I have often said that there is no thing more worthy of a holiday than love. This, however, is not the dominant view. Most people seem to see Valentine’s Day as the ultimate Hallmark Holiday. People complain because they are single on Valentine’s Day or they complain because it creates obligations they don’t want. It sometimes seems that the only people who like Valentine’s Day are the people who sell chocolates, flowers and cards. I, for one, like Valentine’s Day. And I think there are others out there. I’m tired of being marginalized by all the haters, so I’m going to speak out in hopes that my fellow lovers of love will feel empowered to do the same.
Plato tackled the topic of love in The Symposium. In one short work, he manages to discuss many aspects of love – homosexual, heterosexual, physical, emotional and spiritual. In the 2000+ years since, love hasn’t been a central topic in philosophy. Sure, there has been plenty written on Christian love, charity, altruism, etc., but love as in the emotion we all feel has been mostly neglected. It has been left for the poets and self help authors and that’s too bad. As great as Plato’s work is (It is really great) times have changed. A debate about whether one should take a boy when the first fuzz appears on his lip would land people in jail today (and rightfully so). I’ve not worked out a philosophy of love, but I thought I would give a brief sketch of what I think it would entail.
Any treatment of love would have to start with figuring out what it is. I love my wife, my daughter, my parents, my brothers, aunts, uncles, friends, cousins, nieces and nephews, but none of them in exactly the same way. It’s my guess that whatever the thing is that these relationships have in common is love. But then we get into the fact that I love music and ice cream and the Boston Red Sox. Is that the same feeling as I have towards my family or just a figure of speech? It seems like it is something different, but why use one of our strongest emotions to talk about music, ice cream and sports if we don’t really love them?
Once we have decided what love is, there are many places to go. We could look at common ideas about love. Would it be a good thing to love all of human kind? Can you be ethical without love? Are there degrees of love? Does love need to be reciprocated? My first guess is no, no, yes, no, but that is certainly preliminary.
We can also look at questions about whether there is a right or wrong way to love. Again, this is preliminary, but I would guess that there is no right way, but there are wrong ways. A jealous love that hides its beloved from the world strikes me as wrong. Does love create obligations? If so, how? My guess is that it does, but I couldn’t begin to say how.
I think developing a modern philosophy of love would be a worthwhile exercise. Everyone seems to agree that it is an important part of our lives, but we don’t seem to take it very seriously. Since we have this holiday dedicated to love, lets take advantage of it and start looking at love as central to our lives and truly appreciating it.