In Plato’s dialogue Phaedrus, the protagonists are Socrates and Phaedrus, who are participating in a conversation about the perspectives of various philosophers. The question about beauty is asked in relationship to the proper behavior of a lover, which was addressed in a speech given by Lysias that Phaedrus heard earlier in the day. Lysias himself is not present in the dialogue; rather, his position is provided by Phaedrus. The basic position is that love is such a dangerous passion that a genuine lover should become involved with someone whom they do not actually love so that they can protect the true beloved.
The relationship between beauty and love is raised by Socrates, who counters Lysias’s claim. Socrates offers the position that love is an irrational sensation which consists primarily of desire based on the lover’s reaction to physical beauty. Although it initially seems that he uses this idea as the basis for an argument that supports Lysias (as reported by Phaedrus), he later reveals that he holds the opposite opinion. Instead, he claims that love is a positive type of irrationality or madness.