Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Acronyms, Idioms, Wikipedia.
an intimate and profound feeling; devotion to another person, to humanity, or to an idea. Love invariably carries with it an impulse and a desire for constancy, which are formulated in ethical demands for fidelity. It is the freest and, therefore, the most “unpredictable” expression of the depths of the personality. Love cannot be evoked or overcome by force. The phenomenon of love is important and complex, for it is the point at which the opposing elements of the biological and the spiritual, the personal and the social, and the intimate and the universal intersect. Sexual and parental love entail healthy biological instincts that are common to man and to animals. Indeed, sexual and parental love are unthinkable without these instincts. Love for an idea can take the form of an intellectual ecstasy that may be possible only at certain cultural levels. No matter how great the differences in the psychological substance of the love of a mother for her newborn child, the love between lovers, and the love of a citizen for his native land, all of these instances involve love, which is different from egotistical “attraction,” “preference,” or “interest,” all of which merely resemble love. “The true essence of love lies in forgoing one’s consciousness of self, forgetting one’s own self in another ‘I,’ and yet, in this very disappearance and oblivion, winning one’s self and taking possession of one’s own self for the very first time” (Hegel, Soch., vol. 13, Moscow, 1940, p. 107).
The language of ancient Greece had a well-developed terminology for different types of love. “Eros” meant an elemental and passionate surrender, a state of ecstatic love for something either physical or spiritual, but a love always directed toward its object “from below,” leaving no place for compassion or tolerance. The word “philia” meant love as friendship or a bond between individuals, determined by social ties and personal choice. Storge meant tender, particularly familial, love. “Agape” referred to charity—an unselfish, tolerant love “for one’s neighbor.”
In mythology and the most ancient systems of philosophy “love” was equated with “eros” and was believed to involve a cosmic force similar to gravity. The god Eros is mentioned in Hesiod’s mythological epos as a progenitor and builder of the universe who was born immediately after Chaos and Earth. In the cosmogony of the Orphics, Eros is assigned an even more honored place. For Empedocles the entire history of the cosmos was the history of the duel between love (philia), a constructive element, and hatred, an element of disunion. The mythological and philosophical doctrine of love as a constructive, cohesive, moving, and harmonizing energy in the universe is characteristic of Greek thought as a whole, with its hylozoism. In the movement of the heavenly spheres even Aristotle saw a manifestation of some kind of universal love for the spiritual principle of movement and for the unmoved prime mover. This was given a theological interpretation by medieval philosophy and was reflected in the closing line of Dante’s Divine Comedy: “Love which moves the sun and stars.” Continuing this trend, Posidonius developed a doctrine of universal “sympathy” among things and natural forces. His teachings were extraordinarily popular in the last centuries of antiquity. Later, they attracted many Renaissance and modern thinkers and poets, including Goethe.
Another trend in the classical philosophy of love began with Plato. In the dialogue Symposium he explained that enamoredness and aesthetic rapture inspired by a beautiful body were the lowest rungs on the ladder of spiritual ascent leading to ideal love, the object of which is absolute Good and absolute Beauty. (This is the source of the oversimplified everyday expression “Platonic love.”) The doctrine of Plato, the Platonists, and the Neoplatonists concerning the “erotic” path to the absolute may be compared typologically with the Hindu mystical doctrine of bhakti, which views ecstatic love as one of four possible roads to enlightenment.
In Indian tradition the transcendent raptures of bhakti coexist with the rational and pragmatic hedonism of the Kamasutra, an extraordinary “textbook” of erotic pleasures that attempts to provide a meticulous systematization and rationalization of relations between man and woman. Similarly, ancient Greek culture left little room between carnal eros and abstract, spiritual eros for the “soul,” for love for a specific, living, suffering person in need of help, compassion, and respect. Hellenistic love lyrics, in which physical descriptions and the egocentric recording of the impact of falling in love became extraordinarily refined, never arrived at an understanding of the love between man and woman as a juxtaposition of or a conflict or harmony between two personalities. Women who refused to be merely men’s instruments in the family or their toys outside the family appeared only as characters in tragedies, and they were invariably portrayed as criminals (Aeschylus’ Clytemnestra) or alien witches (Euripides’ Medea). Closely related to this deep-rooted contempt for woman’s spiritual world was the preference, in principle, for homosexual love that was characteristic of ancient Greece and that took a wide variety of forms, including military camaraderie and relationships between spiritual advisers and their disciples. As Engels remarked in a well-known passage, “sexual love in our sense of the term was so immaterial to that classical poet of antiquity, old Anacreon, that even the sex of the beloved one was a matter of complete indifference to him” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 21, p. 79). In this respect there was complete agreement between Anacreon and Plato.
