In the Symposium, Socrates recounts what his teacher, Diotima, taught him about love. In her speech she indicates a relationship between the act of loving and the act of creation, or, as she says, of poetry. We all, she says, love or desire good things. Yet we only call certain people lovers. By the same token, in the Greek, the word for poetry encompasses all acts of creation, yet we only call certain people poets. In each instance, we take a part as if it were the whole. In this way we are like the lover who upon first seeing the object of her desire attributes to her all good qualities. She is is the most beautiful and the best. While objectively speaking this is not true, this is the poetry of love. It perceives what is good and beautiful in another and magnifies it to such proportions that we are struck by wonder. In this way the activity of love is like poetry. It creates by means of the beauty of one’s beloved an image of the Beautiful itself.
However, if this were the end of love, we would surely be disappointed. For it would not be long before we would realize that the person we love is not whole of beauty, but a part, a significant part part, no doubt, but not complete in and of herself. This, however, turns out to be part of the beauty of love. We are each insufficient and so in need of one another. Our own limited goodness can be augmented by the love of another. This is love’s second sonnet. Having seen the possibility of absolute beauty and goodness in our beloved, recognizing this as the end of their happiness, we seek to encourage its development with them. To love someone, or to will thier good, is to encourage them to become more beautiful, morally better.