idealistic thoughts of the lover towards the loved persists, a feeling of utter inability to rationalize or even reduce the feeling of love down to mere biology or psychic drives is gone. As something which does not serve the purpose of love, leaving one vulnerable, or even open to doing abusive or irrational things in the goal of the loved one’s affection.7 Thus, love as an aspect of weakness of will is harder to situate, and does not typically come up as an aspect of Akratic action. There is also another character of love and desire that is also compelling in the human condition, its universality; from east to west, philosophic and religious tradition have worked to understand and inhibit the effects of desire, yet maintain a strong veneration for love in its proper places as a universal good. Thus the Tao Te Ching in the first chapter echoes this sentiment: “Always rid yourself of desires in order to observe its secrets; but always allow yourself to have desires in order to observe its manifestations.”8 Intense mediation of ones seemingly endless stream of desires is needed. A similar sentiment can also be placed in the Platonic and Christian traditions of vigorously analyzing and eliminating, or at least sublimating, desires in a more meaningful sense. That is why Saint Augustine is a main representation of the struggle against maladaptive desires and weak-willed actions form those intense desires. The desire of love is also another idiosyncratic one in that there is a distinction between genuine or superfluous love for the other or (in Augustine’s case) the ultimate other being God, or (in Plato’s sense) the Forms. Genuine love is the ability to overcome one’s narcissism, or self-centered approach to love objects, in a way negating the self for the purpose of love.9 Thus, love is a different type of motivation or desire, and in the Christian and Platonic contexts, love serves to be both a destroyer and a great salvation in its placement in one’s willed actions.

The Struggle Against Lower Loves for Augustine

It is said that certain motivational forces that have the ability to pull the Individual towards acts, which go against a better judgment, accompany weak-willed actions. One of these factors would be the proximity or the closeness of a loved object in one’s view. The increases proximity of an idealized object gives off a heightened sense of reward and goal to achieve satiation of one’s desires for that object, even defying tactics and rules set out for one’s self that prevents satiating one’s desire for the object.10 Of course in such a complex inter-personal phenomena such as being in the state of love, it is not a simple thing to reduce the pull towards the lover in such a mechanical way. Proximity is a factor in love never the less, even if the pursuit of the lover can come at great risk to one’s self. And the more proximate one is to a lover, or a false idea of what a lover is, the more one is inclined to pursue weak-willed actions that run contrary to better judgment. Such is the case for the struggling better judgment of Augustine. In his time as a student in Carthage, he laments the struggle for a higher love, or, more specifically, the love of God. This Godly love is the better judgment expressed by Augustine in the Confessions, this is his higher aim in life. However, in absence of a clear picture to express this love for God, or a clouding of his life-view brought on by the temptations of the world, he seeks such love in the body. He finds lust to be a vacuous substitute for the real aim in his life, which is the love and admiration of the Divine Father, and as a result of misjudging real for menial love, he suffers all the detriments of human emotions tied to worldly loves, like fear, pain, jealousy, and anger.11 This, in essence, refers to a satiation of higher aims with the baseness of lower ones, another instance of love being in a unique character from other sources of Akratic action. There are clear detriments to the lower or earthy loves, yet one is so strongly pulled by love or lust masked as genuine love, that one’s better judgment is rendered impotent, especially in the sight of immediate gratifying sources for love. Augustine did not at the time have the intellectual or spiritual resources within him to even comprehend God’s love, therefore finding base substitutes for it, hence his very weak-willed lust for humanly love.12

Love is always within the image of God, and since humanity is an expression of God’s love, we seek the Divine in human form. However, we cannot substitute what is eternal for that which is fallible and subject to imperfection. To Augustine, God should be loved with our whole heart, but we cannot love a mere image of God in the earthly plain, we can at best attain the ultimate beloved in God by other things in this world. Thus, earthly love is driven by endless desire, but more then a desire for the infinite, earthly love is an outgrowth of appetitive desire, hence leading to the folly of loving the infinite by loving the fallible.13 Love takes on this strange character in weakness of will. We see a piece of delicious cake, and may have shame and regret afterward, but still there is a clear idea of what cake is. Love is an even more opaque and ineffable source of Akratic action precisely because it cannot be an easy goal; there simply is no clear way to immediately judge what is a yearning for a higher love in the pursuit of a lower one. Love also requires selflessness for it to remain in a genuine character, and there is a fundamental difference between self love and love of the other; in other words, the selfish among us can only assert a façade of genuine love, either the criteria of genuine love that comes from monogamy to the other, or in the love of God in Augustine’s case.14

