The Ageing of Love: The Waning of Love’s Power

  • Danijela KambaskovicEmail author
Part of the Studies in the History of Philosophy of Mind book series (SHPM, volume 15)


Plato considered love madness to be an altered state of mind: enthousiasmos is a divine breath of inspiration, the union of pain and growth, fundamental to human erotic and creative capacities. Over time, the philosophical importance of this notion has been gradually eroded. An examination of poetic, philosophical, scientific and theological writings of the medieval and early modern period suggests that several cultural processes contributed to the changes in the philosophical valence (and respectability) of love-madness. Under the influence of Christian writers, (male) thinkers were taught to seek inspiration in ideal, sexless (yet female) individuals and in the sublimation of their erotic feelings, and to devalue both (female) sources of inspiration and its erotic underpinnings, connected with sin. Moreover, emergent medical and theological writings represent love as a danger to (male) sanity and salvation, and a growing ambivalence can be observed towards altered states of mind, which are perceived to be incompatible with the Renaissance notions of ideal masculinity. This article includes an apology for enthousiasmos in its classical meaning of the link creative and erotic arousal, and the importance of the process for philosophical enquiry.


Plato’s philosophy of love Neoplatonism Christian thought on love and sexuality Love madness Cultural history of love History of love and courtship Love and gender Love in philosophy Love and the history of medicine 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia

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