Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 L - Love


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 (or hormones).

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 to Aristotle:

"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 it.

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.


Also see: Benevolence, Lust

Literature: Comte-Sponville, Meininger

 Original: Dec 9, 2004                                                Last edited: 12 December 2011.   Top