However, as Augustine points out, earthly love corrupts us in such a way as to impart a need for self-assertion and selfishness, whether love of the flesh or material wealth. The corrupting influence is so pervasive over time as to completely make one captured in its grip of worldly lust that we forget higher loves, such as God, and elevate the lower loves out of selfishness to the highest of good.15 It is important to note that in the initial view of Plato towards the question of actions that pursue lower loves at a cost to our moral and spiritual character is similar to Augustine. The moral intellectualist position of Plato states that appetitive and higher desires come from a rational calculus or measurement of pleasurable things, and that over time a state of wretchedness occurs when one’s rational capacity to aim for higher loves, such as the love of wisdom, is hindered by a repeated choice to go for base desires.16 There is something about lower loves that warp our moral and spiritual capacity to see the higher aims in such a way as to lead us into greater depths of depravity and short-sightedness, as evidenced by both Plato and Augustine.17

Another interesting assertion put forth by Augustine in regards to the pull of weak-willed actions would be his notion of moral responsibility, in particular the doctrinal view of consent to actions. One has to be of free will and make free actions in order to even begin to talk about such a notion of weak-willed action. Ignorance to Augustine does not explain away human wickedness or evil committed, and the consent of one’s Will is a prerequisite to one’s human actions. Consent, however, may be a lower form of free action, such as passive instances of consenting to the action of others; nonetheless to Augustine and other foundational Christian scholars, consent is of significant importance in what is considered to be moral responsibility in one’s actions committed. Thus, sinning is a voluntary action to Augustine as a result of free will.18 19 In a respectful interpersonal relationship, love can only grow out of mutual respect; a respect that requires consenting actions and self-restraint to be the dominant grounds for any well-meaning relationship. However, one can argue love and erotic desires often involve biological and unconscious forces that can negate the thesis of philosophers like Augustine claiming erotic desire is at the heart of weak-willed actions.

Augustine addresses this point when talking of virtue, and specifically virtue that wards off impulses from the lower loves, specifically rapacious sexual desire. Augustine, when faced with the life of Saint Paul had before the conversion, delves deeper into the pathology of human desire, specifically of a sexual nature. Despite the various biological forces faced when decisions of love and lust are being considered, Augustine expounds upon the Aristotelian doctrine of cultivation of virtues as a must for a life free of weak-willed pursuits. Cultivation implies an ongoing process of moral virtue, as to Augustine; only God can enjoy his own pleasure, hence human kind needs to derive pleasure from other objects and the other person. Augustine goes to lengths of establishing man’s lowest character in comparison to the perfection of God, the Heaven of Heavens as he calls it, and it is no wonder from this lower state that Akrasia is an inevitability of the human condition.20 Despite these humanly limitations, virtue can and must be cultivated. Human pathologies for Augustine are formed into such things (in reference to Paul) ineffectual knowledge of virtue or ignorance of virtue, and a lingering attachment to vice and temptation, especially of a sexual nature. Paul in particular, for Augustine, was prone to such weak-willed actions as hatred and sexual lust, and often regretted them as such, a sign of ineffectual control or loss of control altogether. However the higher self in Paul conflicted with the Akratic actions, thus giving room to freedom of choice, and by definition weak-willed action, from the very precariousness of Paul’s internal will in regards to his Akratic actions.21 Augustine shows a great struggle against the lower sexual desires that needs be overcome in the pursuit of a virtuous life. Love itself is a dynamic force that cannot be contained in the wholly negative or positive views in regards to ordinary Akratic actions, and, as a result, can serve manifold purposes, including lifting one out of Akrasia if appropriated in a proper manner, in essence being a large cause in the problem of lower loves, and the proposed solution as well.

