Saturday Symposium: On Eros and Agape

Hello everyone! It’s hard to believe that it’s already Saturday. Lindsey was traveling last week, which has slowed down our email responses a bit. Thanks for your patience while we get back to you!

Now it’s time for today’s Saturday Symposium question:

How this works: It’s very simple. We ask a multi-part question related to a topic we’ve blogged about during the past week or are considering blogging about in the near future, and you, our readers, share your responses in the comments section. Feel free to be open, reflective, and vulnerable…and to challenge us. But as always, be mindful of the comment policy that ends each of our posts. Usually, we respond fairly quickly to each comment, but in order to give you time to think, come back, add more later if you want, and discuss with other readers, we will wait until after Monday to respond to comments on Saturday Symposium questions.

This week’s Saturday Symposium question: This week’s question comes to us from a conversation between two readers. Our friend Dan wrote a fantastic guest post called Erotic Eucharist: Nurturing Deep Attraction Between Friends. We want to invite you to participate in a conversation between Dan and Evan discussing the following questions: What is the role of eros in friendships? How do we experience embodied intimacy within friendship? Is it beneficial to distinguish between eros and agape? What distinguishes eros from agape? Is philia distinct from eros? Is it important to draw clear lines to divide philia, eros, and agape?

We look forward to reading your responses. If you’re concerned about having your comment publicly associated with your name, please consider using the Contact Us page to submit your comment. We can post it under a pseudonym (i.e. John says, “your comment”) or summarize your comment in our own words (i.e. One person observed…). Participating in this kind of public dialogue can be risky, and we want to do what we can to protect you even if that means we preserve your anonymity. Have a wonderful weekend!


Sarah and Lindsey

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6 thoughts on “Saturday Symposium: On Eros and Agape

  1. The Dialogue of Catherine of Siena (a revelation by God to the mystic) defined the 3 types of love, namely:
    1) servile love – obedience due to fear of punishment
    (A 5-yr old child: I will obey my father because I don’t want to be punished.)
    (I will obey my spouse because I don’t want him/her to leave me.)
    2) mercenary love – obedience due to expectation of reward
    (A 16-yr old child: I will obey my father because he will give me a reward.)
    (I will obey my spouse because he/she gives me joy and comfort.)
    3) filial (perfect) love – obedience in order to please the one loved (often out of gratitude)
    (A grateful 35-yr old son: I will obey my father because I want him to be happy.)
    (I will obey my spouse because I want him/her to be happy.)

    Obedience here implies to do something for a loved one for the loved one’s benefit or happiness.

    Eros – loving someone because of the pleasure he/she derives from the one that is loved. (I love her because she gives me pleasure – physical (eg, sexual), psychological, and emotional); Eros is mercenary in nature. Eros often requires the one loved to return love to the lover (requited love). Eros triggers that natural inclination to associate with someone who can give pleasure, joy, comfort, etc. Friendships initially start this way.

    Philia (filial) – love without the sexual desire, ie love among family members; often love is not required to be requited (unrequited love of a mother to an ungrateful child)

    Agape – is perfect love or totally disinterested love (ie, love without expectation of any return); a love without any reason. (I simply love you. No reason at all.)

    A married couple normally go through the these stages of love over the years: from eros to filial to agape. A child’s love for its parents: from servile to mercenary to filial.

    For a soul in heaven, it derives indescribable joy (pleasure, rest, peace, etc.) in seeing God and gets a feeling of gratitude so great that he cannot do anything but love God – here eros, filia, and agape converge.

    God’s love is the true agape (perfectly disinterested love). God neither loves us because of the pleasure He gets from us nor out of gratitude for our goodness and obedience. He loves us simply because He is Love – that is God’s nature.

    • Thanks for sharing from the Dialogue. It highlights the ways different motivations can compel us to love.

  2. It’s been an insanely busy week and I haven’t had time to comment, but I’ve been reading. Dan, I thoroughly enjoyed your post!

    Is it important to draw clear lines to divide philia, eros, and agape?

    Honestly, I’m not sure that’s even possible. It’s been awhile since I read Lewis’ The Four Loves, but I remember gathering the impression–whether from Lewis or my own head in taking in the ideas–that various loves tend to overlap and blend and merge together. Perhaps some people experience a clearer switch between the different kinds of love, but… well, for instance, affection within friendship tends to have romantic qualities for me. That doesn’t usually carry sexual overtones, but on the occasions when it does, I’ve found the work of sublimating eros to agape to be both difficult and rewarding. Regardless of orientation, relationship status, or religious or moral principles, it seems like that sublimation is an important life skill that could stand to be emphasized over “Just find a way to never see that person again,” which is too commonly taught, in some circles at least, as the only right way to handle an attraction you shouldn’t act on.

    • Thanks for the observation that for Lewis, these loves likely overlapped. We’re glad to see you in the comments!

  3. My understanding is that storge is parent child and other family love and that philia is properly friendship between equals (which can happen between adult parent-child or siblings, etc.)

    • Thanks for naming the fourth kind of love named by Lewis in the Four Loves. We’re glad you’re reading.

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