A Philosophy of Love

Having wished to write a post on the essential consequence of the Axiomatic Law of Universal Congruity for quite a while now, I finally realised that I cannot present the argument I wish to without first posting a brief philosophy of love.  That being said, please realise that this is a philosophy of love, and hence, if you have come here in search of advice on how to pick up members of the opposite sex, you have “landed in the wrong place,” so to speak.  Anyway, here’s the post:

Immanuel Kant begins his argument in A Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals with a beautiful premise.  After discussing the importance of using “pure philosophy” (as opposed to more inductive, or empirically based, methods of reasoning), he writes this powerful sentence: “It is impossible to conceive of anything at all in the world, or even out of it, which can be taken as good without qualification, except a goodwill” (Kant i – xiii and 1).  Among the many implications we can draw from this premise is one concerning the substantiality with which Kant regarded the human will.  For Kant, man’s will is the very thing that defines him; it’s what allows us to call a person “bad” or “good” without reference to any exterior systems.  A will is, if you would allow me to embellish the concept, the thick, molasses-like substance of a human being.  Indeed, in Christian theology, the words “will,” “soul,” “spirit,” and “heart” are often used interchangeably.  Therefore, those things in life which relate to a person’s will, relate to the most intimate part of him or her†.

One may, of course, believe otherwise.  There is nothing that rationally necessitates the supremacy of the will in human identity, it’s all just a matter of how one defines a human.  Is a human perhaps a living creature with twenty-three chromosomes?  Or maybe a rational being that lives on earth?  However, any such metaphysical questions seem of little value to my argument at present, and therefore, I simply ask that any objection you might have with the above assertion be regarded as a misunderstanding of my usage of the term “human” within this thread of posts, for I will use the word to mean, essentially, a free will.  One is free to believe that a “human” in the sense that I use the word, is actually called a “rock,” but if that were the case, I would simply ask such a reader to mentally replace any references I made to “humans” with references to “rocks”.  For what is important in metaphysics is not so much the definitions of words as the definitions of things, and therefore, one cannot raise a metaphysical objection to the above premise, as it simply serves to set up a linguistic framework.

With that in place, let us turn to a discussion of love.  As you probably know, the Ancient Greeks referred to love using primarily four terms: στοργή (storge), φιλία (philia), ἔρως (eros), and ἀγάπη (agape).  All four of these can be translated as “love,” but can also be individually translated as “affection,” “friendship,” “romance,” and “charity”.  However, there are also other Ancient Greek words that may be translated as “love”.  For example Ἀφροδίσια (Aphrodite), the name of the Greek goddess of love, is also the proper noun “Love”.  Love, in this sense, is the kind of love with which the goddess was associated, i.e. the physical aspects of the love that exists between men and women.  Because each of these translates as “love,” they may all be thought of as different definitions or usages of the word.

Perhaps, in modern times, one might like to add another part to all these definitions of love and say that love is an emotion.  And once that has been done, a modernist may feel quit satisfied that he or she had formed a nice, hefty and broad definition of love, and then may retire from further inquiry.  However, I would like to propose that such a thinker has made a mistake.  But remember, metaphysics deals with defining things, not words, and so my objection is not to any given definition of the word “love,” but to a contradiction that arises by considering emotion to be a second component of each of the above mentioned.

We may group all the above definitions of love in two categories: the intellectual, and the physical.  Each of the Greek loves have elements that fall under either of these categories; however, agape may be considered the most purely intellectual of loves, and Love herself, the most physical.  The contradiction I have mentioned lies in considering physical love to be an emotion.  An emotion, as most understand the word, is something related more closely to the cognition than the body, and hence, may not be directly caused by a physical incident.  Take Hamlet as an illustration:  when Hamlet is stabbed with an unbated rapier, he feels physical pain, but in order to feel emotional pain, something nonphysical must happen: he must lose a loved one.  In this case, it is not the physical fact of the loved one’s death that causes him pain, but the nonphysical fact that his relationship with that person (whether his father, mother, girlfriend, or others) has ended.  When Ophelia dies, he doesn’t groan that physical blood is no longer pulsing through her arteries, but traces his grief all the way back to a single source, which is manifest in his groan, “I loved Ophelia”.  Therefore, if love is to be an emotion, it cannot be a purely physical phenomenon, but we should rather expect it to behave as any other emotion.  Like grief over a death, love should be something that stems from a nonphysical event which is associated with a physical one.  Where grief may stem from the nonphysical termination of a relationship associated with a physical death, love may be the emotion which stems from agape and is associated with Aphrodite.  Thus, if love is to be called an emotion, it may not also be physical, though physical processes may be associated with it.  Hence only the intellectual category of love may be called an emotion.

Notice my usage of the words “stems from”.  I am essentially saying that love, the emotion, is caused by agape.  That is, the emotion of love is caused by charity or, as it is sometimes translated, “unconditional love”.  It may sound silly to say that love is caused by unconditional love, but this little word-game actually harkens back to The Nature of Causality.  In other words, since causality functions in reality as logic does in the nonphysical, an effect can be understood as a reformulation of its cause, just as a conclusion is a reformulation of a premise.  Therefore, what is truly being said is that the emotion of love is a reformulation of charity.

With that being as it is, we must ask, what is the cause of charity?  The answer is will.  Indeed, the only way a person can love someone unconditionally is by so choosing (for if one loves for any other reason, he or she is loving on the basis of a condition), and hence the emotion of love, being a reformulation of charity, is also, by the transitive property of causality, a reformulation of will.  In other words, love, the emotion, is purely an act of volition.


† Of course, many will notice that in this first paragraph of mine, I have done little to support my (or Kant’s) premise with deductive argument, but have instead relied almost entirely on the aesthetic of the concept.  The idea I have presented is, in a sense, aesthetically pleasing, and therefore, its rhetoric lies in our own desire to believe it.  I will turn to qualifying the premise in a moment; however, I must first urge you, my astute reader, to remember this phenomenon—of arguing by aesthetic—as we will find ourselves better suited to asses the validity of such a method of argument later on in this current thread of blog posts.

Work Cited

Kant, Immanuel. The Moral Law. Trans. Paton, H. J. Johannesberg Bay: Hutchinson & CO, 1948. Print.

2 thoughts on “A Philosophy of Love

    • Nothing more than the quality of the choice. Since it is good to love, good wills love and evil wills do not. If something outside of the quality of love itself were to cause an individual to love, then the decision to love would not be an exercise of free will.

Add something to the discussion.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s