Sunday Sermon: LOVE


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

Also a review of “UNDERSTANDING LOVE” here.

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:

1. I love chocolate (or skiing). [or mashed potatoes]
2. I love doing philosophy (or being a father).
3. I love my dog (or cat).
4. 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.


Wisdom: Walt Whitman


“This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men — go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers of families — re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face, and between the lashes of your eyes, and in every motion and joint of your body.”

— Walt Whitman, preface to Leaves of Grass


Love: Emotion, Myth, and Metaphor   Love: Emotion, Myth and Metaphor
Prometheus Books, 1990. 347 pp.

In this reprint of a 1981 Anchor/Doubleday book, Prometheus has brought us an inexpensive yet attractive edition of’ Solomon’s discussion of love: romantic love, silly love, committed love, enduring love, phony love, and more. First of all, this is a readable book. Do not be put off by the fact that Professor Solomon has written widely on the existentialists, or is also well known for his introductory texts in philosophy — Love is a pleasure to read. You will find no technical vocabulary to wrestle with and no bloated prose. It is also fun to read.
The book is rich with examples from psychology, literature, films, personal experience, and is given form by a continued and systematic argument that identifies love as one of many emotions we experience in a complex way which is finally not irrational but
decidedly rational. “My purpose in this book,” he writes, “is precisely to separate the passion from the illusions, to explode the myth without in any way demeaning or denying the importance of the emotion.” To talk about love in this way requires a discussion of
emotions, and Solomon, drawing on his earlier book, The Passions, provides us with the necessary theoretical groundwork. “Our emotions are neither primitive nor ‘natural,’ but rather intelligent constructions, structured by concepts and judgments that we learn in a particular culture, through which we give our experience some shape and meaning.”
Drawing on the work of John Austin, Solomon gives us an analysis of how the simple sentence “1-love-you” functions as a speech act in our culture. “I- love-you” is not a “description or confession of feelings already felt but the creation of an emotion, a work
of conceptual art, the shared fabrication of an experience.” In short “I-love-you” is a performative and not a descriptive act.
Here are a number of “love is . . . ” sentences from the book which will give you a flavour of the work:
– Love is an emotion, just an ordinary, non-cosmic luxurious but not essential emotion.
– Love is more a process than a single scenario.
– Love is a development, a matter of mutual creation.
– Love is an emotion through which we create for ourselves a little world — the loveworld, in which we play the roles of lovers and, quite literally, create our selves as well.
– Love is a decision.
– Love is a process, a dialectic, a movement.., toward a shared identity, the creation of a shared self.
Solomon’s book is worth reading. It is solid without being stolid; personal but not confessional, philosophical and thoughtful, but certainly not a “self help” quickie.
People from teen-agers to golden-agers can learn from this book.