Concept of love in philosophy
Concept of love in philosophy
In a strictly philosophical sense, it refers to the tendency of two individuals to unite in the recognition of their respective existences. In this sense, love is configured primarily as an interpersonal relationship in which the mutual tendency, both as an effort to bridge a distance and as its completion in a union, is manifested in infinite ways and each time peculiar and irreducible; these ways are also generally defined as an expression of affinity, congeniality, mutual attraction (in the broadest sense of the term), from which the electivity and selectivity of the relationship derive.
Understood as a mutual tendency between two beings, love, as well as defining a particular type of interpersonal relationship, lends itself as an explanation of many phenomena. For example, in the Indian philosophy of the Vedas and in the Greek pre-Socratic philosophy (Hesiod, Empedocles), love was understood as a cosmic principle, the force that binds and harmonizes all things. For Plato, love (eros), as a desire for the ideal (beauty and therefore the good and true), mediates between the world of ideas and the real world, engaging man in the dialectical search that is ascent to being in itself, the idea.
Aristotle, as well as seeing in love a relationship between people, sees in it the principle on the basis of which the first motionless engine moves, as an object of desire, the other things, attracting them to itself and thus determining the final ordering of the world aimed at divine perfection. In Neoplatonism love is a preparatory way to access the absolute, the One who is the true and ideal object of all love, even if the union with it is the result of a vision to which love is preparatory.
Christianity teaches the love of God for man (grace) and the love of men among themselves (commandment of love of neighbor). Love is therefore extended to every human relationship: the only authentic human relationship is that of love; and it is commanded in view of the establishment of the Kingdom of God as a community founded on love. This love is agape (caritas), i.e., the love of God for man, which is completely disinterested and freely giving, and the love of man for his neighbor, made possible and solicited by the self-giving of the former (of God himself, who is a gratifying love for man and who wants to live in man); it is opposed to eros, i.e., a love of interest, aroused by the object that presents itself and that attracts him by “interest[ing] him”. On this basis Christian theology has elaborated the Christian doctrine of love. Where, on the other hand, the transcendent dimension of love is dropped or takes a back seat, love returns to being variously interpreted as a mere interpersonal relationship, the basis of which is generally considered to be of a sensitive nature (as was the case, for example, in the eighteenth century).
The whole of Romanticism is a vindication of the metaphysical scope of love. Love, by opening man to something other than himself, breaks the egoistic individuality and is a sign, a manifestation of the absolute, of the infinite, which in this way calls to itself, overcoming them, all oppositions and all multiplicities: love is the symbol of the union or identity of the infinite and the finite, and at the same time its implementation, the living presence of the infinite in the finite: F. D. E. Schleiermacher puts the unity between finite and infinite, achieved in love, at the foundation of religion; F. Schlegel finds his most important accent on the unity between the finite and the infinite, achieved in love, at the foundation of religion. Schlegel finds his highest emphasis in exalting love as a feeling of the unity of finite and infinite; Novalis defines love as “longing for the Infinite, that is, for God”; G. W. F. Hegel, in his youthful writings, identifies true love with the “true unification” for which “the living feels the living” and lovers are “a whole living”. The concept of love as unity or identification was criticized by M. Scheler, who wanted to show how love always implies the diversity of persons. This anti-romantic tendency to deny to love its character of infinity, its cosmic scope and dimension is recurrent in contemporary philosophy.
Christian morality distinguishes legitimate self-love and reprehensible self-love; the former is included in love for and in God and therefore always puts love for God before self-love; the latter is unregulated self-love, whereby one puts one’s own good before that of God and our neighbor. This love is identified by St. Augustine and St. Thomas with selfishness, from which derive “concupiscence of the flesh, concupiscence of the eyes, and pride of life.” Excluding the relationship with God and remaining in the human sphere, both Butler and Hume do not find a direct opposition between self-love and altruism; among the French moralists, La Rochefoucauld asserts that “self-love or love of oneself is only a feeling imprinted in us by nature, capable of being transformed into vice or virtue according to the tastes and passions that animate it”; Rousseau makes a clear distinction between self-love and self-love, seeing in the latter a natural feeling, which tends to the preservation of the individual, and in self-love a fictitious feeling, which leads man to esteem himself more than others. Kant distinguishes between egoism of self-love (benevolence towards himself) and egoism of self-satisfaction (arrogance and conceit) and approves rational self-love as long as it is subject to moral law.
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