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There must be much for a philosopher to say about such a vivid manifold phenomenon as "love"

There are said to be different forms of love: agape (universal love), philautia (self-love), storge (familial love), philia (platonic love), eros (romantic love) and their respective verb forms. On occasion, some are interchangeable, but they are not seen as strong synonyms

The image of love is an ascent motivated by a hierarchy of increasing value for the lover or their beloved. The more erotic the love, the more valuable it is. Two people may say they are "just friends." They may be grossed out by the thought of themselves as "more than just friends." That's because philia does not transcend the "ick" of commitment or intimacy. It's eros that transcends the "ick." It accepts everything about the other, even the "icky" parts of their body. Its unions tend to be wholly faithful or maintained loyally and eagerly

Despite the hierarchy, love, in all shapes or forms, is the joy and sorrow we experience with others or ourselves

Or is it? What if love doesn't exist? Or what if there are no different forms of love? Is there any philosopher that does not believe in the existence of love?

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    "I hate to break it to you, but what people calls 'love' is just a chemical reaction that compels animals to breed. It hits hard, Morty, then it slowly fades, leaving you stranded in a failing marriage. I did it. Your parents are gonna do it. Break the cycle, Morty. Rise above. Focus on science." ;)
    – CriglCragl
    May 15, 2023 at 13:18
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    'The Prairie Vole Model of Pair-Bonding and Its Sensitivity to Addictive Substances' frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02477
    – CriglCragl
    May 15, 2023 at 13:40
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    "philosophy" can say anything it wants. May 15, 2023 at 15:32
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    Your "different types of love" are about 3000 years out of date my friend.
    – Daron
    May 15, 2023 at 16:34
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    I have no idea what it even means to say that love "exists" or "does not exist". May 15, 2023 at 22:53

6 Answers 6

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Well, one might say 'Love is just a word' (YT).

However, deepities aside, to take an analytical and linguistic approach to answering the question, the term 'love' is polysemous. It has multiple meanings in different contexts, and some of the meanings are themselves contested. This situation of a numerous and contestable polysemy might qualify the term as an essentially contested concept:

The term essentially contested concepts gives a name to a problematic situation that many people recognize: that in certain kinds of talk there is a variety of meanings employed for key terms in an argument, and there is a feeling that dogmatism ("My answer is right and all others are wrong"), skepticism ("All answers are equally true (or false); everyone has a right to his own truth"), and eclecticism ("Each meaning gives a partial view so the more meanings the better") are none of them the appropriate attitude towards that variety of meanings.

Now, does disputations and polysemy mean that something doesn't exist? Well that depends on the nature of existence, which itself an essentially contested concept with thinkers like Meinong, Carnap, Quine, and others advocating certain positions about the nature of existence itself. This is a central question in ontology. Now, according to a nominalist (SEP) love doesn't exist, at least in the physical sense, and is a fiction of sort to describe a certain human experience. But, to other philosophers who have no problem declaring mental phenomena existents, then yes, it does exist, and therefore can be the subject of an SEP article, like this one: love (SEP).

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Philosophy is itself a mode of love or desire — a “love of wisdom” or desire for truth. Therefore love is a key but complicated problematic which ought to be differentiated from other concepts sharply. Love is nevertheless at once haecceity, fugitivity, fugacity; so that it must be sought in the specifics of individuals and situations, since it is a valence or connection that does not pre-exist what it connects. Love is itself manifold — a combination of care, trust, understanding, respect, knowledge…

Love confuses and completes philosophy at once, as politics and psychoanalysis. In Spinoza for instance we find a sublimation of love, as an endless passage between perfections, which characterizes reality itself. So we have the desire for life rather than a normative attachment complex. In Freud we discover our loves have a life of their own, within and beneath us; continuing indefinitely beyond the limits of our conscious knowledge and understanding, leaking through our relationship to signs, expressing itself in our very form of life as a symptom. What Nietzsche called fate demands our love, the very reality of our reoccurrence in a tragic play, which itself must be seen as comic, from a sufficiently remote perspective… In Lacan, we are reminded that nothing is as embarrassing for capital as castration: in the mind of the businessperson who knows the value of everything, the love of a human being is nothing, a zero.

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    "Your children are not your children They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself" -Kahlil Gibran. Every businessperson knows, sex sells..
    – CriglCragl
    May 15, 2023 at 14:43
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    I think that the main way people are 'confused' about love is that they are viewing it acquisitively, selfishly, about receiving something. Love is outward pointing, like light streaming from a lamp. It doesn't want anything.
    – Scott Rowe
    May 16, 2023 at 10:28
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It is not that complicated. One definition that I find useful is: "To Will The Good Of Another." This doesn't depend on anything except the ordinary meaning of the words. Anyone can Will, and they can define Good for themselves.

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  • i agree with this.
    – user65994
    May 16, 2023 at 0:51
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Everything is a frame for how we love others, love thought broadly enough. When this is turned inside out, it can become grotesque.

ick

That doesn't mean we don't love anymore, though maybe we don't in the manner we wanted or even anticipated; such are grotesque things.

http://groteskology.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-grotesques-of-luttrell-psalter.html

If you want to do it the old fashioned way...

Put another way, it sounds like you aren't in love anymore. Best to leave them, and use your last piece of love to do that.

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    Looking at anything too long or too hard can change it. If you say the word 'house' to yourself over and over, it becomes completely unrecognizable. But questioning the validity of love is unlikely to improve anything.
    – Scott Rowe
    May 16, 2023 at 10:21
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    yeah ai agree @ScottRowe cheers!
    – user65994
    May 16, 2023 at 10:36
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    @ScottRowe people who overuse the word tend not to know what it means for who they are talking about or to. i guess that's one of the sad things about it haha
    – user65994
    May 17, 2023 at 20:50
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The forms of love you list are can be described as passive forms of attraction. In all cases, the subject is passively dependent on the feeling (eg. I love her and I don't know what to do! or I can't love my neighbor!).

The most representative philosophical approach is debatably Erich Fromm's (cf. The Art of Loving), which is the opposite to attraction as a passive set of emotions.

Fromm clearly describes true love as a proactive act, rather than a passive emotion. For him, love is acting towards a goal, which implies effort, commitment, and personal development. For example: erotic love, more than a passive attraction (e.g. Uther asking Merlin to make a spell so he can possess Igraine) implies the proactive active, responsible and conscious choice of reaching an intimate union, providing satisfaction and spiritual fulfillment, instead of just obtaining sexual pleasure.

Regarding the "existence of love", feelings or intentions are rational concepts, they cannot be proven nor denied, except metaphysically. If you have experienced some form of love, it just exists for you.

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  • Ironically, my exposure to the story you referred to comes from a movie made long ago, by Penthouse Pictures. (the famous film Excalibur)
    – Scott Rowe
    May 17, 2023 at 22:51
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When you don't know what love means. Only true Catholics understand what Agape is (John 3:16)! And only true Catholics understand what love within a marriage is like.

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  • DWAI, i'll leave her :-)
    – user65994
    May 16, 2023 at 9:34
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    This is just the epitome of thinking you're better than everyone else... Also, you quoted a claim from the Bible to support your case, which (a) is just an unsupported claim - anyone can claim anything, this doesn't mean anything until you provide the evidence to back it up, and (b) it mentions God and "the world"; "true Catholics" are never mentioned. And you didn't even bother to try to support your claim about marriage.
    – NotThatGuy
    May 16, 2023 at 11:35
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