Love: Emotion, Myth, and Metaphor
By ROBERT C. SOLOMON
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.