Wednesday, June 21, 2017
--- Notes on love ---
Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Again, I must sternly remind the reader that "love" at a very base level, is, in fact, a four letter word. Much confusion with the problems of love arises from the fact that we are quite free to define the word as we wish and we are quite free to forget that the word is not the thing. That makes the thing much more flexible than it should be.
Several writers (such as C. S Lewis in "The Four Loves") have made much of the idea that the Greeks had multiple words for "love". Lewis' "four loves" were storge (affection), philia (friendship), eros (erotic love), and agape (unconditional love).
I beg to differ. In point of fact, the Greeks had four loves for four different things and English speaking people just happened to translate them all into the word "love" - an unfortunate happenstance.
Because the three words, storge, philia, and eros acceptably stand in for three kinds of affection, that is, liking. They are emotions. Agape is not a related category. It is not an emotion but an intention. I would define agape as the intention that an other have a good life and that you are part of the reason that life is good.
So, since storge, philia, and eros are in the same category of "affection", and agape is not, I propose that the term "love" be reserved for agape, only. That would straighten out a lot of the confusion.
For instance, it would eliminate the phrase that makes me cringe every time - "No one should be able to tell me who I can love." That phrase horribly confuses sex and love, for, obviously, sex is not, by any stretch of the imagination, love.
People who love each other sometimes engage in sexual activity as a form of intimate entertainment, it is true, but so do rapists, who almost never have love in mind when perpetrating their crime. Then, there is a panoply of casual connections that could be called "sex" that would never be construed as "love".
The way we use language does make a difference and such discombobulations can only lead to problems.