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Concerto of Atlantis

Love at first sight

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*** Mod's note: Merged with an earlier thread - sN ***

I was just wondering what the "objectivist-viewpoint" was on love at first sight.

As the saying goes, you can't judge a book by it's cover..but have you ever just "known" that a person was right for you when you saw him/her for the first time?

Is this even really possible..? You might be physically attracted to a person and assume that they value the same things as you.. but without knowing a person at all, these may turn out to be completely wrong assumptions.

I was just thinking about this, as a lot of people say, "I just knew when I met him.."

I read somewhere that Rand saw O'Connor on the set of a movie and had similar feelings. She ran into him later and they ended up getting married. But then again, Gail Wynand's story was told in the Fountainhead: he "fell in love" with a beautiful girl, only to have her ask if some other girl was prettier than her. He was totally wrong about her, and never looked back when he walked out the door!

What do you guys think: Is it irrational to believe in love at first sight, without even knowing a person?

Edited by softwareNerd
Merged with an earlier thread

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I don't think there is any "Objectivist viewpoint" on a thing like this, as it sounds something more for psychology to answer. But on a sort of common sense level, I don't see why not. If love is a kind of emotional reaction to the virtues that you see in another person, then it seems like it would certainly be possible to immediately see a person with so much of the kind of things that you like, that you immedately love. Now, we can probably further distinguish between kinds of love, like mature love and immature love, and there we might run into difficulties. I don't see how it would be possible to have a completely mature romantic love immediately spring forth upon looking at someone, but we can make differentiations within the category of love like that.

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I think that there's such a thing as love at first sight, but it depends on what is meant by "at first sight." (And by love, as 2046 pointed out.)

I think it's like premonitions. If you "think" that something is going to happen and it does, you call it a premonition. If it doesn't happen, it's ignored, not chalked up to a failed premonition. If the person you "love at first sight" proves to be the person you do love, over time, then it was "love at first sight," just as the premonition was "correct." Something was there at first sight, but what?

You gave the example of being physically attracted to a person, presumably "on first sight" (which I think happens all the time). But what does that mean actually? Is that not a judgement (as opposed to some kind of so-called physical attraction, like some kind of chemical response)? And if it's a judgement, is it not a snap or rapid judgement? And if it's that, is it not a matter of instantaneously cashing in on all the judgements you've already made in the past, so that on seeing what is in accord with your values, or what you think is in accord with your values, you have an immediate positive reaction?

You see someone with a certain look and you're smitten. Does that judgement reside only in the moment? Or is it cashing in on all your past judgments as a sum?

We all live and grow and over time and say yes and no to various things, including certain looks and types of people. When we meet someone we have already said yes to, as a kind, then the yes for them is immediate. Confirmation on other estimates may take time.

Edited by Trebor

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Heh, the previous thread has the same title, even. Should be merged.

What exactly do we mean by love here? I would think it's not possible to feel *love* at first sight, and would require a fair amount of interactions.

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Trebor,

That was a sensible (if not, wise) assessment.

I was going to say a flat "no" to the proposition, but you have explored it well enough to motivate me to expand some more.

I believe in 'reciprocal attraction' at first sight. Usually, I think because she (he) has observed you an instant or so earlier, and is already reacting favorably to your presence in subtle ways. Your response to this, in turn, is subconscious - and assuming she's physically attractive to you - you sense that powerful rush.

The interesting thing is that she might not even be looking at you - just laughing with friends, say.

That's my theory,(and sometime experience) though I'm interested to hear others' thoughts .

(But love? now that takes time.)

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Alot of a persons sense of life can be communicated through looks, expressions and body language. Some of it we pick up conciously and some of it subconciously. When we someone reflecting our values it's quite possible to have a very strong reaction - i.e love at first sight.

It does not necessarily mean it holds up to scrutiny. Our perception may be wrong, perhaps there are flaws we find out later and maybe our minds are filling in the blanks when we first see the other person. Sometimes it's more a reaction to our values than the other person itself. However, that does not make it any less love.

Personally I find it alot harder to believe in love at second glance. It's never worked that way for me and the relationships i've seen built on it seem more like friendship.

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I think that there are moments (rare) within certain contexts and actions that can reveal a great deal about a person, enough to actually fall in love with them "at first sight" (in a very short amount of time, almost instantaneously). This is not a matter of looks only (so-called "physical attraction"), but looks and actions that reveal something profound about a person.

I had something else in mind, but I don't remember it well enough (from Valery Panov's autobiography, To Dance), so instead, as an example from fiction, remember in Braveheart after young William Wallace's father is killed and just after they had buried him? The young girl, Murron, pulled back from following her parents away from the grave, and then she picked a flower and brought it to young William. Without saying a word, she handed him the flower. Later, after many years away with his uncle, he returned, and he told her, "I love you. Always have. I wanna marry you."

Perhaps there are better examples, even in fiction, but that's one that came to mind.

Edited by Trebor

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Thanks for all the interesting responses.

I was trying to draw some conclusions from Rand's books. In We the Living, Kira seems immediately in love with Leo when she first sees him. Their relationship develops over time, but I think she definately fell for him without knowing anything about him (ie: his father's position, why it was dangerous for him to come into town, his work ethics, his passions, etc.) It's also interesting because she said she "knew" that he wasn't like other guys (as they met under interesting circumstances). :) So of course she would have dropped him if he turned out to be a lesser man, but she knew when she first saw him that he wasn't.

As 2040 said, if the definition of love is an emotional reaction to the virtues you see in another person.. then well, I can't see love at first sight being likely at all. (If 'first sight' means seeing someone for the first time without knowing about them at all).

I don't know if I've ever been lucky enough to see someone "reflecting my values" in an everyday life situation. For me, it always takes some time to talk to people and feel them out before I can make a decision about them.. but! There are some cases where I just "click" with people, and we become instant friends or friends+.

