‘Love is blind’ is an anonymous proverb which, according to The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, stems from the 14th century. Easy enough, right? Well, not quite. Let us consider Plato; he wrote: “The lover is blinded about the beloved, and prefers his own interests to truth and right.” (Laws 731e); that’s the Benjamin Jowett translation. However, the Greek is ambivalent. Trevor Saunders, whose translation is in the Hackett Complete Works, has Plato’s comment on blind love referring explicitly to the dangers of self-love. So perhaps the 14th century anonymous proverb is a generalization of Plato, if not a mere footnote. Let us see the original. I defer to Sounders’ translation for the sake of time.
[731e] It is the evil indicated in the saying that every man is by nature a lover of self, and that it is right that he should be such. But the truth is that the cause of all sins in every case lies in the person’s excessive love of self. For the lover is blind in his view of the object loved, so that he is a bad judge of things just and good and noble, in that he deems himself [732a] bound always to value what is his own more than what is true; for the man who is to attain the title of “Great” must be devoted neither to himself nor to his own belongings, but to things just, whether they happen to be actions of his own or rather those of another man. And it is from this same sin that every man has derived the further notion that his own folly is wisdom; whence it comes about that though we know practically nothing, we fancy that we know everything; and since we will not entrust to others the doing of things we do not understand, [732b] we necessarily go wrong in doing them ourselves. Wherefore every man must shun excessive self-love, and ever follow after him that is better than himself, allowing no shame to prevent him from so doing. Plato, Laws (731e-732b)
Plato condemns φιλια (bonding love – more like friendship) because it blinds; especially narcissistic love. Why? A friend is another self, according to Aristotle, and if we love our friend it is only out of love for our own narcissistic constructions. Narcissism drowns us all in the end. However, on the other hand, true love teaches us to grow by looking upon another person who is greater than ourselves, allowing us to become greater still. True love (‘agape’ in ancient Greece) is the putting aside of one’s own conscience and needs to favor that of another. We make our universe about the other person, and that person makes their universe about us. We create synergy, and we have love. True Love, thus, is not blind to the faults of someone else, but rather accepts them as part of that someone, making even their flaws strengths which we learn to come to appreciate, making our lives together all the more beneficial.
Love then, friends, and open your eyes to the faults of your lover; for in making yourselves blind to them, you only exacerbate them. Love of self may be blind, but true love is all-seeing.