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What is Love?

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What is love? By Joe Bunce "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and... thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these." - Jesus, Mark 12:30-31 "Omnia vincit amor" - Virgil, Eclogues X "All you need is love/All you need is love/All you need is love, love/Love is all you need/Love, love, love/ Love, love, love/ Love, love, love." - The Beatles, 'All You Need is Love' from the album, Magical Mystery Tour From the day we are born, we are surrounded by the concept of love. Love as a connection, love as an emotion, love as a virtue: not only are we told that love is all around, but it is constantly reinforced that love is the most important thing in the world: verily, it is the meaning of existence. But, at the back of every man's head, a question lingers: What is love? The question often gets responses which are poetic at best, and displays of sickening sentimentalism at worst. Oliver Wendell Holmes, the 19th century American poet, said, "Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness", and even I, within the first paragraph of my essay, have written that love is both "the meaning of existence" and "the most important thing in the world". All of these definitions, though perhaps serve a purpose as cute sentiments to write on St. ...read more.


Fromm also returns to the story of Genesis with the significance of Eve being made from Adam's rib, suggesting the necessity of male-female polarity in relationships: "Man - and woman - finds union within himself only in the union of his female and male polarity. This polarity is the basis for all creativity". He refers both to the biological interpersonal creation - the union of sperm and egg for the creation of new life - and to a wider existence of this male and female principle throughout nature - the polarity of penetration and reception is reflected in that "of earth and rain, of river and ocean, of night and day, of matter and spirit". Because of this, Fromm labels the "homosexual deviation" as a "failure to attain this polarised union", which would hence cause an emptiness and isolation in the soul of the homosexual. But if we skip back a couple of millennia, to the Symposium, we can see some very different points of view. Written by the great philosopher Plato, it details a drinks-party in which the each of the guests gives a speech praising Love. Phaedrus, who, in the book, suggests giving speeches on Love, says "if there was any mechanism for producing an army of lovers and boyfriends... they could defeat the whole human race", referring to the adolescent-to-adult male relationship (pederasty), a common aspect of the Greek culture. ...read more.


However, no one is allowed to look in anyone else's box; only in their own. Over time, people talk about what is in their boxes and the word "beetle" comes to stand for what is in everyone's box, although, in fact, there is no way of telling what is in any box but your own. This curious analogy can be applied to the concept of love. There is no way, as entirely internal emotions, that we can understand what concepts such as 'pain', 'anger', or, indeed, 'love' mean to another person. Thus, we could be drawn to the conclusion that 'love' itself cannot be defined any more than 'that which we refer to as love', just as our beetle cannot be defined as any more as 'that which is in our box'. Wittgenstein felt that most modern philosophy, including the philosophy of this abstract concept, love, was fundamentally misconceived by a misunderstanding of language - holding the preconception that language corresponds to the basis of philosophy - logic - which he arguably exposed as erroneous by this 'private language argument'. It is tempting to conclude that, due to this suggestion that the barrier of language blurs all non-mathematical concepts from any kind of definition or truth, love perhaps does not, in any real sense, exist. But I think this hypothesis is missing the point. Wittgenstein concludes his first masterpiece, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, with: "Wherefor one cannot speak, thereof, one must remain silent'. And, in this uncertain silence, that eternal, unanswerable question - what is love? - can perhaps linger on. ...read more.

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