Roman love poetry (Catullus, Tibullus, Propertius, and the Dido episode in Virgil’s Aeneid) took a step forward, for it discovered in the beloved woman an autonomous personality— sometimes frightening with its enigmatic whims, but sometimes arousing tenderness and compassion as well as love. Ovid’s attempt to create a systematic and codified “theory” of love, which was intended to be ironic, proved to be the beginning of a tradition that flowered in the Middle Ages, the era of Scholasticism and casuistry.
Christianity saw in love the essence of the main commandment to man and the essence of god, who, unlike the gods of ancient religions, gave as well as received love. However, this was a particular kind of love (agape), which did not resemble sensual eros, friendship by choice (philia), or the patriotic solidarity of citizens. In the Christian sense, love had no ulterior motives, but was unselfish, “all-encompassing,” and directed toward one’s “neighbor”—that is, love was directed not merely toward someone who was close by reason of family ties or personal inclination and not merely toward one’s own beloved, but toward one’s neighbor, especially an enemy or wrongdoer. It was believed that precisely this kind of love could arouse those practicing it to take upon themselves and thus somehow eliminate all social disharmonies. Although Christianity prescribed a condescending agape for one’s relationship to people, Christian mysticism, like pagan mysticism, spoke of ecstatic eros in the relationship of man to god. This is especially true of the anonymous fifth-century Christian Neoplatonist who wrote what are called the Areopagite’s works, as well of the whole tradition created by him.
Christian agape and eros were ascetic concepts. In the late Middle Ages the secular theory of “courtly love” between a man and woman from the feudal milieu developed. Courtly love existed exclusively outside of marriage as an actual liaison or as adoration from afar, but it was subject to rules of courtesy, delicacy, and nobility. The courtly cult of “the lady” permeated the poetry of the troubadours and minnesingers and was echoed in the images of Dante’s Beatrice and Petrarch’s Laura. Petrarch took the tradition of spiritualized love from feudal circles and passed it on to educated circles of townspeople, intermingling it with Renaissance influences. “Petrarchism” in love and in love poetry spread throughout Western Europe, becoming a vulgarized, superficial fad for idealized feeling.
The Renaissance showed an intense interest in the Platonic theory of eros, which ascended from the aesthetics of the sensual to the aesthetics of the spiritual (for example, Leone Ebreo’s Dialogues on Love, 1501-02). Spinoza radically revised the Scholastic concept of the “intellectual love of god,” removing it from the context of traditional conceptions of a personal god as a subject and not merely an object of love. This central concept of Spinoza’s Ethics refers to the ecstasy of thought confronted with the depths of the world’s being, from which it expects no love in return.
The philosophy of the 18th-century Encyclopedists, who polemicized against asceticism, emphasized the joyous, natural quality of the feeling of love and the “correctly understood interests” of the individual that were associated with it. (The latter concept was in the spirit of “rational egoism.”) Underestimating the possibilities for tragic self-abnegation that are inherent in love, 18th-century philosophy often confused love with feelings of “inclination” and “kindly disposition” and confused happiness with hedonistic self-satisfaction. These ideas were corrected by “sentimentalism” and the Sturm und Drang, which originated with J. J. Rousseau and paved the way for romanticism. As a result of this movement, on the eve of and during the Great French Revolution love was understood as an outburst of feeling that broke down social barriers and conventions, reuniting in elemental, spontaneous unity “that which custom had strictly held asunder” (F. Schiller).
