I have studied the whole history of philosophy and never found any reference to love. Philosophers have debated on everything, even the angels dancing on a pin, is there really no attempt to define, discuss and analyze this subject?

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    See Plato on Love. Plato discusses love (erôs) and friendship (philia) primarily in two dialogues, the Lysis and the Symposium, though the Phaedrus also adds significantly to his views. Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 11:26
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    See also *SEP+'s entry on Love. Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 11:32
  • My first thought was Plato, which Mauro has already mentioned. My second was a little book of Badiou's whose English title is "In Praise of Love".
    – M. le Fou
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 12:28
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    I'm baffled as to how you managed to study the WHOLE history of philosophy and never came across even the obvious contenders like Plato's numerous discussions of it, Augustine, Kierkegaard for God's sake, Bertrand Russell, Sartre (who has a whole section on it in his book Being and Nothingnesss), de Beauvior, Schopenhauer... Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 16:16
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    Read Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu by Rupa Goswami. It is an ontological analysis of bhakti. The book is divided into four "oceans" [of love] or parts. Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 19:18

3 Answers 3


For a wide historical conspectus you could check out Irving Singer:

The Nature of Love Volume 1: Plato to Luther (1984) ISBN 978-0262512725 The Nature of Love Volume 2: Courtly and Romantic (1984) ISBN 9780262512732 The Nature of Love Volume 3: The Modern World (1987) ISBN 978-0262512749

Names out of philosophy's historical hat:

Augustine ('Love, and do what you will' - Dilige et quod vis fac), Thomas Aquinas, Marsilio Ficino, Freud (honorary philosopher), and Max Scheler. More recent work includes:

Armstrong, John, The Conditions of Love: The Philosophy of Intimacy, Penguin: 2002. ISBN 10: 0713994738 / ISBN 13: 9780713994735.

May, Simon, Love: A History. Published by Yale University Press 10/05/2011, 2011. ISBN 10: 0300118309 / ISBN 13: 9780300118308.

May is more difficult that Armstrong but both are philosophers, not historians. An older book which still retains a good deal of value is:

Nygren, A., Eros and Agape, 2 vols, 1932. I should also mention:

Lewis, C.S., The Four Loves, Published by HarperCollins, 2002. ISBN 10: 0006280897 / ISBN 13: 9780006280897.

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    Glad you mentioned Scheler, he's solemnly acknowledged for his work on emotions. I think he and Nicolai Hartmann did write the most extensive analyses of love up to their time (early 20th century).
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Oct 26, 2019 at 13:32

Empedocles wrote that there are six basic realities of the cosmos; each a genuine being in the Parmenidean sense. The four roots, as Empedocles referred to them: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water (later called elements by Aristotle), and two forces, Love and Strife. The roots are mixed and separated by Love and Strife to produce the world that we sense.

For example, from the Strasbourg papyrus (recently identified as the work of Empedocles):

I will tell a double story. For at one time they grew to be only one out of many,

but at another they grew apart to be many out of one:

fire and water and earth and the immense height of air,

and deadly Strife apart from them, equal in all directions

and Love among them, equal in length and breadth.

Behold her with your mind, and do not sit with your eyes staring in amazement,

She is also recognised as innate in mortal limbs.

Through her they have kindly thoughts and do peaceful deeds...


Of course! Where do you think the word "Platonic" comes from? Platonic love is named after Plato, who wrote extensively on the topic, as have, of course, many philosophers since.

Philosophers have examined every major topic they could think of -- that's what they do. Philosophy about Instagram is obviously still very young, but you'd have to try pretty hard to find a topic no philosopher has examined, discussed, or written a book about.

  • Plato did not discuss Love, in greek agape, he discussed two related concepts of 'eros' and 'philia' that is liking, being fond of, friendship,which is not love, even if he or you may arbitrarily call it platonic love
    – user157860
    Commented Oct 26, 2019 at 8:35
  • Those are both translated as "love" in plenty of contexts today. Heck, look up etymologies for the word "Philosophy" -- most of them define it as "love of wisdom."
    – Daniel
    Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 12:15
  • What they are translated today or yesterday is irrelevant, the etymon is philia, not agape. love is an abused term in English, that is a serious handicap.Many languages, like Slovak and Slavic languages, Italian etc have three different words for the English term
    – user157860
    Commented Oct 27, 2019 at 12:37
  • "What the word means is not relevant, only what some obscure student of ancient greek etymology who I refuse to cite says about what the word means is relevant." OP used the English word. If it has too broad a meaning to satisfy your weird perspective on ancient greek and arbitrary desire to limit the meaning of the English word, too bad. The answer is entirely accurate and relevant as is.
    – Daniel
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 14:20
  • Before you define my perspective as weird you should study a bit more. And you should broaden your knowledge/perspective on the English language , too. In London any shop-assistant will call you love. Would you discuss that as a possible meaning of my question?If I wanted to discuss philia = friendship I'd have used that English word. You are surely not the most qualified person to judge your own answer. I do not intend to continue this idle discussion
    – user157860
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 14:30

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