Love: A strongly felt desire
for the well-being of someone (else), based on admiration, related to
friendship, and between the sexes often inspired by lust
It is difficult to define personal love adequately, and difficult to distinguish it
from lust, friendship, liking, admiration or taking
pleasure, although all or most of these are or may be involved in personal love, and some
necessarily so. Also, it would seem to me that real love is considerably more
rare than it is believed to be; that it is often confused with lust, liking,
friendship or admiration; and that the best, clearest and least controversial
example of it is between parents and children.
For those who read French and some Latin, here is a relevant passage from
Comte-Sponville with the opinions of some saints:
"Les scolastiques distinguaient l'amour de concupiscence ou de convoitise
(amor concupiscentiae) de l'amour de bienveillance ou, dit aussi saint Thomas
(amor benevolentiae sive amicitae)."
From St. Thomas's Summa Theologica in French translation, also with reference
"Aimer, ce sera vouloir pour quelqu'un ce qu'on croit lui être un bien, au
égard à son intérêt et non au nôtre, et le fait de se rendre capable en
puissance de réaliser ce bien"
Especially the last part is relevant as a criterion. Here is a final saintly
opinion from the same text, this time from St. Francois de Sales:
"On partage l'amour en deux espèces, dont l'une est appelée amour de
bienveillance, et l'autre, amour de convoitise. L'amour de convoitise est
celui par lequel nous aimons quelque chose pour le profit que nous en
prétendons; l'amour de bienveillance est celui par lequel nous aimons quelque
chose pour le bien d'icelle, car qu'est-ce autre chose avoir l'amour de
bienveillance envers une personne que de lui vouloir du bien?"
I much doubt whether these saintly men ever felt real adult love for an adult
woman, since evidently more is involved than
benevolence, though it is true that wishing her well is an important part of
In any case, and speaking from my own experience of love by a man for a
woman: There certainly is involved the feeling that the beloved person is in
some quite miraculous way extra-ordinarily special, and in that way for oneself
quite different from other women one may admire for their beauty or like for
their sexual appeal.
Also - one reason to quote these saints of the Church, who should not at all
have felt this way - the only credible approximation to the divine I know from
personal experience came to me in the shape of young women. And again unlike the
saints of the Church, I have enough experience of sex, and lust, and love, all
related to women, to know clearly and definitely that the three are quite
different, even though it is possible they come together in one personal object. But it is
also true, and the reason I quoted the saintly definitions, that the best mark
of true love is genuine benevolence as expressed by personal acts: If you do not
truly wish her well, and desire her well-being, and are not willing to do a lot
for that, you do not love her.