The Ladder Of Love

The Ladder Of Love

10th April 2014

When we think of ladders, we usually think of domestic step ladders or industrial ladders that are used to gain access to hard to reach places.  However, the word ladder is often used in a more abstract manner, such as the property ladder, the career ladder and now, the ladder of love.

Back through the mists of time to at least 500 BC the philosopher Plato wrote about ‘The ladder of Love’. His inspiration or guide for this quintessential piece of work was the goddess Diotima and how she thought and felt about Love. Not love of objects or ideas but the love of individuals, true love as we say today.  You could say that this would be the love of loves, the absolute love.

Ascent Safety Ladders - Plato‘The Ladder of Love’ was described by Plato and these days his efforts are considered to be flawed because he espoused that to reach the next rung of the ladder of love we must leave behind all that we have learnt and felt before. These days philosophers believe that all knowledge gleaned in the past can be retained and used again for the future appreciation of whatever subject we choose to study.

The Ladder of Love has recurred consistently throughout history right up until modern times in both art and literature. In the 1950’s and 1970’s the most notable examples would have been the appearance of ‘The Ladder of Love’ in popular music as in the Eddie Cochrane 1960 song (that was covered by seventies glam band Showaddywaddy) entitled ‘Three Steps to Heaven’. Obviously, it would be a tall order for a mere ‘Pop’ band to reproduce the teachings of one of the world’s all time greatest philosophers in a few verses of a song which is written in the lowest common denominator to appeal to the widest possible audience.

The Ladder of love by Plato is not deeply moving or even in reality a guide to us mere mortals about how to conduct our own failing love lives but it makes for an interesting read.  Plato presents the acquisition of knowledge as a lover, someone who loves and love as a desire for something that one does not have.  According to this ladder model, a love progresses from rung to rung from the basest love to the pure form of love in the following manner:

  • A beautiful body – this is where the lover begins
  • All beautiful bodies – the lover realises that the beauty contained in the beautiful body is not original but is shared by all beautiful bodies.
  • Beautiful souls – the lover progresses and transfers his love to the soul.
  • The beauty of laws and institutions – the logical next step is to love all beautiful souls and then transfer that love the moderate, harmonious and just social order that is responsible for them.
  • The beauty of knowledge – the lover transfers love to the knowledge which produces good social institutions
  • Beauty itself – this level of love is the ‘wondrous vision’ that is the essence of beauty itself.

A quick Google search will give you all the leads you need to check out Plato’s Ladder of Love – it’s an enjoyable experience that will provide food for thought.