The Nature of Love: Eros, Philia, and Agape

English: A small plate with a serving of mashe...

English: A small plate with a serving of mashed potatoes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is an interesting discussion evolving in the comments thread under the “Ten Tips…” post.

Love is a problem. But ‘love‘ is really a problem. It has always been a problem in English! The problem? The word is riddled with ambiguity. We use the one word in English in many different senses. A good review is to be found here.

In ordinary conversations, we often say things like the following:

I love chocolate (or skiing). [or mashed potatoes]
I love doing philosophy (or being a father).
I love my dog (or cat).
I love my wife (or mother or child or friend).

However, what is meant by ‘love’ differs from case to case. (1) may be understood as meaning merely that I like this thing or activity very much. In (2) the implication is typically that I find engaging in a certain activity or being a certain kind of person to be a part of my identity and so what makes my life worth living; I might just as well say that I value these. By contrast, (3) and (4) seem to indicate a mode of concern that cannot be neatly assimilated to anything else. Thus, we might understand the sort of love at issue in (4) to be, roughly, a matter of caring about another person as the person she is, for her own sake. (Accordingly, (3) may be understood as a kind of deficient mode of the sort of love we typically reserve for persons.) Philosophical accounts of love have focused primarily on the sort of personal love at issue in (4); such personal love will be the focus here.

And more in an excellent overview here.

Don’t you just love it when a good discussion starts!!

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11 thoughts on “The Nature of Love: Eros, Philia, and Agape

  1. Sadly the links to most of the Kenneth Burke material no longer work, Bob. As I remember you studied with him once upon a time, yes? The slide show is interesting and thanks for keeping the conversation about love and ‘love’ going. (see, I understand the use/mention distinction) 🙂

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  2. Kenneth Burke’s definition of human:
    Being bodies that learn language
    thereby becoming wordlings
    humans are
    the symbol-making, symbol-using, symbol-misusing animal
    inventor of the negative
    separated from our natural condition
    by instruments of our own making
    goaded by the spirit of hierarchy
    acquiring foreknowledge of death
    and rotten with perfection.

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  3. Pingback: Eros and philosophy | How my heart speaks

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