Plato’s Sneer: Love And Desire As You Please, So Long As You Love And Desire Those Like Me

Posted on October 15, 2009


I’ve seen it time and again and it has happened to me. A platonic female friend sneers, “that’s who you find attractive, that’s what you find attractive in a girl / woman.” It took me a long time to realize that the sneer should be translated as, “she is not like me.”

It took me a long time to figure this out, I think, because I have always taken for granted i) that I can have platonic female friends, ii) that friendship and pair-bonding are two very different relationships, iii) and that the kind of person I value for each kind of relationship can be very different.

So, it makes perfect sense to me that I may admire and / or desire two completely different sets of characteristic in a woman, depending on whether or not she is my friend or a romantic partner. Moreover, on my view, the characteristics I admire in a mate are not necessarily the characteristics I most value in all women and they are certainly not the characteristics I think all women should always exhibit.

And still, there is that sneer, which seems to say, “she’s not like me.”

The only way I can make sense of this sneer is to suppose that she who sneers in this fashion believes that when a man desires a woman as a mate he makes a claim about how all women should be and what characteristics he most values in all women. If this supposition is correct, it baffles me.

So, I’ve got two questions.

1) Is this a gender issue or do guys also think that when a woman desires a man as as mate she is making a claim about how all men should be and what characteristics all men should exhibit?

2) Do you consider the set of characteristics you associate with your mate to be the set of characteristics you most value for his or her gender in all circumstances? Is your mate the standard by which all others in his or her gender are to be judged? Should our mates act as this standard?

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