It has been said that all of philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato. Could we same the same about the homosexuality and same-sex marriage debate? You may ask, “What in the world does Plato have to do with homosexuality?” The answer may surprise you.
In his work Symposium, Plato explores an alternative explanation for the origin of mankind and gender. Rather than the normal assessment that mankind was created with two genders—male and female—Plato suggests a three-gender origin (male-male, female-female, and male-female) that explains both heterosexual and homosexual orientations. He writes:
In the first place, let me treat of the nature of man and what has happened to it; for the original human nature was not like the present, but different. The sexes were not two as they are now, but originally three in number; there was man, woman, and the union of the two, having a name corresponding to this double nature, which had once a real existence, but is now lost, and the word “Androgynous” is only preserved as a term of reproach.
Plato describes these humans as “terrible” in might and strength. These humans were two-sided (two faces, two sets of legs and arms, etc). After they waged a war against the gods, Zeus decided to humble mankind by cutting them in half. This effectively reduced mankind to the two genders we know today, but according to Plato, mankind longed for his original state. He states:
Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, is but the indenture of a man, and he is always looking for his other half. Men who are a section of that double nature which was once called Androgynous are lovers of women; adulterers are generally of this breed, and also adulterous women who lust after men: the women who are a section of the woman do not care for men, but have female attachments; the female companions are of this sort. But they who are a section of the male follow the male. . . . And when one of them meets with his other half, the actual half of himself, whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other’s sight, as I may say, even for a moment: these are the people who pass their whole lives together; yet they could not explain what they desire of one another.
Here in Plato’s Symposium, we see the origin of the idea of “soul-mates” which forms the basis for much of the argument promoting homosexuality. For example, proponents of same-sex marriage argue that it is unjust to deny marriage to individuals who love each other. They claim these homosexual relationships are as intimate as heterosexual relationships and should be legalized. However, such an argument is based not on science or tradition, but instead it is based on Plato’s concept of soul-mates. According to Plato, when two halves meet and recognize the unexplainable love they have for one another, they have no choice but to spend their whole lives together. Based on this logic, proponents of same-sex marriage claim it is against nature to deny marriage to such soul-mates.
No one today would agree with Plato’s “science” claiming that Zeus cut mankind in half and that we search the earth trying to find our soul-mate. However, this is basically the substance of the “I was born this way” argument. Proponents of homosexuality make a claim based on self-identified sexual preference and argue for rights of matrimony for individuals incapable of biologically reproducing themselves. They are merely two soul-mates professing undying love for one another.
When this argument moves into the scientific realm, many supporters of homosexuality propose that genetics are at work—they were born this way. However, this is illogical because it makes an emotional claim as the basis for a scientific declaration. Jumping from “I love this person” to “I was born this way” or “God made me this way” is a leap from emotions to science. However, science is never based on emotions.
Ultimately, this argument demonstrates the dichotomy between the Christian argument and the pagan argument regarding sexuality. In fact, those proponents of homosexuality who attempt to reinterpret Paul’s statements in Romans 1:26–27 regarding the “natural function” of men and women must also deny Plato’s influence on Roman culture regarding this issue. Paul was almost certainly aware of the discussion of sexual orientation from the ancient world’s most influential philosopher.
It is important to interact with the arguments of the homosexual agenda on many different levels. Not all will be swayed by a biblical argument. For some, philosophical discussions similar to the one above may prove more convincing. In either case, we need to be faithful to proclaim the truth and address this pressing issue in our culture.
Plato, Symposium, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Internet Classics Archive, http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/symposium.html.
*I would like to thank a wonderful friend and mentor for his guidance on this particular argument. Although he remains unnamed, his influence and words are present in this article. Thanks.