The Struggle for Higher Loves in Plato.

It is evident that Platonic ideals have often struggled against the baser forms of human existence; despite moral intellectualism negating the possibility of Akratic actions, there still remains a sense of being corrupted by the longing for inconsequential pleasantries and corrupting loves for the body and for material wealth.22 In the Phædo there is this powerful sense of corrupting forces being rendered ineffectual by the cultivation and aim of wisdom, and to not be ruled by the passions in such a way as to alienate your soul further from the higher realm of the forms.23 In this work, the love of wisdom is also personified in the very feminine qualities, guiding the philosopher to a true life of eternal reflection and union with the forms, making love and intense desire an instrument for the good to do its workings on the ones who can serve the lady of philosophy.24 The soul for Plato (which is expressed more clearly in the Republic) is orientated towards the forms, and shifts accordingly when the love of wisdom is cultivated enough in the philosopher to rise above the ordinary constraints of mortal living and temptations of various sorts. Love is cast in a more positive and rewarding light then the baser loves, however Plato handles the question of eros or desire in a peculiar way.

The Symposium of Plato is the key dialogue on the role of love in Platonic philosophy. Socrates (acting in accordance with Plato as a literary device) gives the speech, not of his own workings, but those of the much esteemed woman philosopher Diotima. Before that, however, the speech by Aristophanes gives an interesting view on love that pertains to Akratic action. The ancient comedian claimed that man and woman were one at a time, sharing the same limbs and organs, until one day when Zeus split man and woman apart, thus love has been the compulsion within us ever since to find each other’s half, and complete the union once more.25 The Symposium is contested by scholars, but it is more than likely that Plato had an intention to put this metaphoric story within the Symposium as a statement on the fundamental character of love itself. There is a realization of the inherently spontaneous and seemingly irrational character of love that has captivated the minds of all since time immemorial, and is needed in some fundamental way to achieve a greater goal. However, in the consequence of the story, as in Augustine’s view, love is misappropriated to a more lower form. Thus directing love to higher aims harder to grasp, which distorts it by the attempt at finding love in the fallible other, rather than the eternal other of God or the forms. Thus the character of love is a nuanced one.

The purpose of the Symposium is showing how love, in its pull of desire, is the device by which lower desires and goals can be transmuted into higher ones. Love is made into desire by the Symposium, as Plato explains desire being an absence, or something referring to other than the self in a constant movement towards something. There is a sense of otherness in desire, something apart from your ontological position, and thus a profound lack is created by desire, therefore love is one of deficiency.26 This lack is the driving force for love in both Plato and Augustine, albeit for different aims, and partially the cause of why eros, or love in desire, is such a powerful force that it drives Akratic action when not appropriated properly — when the ideal love object is one that is against a better, higher judgment, either from reason or the pursuit of the Divine. For Diotima, lovers are not searching for their other halves, but instead are searching for the good. The form of beauty is the main aspect of the speech delivered by Socrates for Diotima, that contemplation and love of the beautiful things in life are a direct step towards the form of beauty itself, and given enough time, desire really constitutes steps on a latter towards beauty and eventually the good. Desire is now a vehicle of appreciating higher beauty and higher goods in the forms, and a reorientation away form mere ideation of beautiful things or appetitive desires and menial loves, so more profound learning’s of beauty in general, the form of beauty itself.27 Love now is an object that is worthy of veneration, as it is the instrument by which a lifting of lower appetitive love, and hence Akratic actions, can be transmuted into higher loves.