The representatives of German romanticism (Novalis, F. Schlegel, and F. von Baader) and of German classical idealism (J. G. Fichte, F. W. von Schelling, and the young Hegel) revived the Platonic philosophy of eros and interpreted love as the metaphysical principle of unity that removes the division into subject and object that is imposed by the intellect. This epistemo-logical treatment of the problem of love by the romanticists was accompanied by a penetration into the “dark,” “nocturnal,” irrational psychology of love that sometimes anticipated psychoanalysis, as well as by an emphatically profound, philosophically developed exaltation of the elemental world of emotions (for example, in Schlegel’s Lucinde). Thus, the romantic ideal of love wavered between exaltation and amoralism, combining the two into one. German romanticism and European Byronism rehabilitated the legendary Don Juan as one who pined for unembodied perfection and who, in the name of this longing, permitted himself to behave with systematic cruelty toward “imperfect” love-objects. This aspect of the romantic ideal was brought to its logical conclusion by the end of the 19th century in F. Nietzsche’s doctrine of “love for the remote” (as opposed to “love for one’s neighbor”). In this doctrine concrete love for a real person is replaced by an internally empty love for a nonexistent superman.
Throughout the 19th century an extremely important trend juxtaposed love to the “rational” bourgeois business mentality. For L. Feuerbach, the racial essence of man, which is subjected to alienation and distortion in all religions, lies in an extremely generalized (and abstract) principle of love. Some thinkers and poets were prepared to seek in sensual love the “warmth” that is lacking in the “cold,” “sexless,” hypocritically calculating world of commerce (the theme of “the rehabilitation of the flesh,” which is found in the Enfantin movement, H. Heine and the Young Germany movement, and the works of Wagner, for example). Others, like Dickens and Dostoevsky, drew a distinction between love as compassion and conscience, as self-sacrifice that “does not seek its own,” and egotism, which is fundamentally inhuman. At the same time, the pessimistic philosophy of the 19th century set itself the task of “exposing” love. This trend was provoked by the romantics’ exaltation and anticipated by their “zeal to expose.” Schopenhauer believed that love between the sexes is an illusion with the aid of which an irrational world-will forces deluded individuals to serve as blind instruments for the propagation of the race.
At the turn of the 20th century S. Freud undertook a systematic refutation of the Platonic doctrine of love. Like Plato in the Symposium, Freud postulated the fundamental unity of the stream that joins the manifestations of sexual passion with the phenomena of spiritual life. Plato believed that the spiritualization of eros brought it to its true essence and goal, whereas Freud considered this spiritualization a mere delusion, a disguise for “suppressed” sexual drives (libido) that must be exposed. According to Freud, the only real aspect of love (any love, not only sexual love) was biological, and to that aspect all of love’s manifestations and creativity were reducible.
After Freud, Western European idealism made a number of attempts to revive the concept of love as the path to profound truth and as truth itself. According to the vitalist philosophy, love is one of the synonyms for “life” itself and is the source of creative freedom and dynamics. Thus, for H. Bergson, the concept of the “love force” is directly associated with the key concept of the “life force” (élan vital). However, since love cannot be reduced to its elemental aspects and cannot be deprived of its individual character, the metaphysics of love has served in many cases as a bridge from vitalism to personalism and existentialism. M. Scheler regarded love as an act of value empathy. Owing to this act, an individual enters the spiritual space of freedom that is typical of the world of values and becomes, for the first time, a real personality. For Scheler, love is not only the sole mode of relationship to “values” but also the sole means of comprehending values.
The theme of the absolute freedom of love, in the sense of its indeterminate quality, was seized upon by the existentialists. Representatives of religious existentialism, such as M. Buber and G. Marcel, speak of love as a spontaneous breakthrough from the world of “it” to the world of “thou,” from impersonal “having” to personal “being.” This entire philosophy of love has developed against the background of a harsh and rather despairing criticism of the “alienated,” impersonal, loveless world of capitalist civilization, which exists under the aegis of “having.”
In the West protests against this “cold” world of capitalism are often made in the name of some kind of “warmth”—even “animal” warmth—and are often clothed in the contradictory form of the “sexual revolution.” Although it is usually accompanied by nonconformist, antimilitarist, arid antiracist sentiments, the sexual revolution is an expression of alienation, as well as a stimulus to legalized commercial eroticism.
