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05 September 2007


A. Nonymous

This is probably a more difficult question, but what's your definition of love? Is it any different to a mixture of like and lust?

Barnaby Dawson

Rigourously defining romantic love is very hard. Although
that doesn't mean that we can't find good approximate definitions easily. Like many concepts in natural languages it is best described to others by a list of examples from which the listener subconciously abstracts an amorphous definition.

Having said that romantic love is not just a mixture of like and lust in the same way that ice isn't just a mixture of solid and cold attributes. You can love someone (platonically) and desire them physically without being in love with them romantically. Its also possible (I am told) to love someone romantically without a physical desire to go with it.


You are making a category mistake. Love is a thing for literature and imposed narratives in social interaction. We are actors in a play, and love is one of those themes.

It is reasonable to talk of the manifestation of love in its semiotic features, but that is as queer as finding the 'spirit of the team', or the 'soul' (cf. G. Ryle) in the brain/s of people.

To understand love is to understand those that experience it, can the thoughts of those in love be translated into the language of biology/chemistry? I think not. Can it be translated into a naturalist framework? Yes, is our hopeful answer. But in order to do so, we must do some philosophical psychology in the vein of Transcendental Idealism.

That is the true form of naturalism; that is, a system of understanding reality that acknowledges all that subsides within it, but using the same metric to understand it all. A putative scientific naturalism does this very poorly, we need a little more deductions from a resource 'unmixed with experience'.

Love as a social phenomenon is best understood with the assumptions of interpretative/empathetic methods. To understand love we must replicate the situation in which one is 'in' love. HOWEVER, this does not entail that we understand the feelings themselves (psychology), but the metapsychology underlying it. The first resource is empirical, the second is a priori synthetic.

A contrasting view that they taught me of Augustine in my seminary: Love is the essence of God itself; to know love is to know God.

To be in love is to understand the relation of Jesus' love for his people by comparison with the love we have for our object of affection. Marriage in such a way is a covenant that mirrors the covenant Jesus made the day before he died.

Amor quorum intellectum


Barnaby Dawson

I am considering romantic love as an emotional condition of one person for another. Although I recognise that there other usages of the word I am not dealing with them here. I don't agree that romantic love is an "imposed narrative". I think that society may give us false impressions and stereotypes concerning romantic love but this does not imply that romantic love is purely a social construct.

In giving a list of observations that would be evidence for love I concentrated on easy and straightforward examples. I do not doubt that much better examples could be found which are of a substantially different type.

The issue of transcendental idealism is one which I shall get back to in another post. Suffice to say that I take the position that information is primary and that everything can be understood in terms of information.

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