Beauty and the Good

Beauty is the ultimate object of love in the speech. However, the desire to be in possession of the good — as Diotima describes, man’s primary goal is to be happy, or achieve happiness. Love is a desire to have the good in possession permanently, as Diotima explains, we are man and woman alike, pregnant in body and soul, and want to beget at a certain age the Divine. But we can only beget the Divine in a proper medium, namely the beautiful. And in this is a process of the higher loves, first loving a body, then all bodies in commonality, until the loves are formed into pure beauty itself.28 Diotima explains happiness just is the possession of the good, and that the good is the object of love just as much as beauty. And since love is the lasting possession of the good, lovers naturally are trying to achieve a sense of immortality in their loving acts. And, going back to proximity of the loved object or person, the love of the body from a novice position must eventfully translate into this quest for immortality in loving all that is beautiful, and as a result of beautiful, the eventual love of the good.29 However, one can run into problems with this assertion of loving the beautiful as an expression of loving the good. The other can often mislead into the world of appetitive and weak-willed loved that one is trying to escape from, as those who are derailed on the ladder towards the good often find themselves trapped in the lower realms of love in perpetuity. There simply is no guarantee that love can incline everyone towards the higher goals of beauty and good itself, hence the uniqueness of love and the drive of desires when faced with the loved object. Also, the absoluteness of the good being expressed in every sense of love, as well, is a bit of a stretch, considering the complex intentionality when lovers meet that is involved. Loving the absoluteness of good implies loving particular things, and again there is no proper way to love the absolute without the right view, hence most instances of love being driven by love for its own sake, and not the higher absolutes.30 The problem of right intention is one that is intimately tied in with the love of the good, and with all forms of love in general. One may think they have the right intention when loving another person, but can really end up loving for the sake of a psychological need; or, instead of a profound lack for the good and the beautiful itself, which Diotima describes, one could feel this lack for other things besides the higher ones, hence the weak-willed actions stemming form love of particulars and not the absolutes in life. There can only be right orientation towards the higher loves, and along the way, as the complex and often contradictory nature of human existence and subjectivity coming form the other,31 we often stumble to appreciate the final goals of loving absolutes in particular acts of love. At best we can only excerpt a mental power and education of right intention, and know that loving the particular can and does often lead to negative and fallacious consequences.

The Struggle for Higher Loves in Augustine.

Augustine also had a strikingly similar assertion to the Symposium in regards to the higher loves. God is the creator of everything, and for God, evil cannot possibly exist as the absolute everything at the base of all existence. The light of God is what cast into being all things, and Augustine laments on his and everyone else’s inferior statues being made by this light. However, this is no cause to have a resentful attitude towards God, since the workings of love knows this truth of our weakness, and that love itself knows eternity in God and orientates itself towards the Divine.32 Love is in itself a vehicle towards the eternal, and in itself knows the truth of God, and the absoluteness of the Divine, despite love often misguiding us in pursuit of the very thing we desire as a higher love from a position of profound ignorance.33

The Madness of Love

Plato also has some interesting assertions made in the Phædrus. The love of the beautiful on earth was the truest thing to love beyond the beauty of heaven. However, in this clearest sense of the ultimate beauty, we are mistaken in loving the bodies of the beautiful here on earth. Love transforms into a madness of sorts, not the Divine madness for wisdom of the philosophers, but a misguided one. The soul gazes upon the beautiful and is filled with joy, but when separated from the idealized lover, then the soul and its “wings” begin to harden and resent its detachment, thus creating a madness for love, the irrational, impulsive nature of humanity when separated form the beloved.34 This is indicative of the Akratic nature of love. There are many colloquial expressions for this, like love sickness or love deprived. Love is something, which is fundamental to us as a species, on a biological level and a spiritual one. Love can often provoke us into doing things against our better judgments when separated form the bellowed, both in a corporeal and Divine sense.

Augustine also stated that real happiness is the one in which the pursuit of the absolute is in mind. Love is an expression of the Divine, and there is a great sense of longing in the mortal separation from God, as we inherently start out form a feeble position with a spark of the Divine, namely love, that dwells within and seeks to move closer to the source but can never reach it, thus crating a great anxiety and longing for the Divine.35 This can equally manifest in Akratic action when trying to reach the Divine, either by manifesting this hidden anxiety in loving of baser objects and lust, or by a dogmatic expression of religious intolerance or hatred, one that seeks love of god but rejects the other in an egotistical pursuit of the Divine. This faith is not the one indicative of a Godly love, as Augustine and Plato would both point out, the other is a necessary step towards the Divine, and the image of the absolute lays within the other in general as all of humanity dwells from the source.