Anyways, I think you're right Trebor: A judgement of a person is the sum of all past judgements, and a person can certainly grow on you over time. Instantaneous love.. I'm still not sure. Maybe it happens for some lucky people.

Edited by Michele Degges

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Yes, and that "click" is when that person fits. They are the (or a) person you've been looking for, having formed some idea(s) of just who you're looking for, and then suddenly they are there. And when it goes well, the more you get to know them, the more they "click."

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Going to basics, I think it's a mistake to make a 'floating abstraction' of love.

The obvious question first, is what do you mean by 'love'?

Immediate attraction, isn't love. "Love" at first sight, is an age-old euphemism for describing initial attraction, I think. It doesn't hold up under scrutiny, which we are doing. When Objectivists talk of romantic love, we talk of a highest value that does not happen every day. Essentially, I believe love is a hierarchy of everything about a loved one - from bottom up, all things physical, emotional and rational, right through to their mind and ideals.Their 'spirit', if you like. Plus, of course, adding your own hierarchy into the mix. When the object of love is connected this way given time, then love is not a floating abstraction .

Sure, there is inspiration in the beauty of love in fiction and movies, for us all.

But one has to bear in mind that it's not a "format" for love; that the artist has had to abbreviate, or select; that he has employed poetic licence for emphasis; that every act of love (even fictional love) is unique and individual, like we are; and lastly and crucially, that it is reality we seek in love , as in everything else.

Or else we risk the mistake of trivializing the concept of love - or compromising our Self - or of severe disappointment.

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Going to basics, I think it's a mistake to make a 'floating abstraction' of love.

What you mean by making a 'floating abstraction' of love?

The obvious question first, is what do you mean by 'love'?

Immediate attraction, isn't love. "Love" at first sight, is an age-old euphemism for describing initial attraction, I think. .It doesn't hold up under scrutiny, which we are doing.

Seems then that you do in fact think that love at first sight is impossible?

The question is not whether love at first sight is a precondition of love, nor is the question whether love at first sight is the norm or the common. The question is whether love at first sight is possible, even if it is rare.

Since you seem to hold that love at first sight is not possible, how much time is required to actually love? And just what has to come with that time?

This all reminds me of the view of Curly (played by Jack Palance) in City Slickers revealed in his discussion with Mitch (played by Billy Crystal):

Mitch: You ever been in love?

Curly: Once. I was driving a herd across the panhandle. Texas. Passed near this little dirt farm right about sundown. Out in the field was this young woman, working down in the dirt. Just about then she stood up to stretch her back. She was wearing a little cotton dress, and the settin' sun was right behind her, showing the shape that God had give her.

Mitch: What happened?

Curly: I just turned around and rode away.

Mitch: Why?

Curly: I figured it wasn't gonna get any better than that.

Mitch: But you could have been, you know...with her.

Curly: Been with lots of women.

Mitch: Yeah, but you know, she could have been the love of your life.

Curly: She is.

Meaning what? That love at first sight is but a self-deluded projection of one's ideals and values onto another person, and with time, in actually getting to know that person, one can only become disillusioned? That "familiarity breeds contempt"?

Sure, there is inspiration in the beauty of love in fiction and movies, for us all.

But one has to bear in mind that it's not a "format" for love; that the artist has had to abbreviate, or select; that he has employed poetic licence for emphasis; that every act of love (even fictional love) is unique and individual, like we are; and lastly and crucially, that it is reality we seek in love , as in everything else.

In other words, fiction is fiction and can't really reveal any truth(s)?

With fiction we get a god's eye view of the situation as well as the characters involved, so we understand more that we typically do when we observe things (like two people who have just met and yet are strongly attracted to each other). The same insights, given to us in fiction by the author, normally would require more effort to gain. In everyday life, if you see two people who've just met and seem greatly attracted to each other, you are not privy to all that is there, to what's known to the two people involved, only to what's directly available to you, so it may seem to be only a superficial attraction.

Or else we risk the mistake of trivializing the concept of love - or compromising our Self - or of severe disappointment.

I agree.

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What I mean by the mistake of a "floating abstraction" of love, is falling in love with love itself, instead of a physical being; or, admiring the ideal, more than the reality of the person.

Looked at objectively, and with what we as O'ists view as romantic love, how can it be remotely conceivable for a man and a woman to see each other - and fall in love? That isn't realistic romanticism, it is sentimentalism, I believe.

How can the mere sight of a physical being impart all his values, virtues, and character? His personality - maybe.

Yes, I might see a woman with all the grace, poise and beauty I admire - and briefly it may flit through my mind "I could fall for that one!"

And if I somehow met her, it just may be that her voice immediately disappoints me - or, that she seems silly and shallow (or, whatever.) Then there's what she perceives in me!

OK, I've run ahead of initial "first sight". My observations are that it's not ever possible - given that we agree on what love is.

The premise of the OP's question strikes me as somewhat mystical. Which is why I believe in 'attraction at first sight' - and no more.

Well said about love in fiction. I agree with it, though as an expansion to what I earlier wrote. It is certainly insightful and inspirational, but one should bear in mind that the author is by necessity "fast-forwarding" the relationship - you don't read about the number of 'failures' before our two hero-lovers meet. About the number of frogs that he kissed before the princess.

(Although, by no means am I discounting the importance of some simple, warm, but short-lived relationships, that never made it all the way.)

Which is another topic...

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Perhaps something that would help clarify the viewpoint that love at first sight is impossible is this quote by Robert Heinlein, which I randomly ran into the other day:

"Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.."

For someone to become essential to your happiness, it takes a long time, or at least some amount of important interactions beyond a first meeting.

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