XENOPHON ON ЕRŌS AND PHILIA
Although it might seem, at first glance, that erōs and philia present purely ethical questions, based on Xenophon’s statements it is inferred that he does not distinguish between social and political relations. Consequently, Xenophon’s notions of erōs and philia are relevant for understanding his political views.
Although the influence of other Socratics on Xenophon cannot be denied, numerous parallels between him and Plato in their views on erōs are especially important for this study. These parallels, as well as the analysis of the Symposium and the Memorabilia of Socrates, show that Xenophon did not advocate the middle way, according to which physical consummation is tempered with respect for the beloved, soul and body. Though Xenophon does not use Plato’s metaphor of the winged chariot, at the same time he believes that erōs that overwhelms people is often hesitating over its two extremes, between which there is an ongoing battle over the soul of the lover. The main difference is that while in Plato the “heavenly” side of erōs leads to recognition of the eternal ideas and philosophical life through moral self-improvement, in Xenophon the “celestial” erōs leads to political engagement and concern for the welfare of the polis through moral perfecting and philia.
The Memorabilia of Socrates shows that Xenophon gave special attention to philia and understood it in a very broad sense. In that way Xenophon reveals that he is best familiar with the traditional view on philia and that he rejects the democratic dichotomy public – personal, i.e. polis – oikos. While demos desired to marginalise the influence of philia on public life, Xenophon’s view is that philia is not a threat to public welfare, but a basis for successful political life.