In conclusion, love is a very powerful motivator and can reach the very highest of loves in our desire for them. But eros or erotic desire can have very lasting consequences when taken up by Akratic actions in a misguided sense of love. Love is a very complex form of weak-willed motivation in its ineffable character to motivate us for a manifold set of things, higher and lower, and thus cannot be grasped in the ordinary confines of weak-willed action, but instead reached by a view of right intention and appropriation of love as a Divine motivator. To quote the band Death: “Passion is a poison laced with pleasures bittersweet, one of many faces that hides deep beneath. It will take you in, and it will spit you out, behold the flesh, and the power it holds.”36 Love and passion has the ability to give into Akratic desires of lust and appetitive sexual longing, as well as the heavenly pleasures and joys in the other. Love is a form of weakness of will, but a complex and nuanced one with the qualifications of its transubstantive abilities: a powerful motivational tool for good, as well as for weakness and folly.

1. Holy Bible, New International Version. Biblica inc. 2011. []

2. Mele, Alfred, M. Backsliding: Understanding Weakness of Will. Oxford University Press, 2012. Pg. 14-15, 18-19, 33.

3. Ibid. Pg. 62-63.

4. Fromm, Erich. The Art of Loving. Harper And Row Inc. Perennial Classics, 1958. Pg. 31-33.

5. Mele. Backsliding. Pg. 68-70, 73.

6. Meinwald, Constance, C. Eros (Psychology and Philosophy). Encyclopedia Britannica. 2013. []

7. Pinker, Steven. Crazy Love. Time Magazine. Sept, 18, 2008. (From: How the Mind Works, W.W. Norton and Company, 1997.)

8. Tzu, Lao. The Tao Te Ching. Trans. D.C. Lau, Chinese University Press, 2001, Pg. 3.

9. Fromm. The Art of Loving. Pg. 55,109.

10. Mele. Backsliding. Pg.100-101.

11. Saint Augustine. Confessions. Oxford University Press, 1991. Pg. 35-37.

12. Wetzel, James. Weakness of Will From Plato to Present. Ed. Hofmann, Tobias. University of America Press, 2008. Pg. 78.

13. Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologica. Hayes Barton Press, 1952. Pg. 2379-2381.

14. Fromm. The Art of Loving. Pg. 56-57.

15. Augustine. Confessions. Pg. 29-30.

16. Plato. Protagoras. Trans. Taylor, C.C.W. Oxford University Press. 1996. Pg. 58-60.

17. Granted this is not a perfect comparison as Plato’s position evolves into a more nuanced view of moral intellectualism, which includes the tripartite soul in the Republic, in which good ordering wards off the possibility of appetitive takeover of the whole being. But, as Augustine was greatly influenced by Plato, it would be wise to see the parallels in their thoughts on love and worldly desires leading to Akrasia.

18. Saarinen, Risto. Weakness of Will in Medieval Thought: From Augustine to Buridan. E.J.Brill Publishing. 1994. Pg. 49, 152-155.

19. On a note, Augustine shares a similar Aristotelian view of incontinent actions driven by free and uncoerced actions; free will is a must for weakness of will, however, Aristotle did not have such a robust view on the nature of consent as Augustine, rather the Will is one of volition in freedom, and incontinence as a partial forgetting or back-of mind action that goes against better judgment. Both however view sexual desire as leading incontinent acts, which go against the virtues of temperance and self-restraint, such as in book VII of the Nicomachean ethics.