S. S. AVERINTSEV
In Marxist philosophy love is treated in the context of the dialectical materialist understanding of the personality, its inner world, and its relationship to society. The very concept of the individual personality is unthinkable without the individual’s emotional life, one of the main components of which is love, as manifested in the individual’s feelings, emotional excitement, evaluations, and choices. In all of its many forms, love directly and deeply touches the essential aspects of the life of every person and of society as a whole, expressing social-group and universal-human solidarity and inspiring devotion and even heroism. With its contradictions and dramatic collisions, love is a recurrent theme in world art, literature, and folk works.
Love is the attainment of socially developed humanity. There are biological precursors of it in animals, in the reproductive and sexual instincts associated with the propagation and preservation of species. Social history, social labor, communications, and the arts have raised these biological instincts to the highest moral-aesthetic feeling of genuinely human love. Love is an experience that is always determined by an external force that is refracted through the conditions of human spiritual life, as well as through instinctive needs and drives.
According to Marx, sexual love is a unique measurement of the extent to which man as an individual being is also a social being. As a result of socialization (that is, adaptation to a historically determined culture) and on the basis of norms and values developed by society, man loves, and finds the means to satisfy this feeling. But love is also a profoundly personal feeling. People differ not only in how they love but also in how they express their love. Love is individual and, in a certain sense, unique, in that it reflects such phenomena as the unrepeated features of each person’s journey through life, the way of life and customs of a people, the distinctness of a specific culture, and the status of a specific social group. “If there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts” (L. N. Tolstoy, Sobr. soch., 1952, vol. 8, p. 148). At the same time, there is something common to every individual’s experience of love. Thus, it is possible to speak of love in a highly generalized way.
It is well known that the structure of emotional life changes from one historical epoch to another. Consequently, the feeling of love also changes, since it is influenced by class relationships, by changes in the personality (the bearer of the feeling of love), and by changes in value orientations. Marx pointed out that in addition to the five senses, the spiritual and practical senses (love and willpower, for example)—in a word, human emotions in general and the human nature of the sense organs—arise only because of the existence of an object for them and because nature has been humanized (K. Marx and F. Engels, Iz rannikh proizvedenii, pp. 593-94). Engels described contemporary love, an individually selective feeling, as the complex product of a lengthy history. “Our sexual love differs materially from the simple sexual desire, or the eros, of the ancients. First, it presupposes reciprocal love on the part of the loved one; in this respect, the woman stands on a par with the man; whereas in the ancient eros, the woman was by no means always consulted. Secondly, sexual love attains a degree of intensity and permanency where the two parties regard nonpossession or separation as a great, if not the greatest, misfortune; in order to possess each other they take great hazards, even risking life itself. A new moral standard arises for judging sexual intercourse. The question asked is not only whether such intercourse was legitimate or illicit, but also whether it arose from mutual love or not” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 21, pp. 79-80). The specific characteristics of love are the individual’s active choice, relative self-oblivion, and disinterested self-surrender, as well as his idealization of the beloved.
Spiritual intimacy is felt in love as a constant, mutual mental communication, as the kind of relationship between lovers in which one directs his thoughts and feelings to the other and evaluates his own actions and material and spiritual values in continuous reference to how the loved one would view them. Love is a complex, dynamic, intellectual-emotional-volitional system made up of many changing elements. A person who experiences love may experience tenderness, passion, the desire to be faithful, anxiety and fear, jealousy, anger, joy, and other emotions. Unlike the ephemeral feeling of infatuation, true love presupposes deep feelings and is distinguished by the completeness of its manifestation and by its wholeness, integrity, and “indivisibility.”
Love does not necessarily presuppose mutuality. “If you love without calling forth mutuality, that is, if your love, as love, does not engender a reciprocal love, and if you, with your life manifestation in your capacity as a loving individual, do not make yourself a beloved person, then your love is powerless, and this is a misfortune” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Iz rannikh proizvedenii, 1956, p. 620). Love is manifested not only as an attraction to a being of the opposite sex, but also as an attraction to a particular personality in its uniqueness. This personality seems to be something of extraordinary value, owing to its emotionalvolitional, intellectual, moral, and aesthetic qualities, which complement what the lover feels he is lacking. With their natural and spiritual differences, two individuals become whole by complementing each other. Love has no single objective value that is indisputably applicable to all individuals. A person can be an object of the love or of the hatred and contempt of not only various individuals but also the same person at different times and under different conditions. The value of an object of love is determined by its meaning for a given individual—for his needs, interests, and ideals. This, in turn, creates the conditions under which the mechanisms of love are set in motion. In general, the love felt by a socially developed person is conscious, although it is also subject to the power of unconscious drives that are expressed in the very genesis of love, in the choice of the love object, and in the ways in which love is manifested. On the last point, however, the power of reason is stronger than unconscious forces. As a selective, free, and yet organically compulsive expression of the natural and spiritual depths of the personality, love cannot be “programmed” by reason and will either in its inception or in its extinction, but it can be controlled by reason and will.
