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What Is Love?

  • Date Submitted: 02/08/2011 05:36 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 56.7 
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Love

Freud (1952) noted that human life was, for the most part, the pursuit of two usually distinct and discrete goals: work and love. This idea is entirely compatible with Maslow’s (1954) hierarchy of needs inasmuch as Maslow conceived of man as either being concerned with safety (deficiency needs), connection (social belonging needs), or self-enhancement (being needs) and Erikson’s (1975) eight psychosocial developmental tasks which oscillate between intrapersonal and interpersonal concerns. Human beings have a profound need for love. A need is something required for health or survival (Branden, 1969), and if a person fails to satisfy a need he suffers. The biological utility of this suffering is self-evident; it is nature’s way of telling us we are doing something wrong.
People regularly suffer in the course of the pursuit of love, and this suffering is not universally recognized as an indication of some deficiency or any required correction . On the contrary many people rhapsodize about the suffering they experience when love fails, and even their terminology foretells disaster as they speak of “falling in love” and being “head over heels”, “smitten”, “bitten”, and “having it bad”.
Our focus here is not the love of friendship (philia) or the love of spiritual things (agape). That these types of love, as well as others, are all referenced using the same English word (love) only serves to cloud the issue and demonstrate modern western man’s lack of clarity on the subject. Under the Wharfian notion of psycholinguistics the lack of available nomenclature is taken to be evidence of an impossibility of even thinking about the subject (Chomsky, 1966) or , at least, that native speakers of English seldom consider any distinctions. Under consideration here is what Plato (1972) referred to as eros: “desire for the perpetual possession of the good” (p. 86). Aristotle’s “philia” prompts friends to spend the afternoon shopping and Paul’s “agape” prompts a person to,...

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