20. Augustine. Confessions. Pg. 138-139.

21. Wetzel. Weakness of Will. Pg. 60-63.

22. Moral intellectualism defined in the Platonic context as doing what is right by virtue of the faculty of reason and one’s ability to know the good in things and have right intention from the workings of reason. For Plato, this view holds that when one is given proper information about a certain goal, Akrasia is rendered impossible due to the fact that we will always do the right thing when given proper knowledge about baser goals. This evolving view in Plato carried on in the Phædo as a direct discussion of the soul’s state of imprisonment in the appetites of the body. This view carried on with early Christian scholars as well, most notably Aquinas; however, it is unclear as the extend of Augustine holding this moral intellectualist view, as God can only know perfect reason to Augustine, therefore humans have some measure of inferiority, in essence not paying as much credence to the classic Platonic view as opposed to other issues Augustine learned a great deal from by Plato.

23. Rouse, W.H.D. The Great Dialogues of Plato. Signet Classics Printing, 1999. Pg. 562-563.

24. Ibid. Pg. 581.

25. Ibid. 91-93.

26. Shindler, D.C. Plato and The Problem of Love: On the Nature of Eros in The Symposium. Apiron. Vol 40, No.3, September, 2007. Pg. 206-207.

27. Rouse, W.H.D. The Great Dialogues of Plato. Signet Classics Printing, 1999. Pg. 114-116.

28. White, F.C. Love and Beauty in Plato’s Symposium. Journal of Hellenistic Studies, Vol. 109. 1989. Pg. 150-151.

29. White, F.C. Love and Beauty in Plato’s Symposium. Journal of Hellenistic Studies, Vol. 109. 1989. Pg. 154-155.

30. Shindler. Plato and The Problem of Love. Pg. 217-218.

31. In an existential sense, as Aristotle claims, man is a social animal, and needs the love and affection of others to truly flourish in society and among other humans in interpersonal relationships. However, these contact and love of the other can rob our subjectivity just as much as give develop it for us in the first place, by denying us our sense of self and destroying the very foundations of our subjectivity by treating us merely as an object (see The Divided Self by R.D. Laing, Harper Collins, 1960).

32. Augustine. Confessions. Pg. 122-123.

33. Kierkegaard also had a similar view from a Christian existential vantage. Love that dwells within us for Him is an expression of the Divine, and when we love we are getting a greater glimpse into the timelessness of God. Love to Kierkegaard is the most powerful force on earth that was implanted in us by God to realize the Divine, a view that Saint Augustine would more then likely agree with, as Kierkegaard was fond of the Confessions (Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love. Princton University Press, 1997. Chap. VIII).

34. Plato. The Phædrus. Trans. Waterfield, Robin. Oxford University Press. Nov, 14, 2002. Sec. 249d-254e.

35. Augustine. Confessions. Oxford University Press, 1991. Pg. 196-197.

36. Shuldiner, Chuck. “Flesh and The Power It Holds.” Band: Death. The Sound of Perseverance. Nuclear Blast/Relapse Eecords. August 31, 1998.

Header image: Exotica Abstract by Giovanni Pennacchietti. []

Gio Pennacchietti

Gio Pennacchietti is a Writer, impressionist painter, Jungian Traditionalist and philosophy/political science grad in the world's first post-national country. they say the personal is the political, i say instead: "the spiritual is the political". My blog: my art page: contact me on twitter:

2 thoughts on “The Heart Collector: Love as Akrasia in Augustine & Plato

  1. A very informative article on love, but it reads as though you have never loved. Have you ever wanted to destroy yourself and the world for the woman you love, have you felt the agony of unrequited love?

    When you write “love can incapacitate us”, rather than “love incapacitates me” it gives me the impression that you haven’t teetered on the heights of despair and wallowed in the pits of longing. But you remind me of a young 1980s Nick Land, in his ‘Kant, Capital, and the Prohibition of Incest’ phase, excellent academic essay — Keep it up!

    1. thank you Alexander for your kind words about my articles. i will be writing some perhaps, less academic articles in the future. i appreciate you taking me to be a young nick land, i take it to be a very high compliment! i got hip to his work from a friend of mine in my program a long while ago. and might i add you are a keen observer. i have never felt the depths of love yet (being in my early 20s, in Canada, needless to say my options are slim in terms of women to have a stable relationship with, as you can imagine!), so rereading my work, it does come off as having an air of cold detachment. thank you again, Gio.

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