Love includes the life-affirming instincts and drives of the “living flesh.” Indeed, without them, both the genesis and the essence of love are inconceivable. However, in its higher manifestations, even the carnal element in love acquires some features of true beauty and is associated with aesthetic satisfaction. A mother admires her baby, and a lover her beloved. Love for an idea, for creative work, or for one’s native land can also give intellectual, moral, and aesthetic pleasure.
In the USSR in the 1920’s the concept of free love was accepted in some circles. Lenin criticized it harshly: “You, of course, know the famous theory that alleges that in communist society it is just as simple and casual a matter to satisfy sexual urges as to drink a glass of water. This theory of the ’glass of water’ has made our young people crazy, simply crazy. This theory has led to an evil fate for many youths and girls. … I consider the famous ’glass of water’ theory to be absolutely non-Marxist and antisocial to boot. In sexual life one finds not only what was given by nature but also what has been introduced by culture, whether exalted or low. … Of course, thirst demands satisfaction. But would a normal person under normal conditions lie down on the street in the mud and drink from a puddle? Or even from a glass, the rim of which has been touched by dozens of lips? But most important of all is the social aspect. The drinking of water is certainly an individual phenomenon. But in love, two participate, and a third, new life arises. Therein lies the interest of society, and an obligation to the collective arises” (Vospominaniia o V. L Lenine, vol. 2, 1957, pp. 483-84).
Love plays a tremendous educational and character-forming role, exerting an ennobling influence upon the development of the personality both in phylogenesis and in individual human development. This feeling helps the individual to see himself as a personality and to develop his inner world, inspires impulses toward self-improvement, and makes the personality richer and fuller.
Love is a great embellishment of human life. It has played and continues to play an enormous role in the inception and development of the arts, which in turn have used all their resources to poeticize love, creating for it a great, exalted, and noble image. Love is the ethical basis for marital relations.
A. G. SPRIKIN
REFERENCESMarx, K., and F. Engels. Iz rannikh proizvedenii. Moscow, 1956.
Engels, F. Proiskhozhdenie sem’i, chastnoisobstvennostiigosudarstva. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 21.
Lenin, V. I. I. F. Armand, 24 ianvaria 1915. (Letter.) Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 49, pp. 54-57.
Bebel, A. Zhenshchina i sotsializm. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from German.)
Stendhal. “O liubvi.” Sobr. soch., vol. 4. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from French.)
Solov’ev, V. S. “Smysl liubvi.” Sobr. soch, vol. 7. St. Petersburg, 1914.
Veselovskii, A. Iz istorii razvitiia lichnosti: Zhenshchina i starinnye teorii liubvi. St. Petersburg, 1912.
Losev, A. F. “Eros u Platona.” In the collection G. I. Chelpanovu ot uchastnikov ego seminariev v Kieve i Moskve, 1891-1916. Moscow, 1916.
Riurikov, Iu. Tri vlecheniia. Moscow, 1967.
Freud, S. Ocherki po psikhologii seksual’nosti. Moscow, 1923.
Scheler, M. Das Wesen und die Formen der Sympathie. Bonn, 1931.
Fromm, E. The Art of Loving. New York, 1962.
Maisonneuve, J. Psycho-sociologie des affinites. Paris, 1966.
Theories of Attraction and Love. Edited by B. J. Murstein. New York, 1972.
Wienold, H. Kontakt, Einfuhrung und Attraktion. Stuttgart, 1972.
"There is no truth in the rumour that I love computers, it's just what I tell them to get them to bed."
-- Terry Pratchett