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Guest InquisitMind

What is love?

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Guest InquisitMind

I posted this question in Aesthetics also, but I guess this is related to ethics as well. I am just trying to get a clear picture of how ethics affects one's love. I still cannot answer the question of what love is, and I can't really understand Ayn Rand's explanation.

Is love rational? If so, what the heck does that mean?

I have been thinking about the concept of "love" for some time, and I would like to ask for your ideas on it. I love beauty, and I can fall in love with pretty much anything that reflects it, I think. Beauty attracts me.

My question is:

How does one fall in love? What is the experience really like? I guess I would like to know what your understanding of what love is. If you have fallen in love before (I think all of us might have at some point), how do you describe it, how do you put it into words? It is such a powerful emotion, that I think it cannot be expressed.

I also have hard time relating the concept of love to what Ayn Rand called "sense of life". I have read her books with great enjoyment, but I guess I do not know what the real life application of that would be like. If you have a relevant knowledge or experience to share, or give me any advice, or point me towards a direction so I can better understand "love", I would greatly appreciate it.

:)

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As someone totally and completely in love I can only describe it as the woman/man you love makes you feel complete, like no one else can. You look forward to their presence more than other things and you think about them more than any other single topic. If your not with them (as in relationship) you may feel physically ill, and may become severely depressed. Also more of a male thing, but if someone ever says anything to insult or hurt them, let alone touch them, you can become enraged, almost to the point where you loose control.

hope that helps :)

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Guest InquisitMind

That is very interesting that you said, the person makes you feel "complete". I know what you mean by that. I guess my experience is that when I think of the person I love, who is unfortunately not with me at this point, I feel much more powerful, much more capable. It makes me feel like I am not alone in the world. I am selfish and all, but the person I love, just the knowledge that of that person being alive and there makes my selfishness seem so much more valuable. It is interesting. Not sure how this relates to my sense of life though. And I totally agree with you, regarding somebody attacking a loved one, I would feel total rage.

:)

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1. What is love?

Although she didn't really write about it in particular detail, it's clear if we look at the preponderance of her statements that to Rand, love is seen in its typical modern psychological meaning. Love is an emotion responding to what one values highly. It is feeling of enjoyment and pleasure resulting in the desire to gain, keep, achieve, possess, be in close proximity to, etc. what one values. When used in a verb form in ordinary language, such as "I love everything beautiful," I think we can just interpret this as saying one values highly the thing in question and thus has the emotional response.

The clearest source we have for this is a brief paragraph in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology where Rand is applying her theory of concept-formation to various instances and expounding on it, she mentions of love as "an emotion proceeding from the evaluation of an existent as a positive value and as a source of pleasure" (ITOE 34.)

2. Is love rational, what does that mean? (And also how does ethics effect love?)

If love is seen in the sense of an emotion responding to a high positive evaluation of something, then in this sense we can't say that it is rational or irrational. Emotions are automatic responses to values, so they themselves are neither. But the value-judgments themselves can be appraised by reason, according to Rand, so in that sense, we can ask whether it is rational to love the thing in question, in other words, if it is actually beneficial for us to value the thing.

In terms of romantic love then, when we respond to the other person, we respond to being in that person's presence, having contact with that person, and all their attributes and virtues or positive qualities and integrate these things into our own happiness. So in asking if this love is rational, we ask whether or not these qualities and attributes are actually of positive benefit to us. It is this way also that love is determined by values and even philosophic premises, and so becomes a topic for ethics.

3. How does one fall in love?

This also would be a question more for psychology and not philosophy to answer. Rand doesn't address the issue (at least not directly), but I think the general idea is that, starting early in life, one has a set of tastes and responses to traits one starts forming based on associations, and these experiences accumulate and mix together with various judgments about the way things are to form one's emotional response to things. One can have conscious identification of these standards, or they can stay more subconscious and implicit. (Actually this kind of leads in to the next question.)

4. What is "sense of life"?

According to Rand, since the need for some fundamental questions about life are inescapable, whether we realize it or not, all men have a basic philosophy of life. But not all men hold their values or ideas in conscious, verbal form, and don't know the first thing about philosophy. Most people form their implicit views of "the basic nature of existence and man... subconsciously by means of an emotional generalization, by an identified unverbalized estimate of the value and meaning of their own existence." This is not a explicit philosophy, but basically an emotionally integrated core attitude toward life and experiences with it. This she calls a "sense of life." Rand is basically differentiating between the explicit, conscious views someone holds (a philosophy) and their subconscious, more deeply ingrained accumulated premises about life that guides their emotional reactions and ways they tend to integrate new experiences (sense of life.) Now, the two may be in line, or they may not; also, the two may be based on rational premises and values, or the may not. In Rand's aesthetics, the concept plays a central role in the relation of art to cognitive function and emotion, since one's sense of life is the basic way that one responds to art.

Cf. Rand, The Romantic Manifesto, "Philosophy and Sense of Life," "Art and Sense of Life," "Art and Cognition" (in the revised edition.)

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Guest InquisitMind

In terms of romantic love then, when we respond to the other person, we respond to being in that person's presence, having contact with that person, and all their attributes and virtues or positive qualities and integrate these things into our own happiness. So in asking if this love is rational, we ask whether or not these qualities and attributes are actually of positive benefit to us. It is this way also that love is determined by values and even philosophic premises, and so becomes a topic for ethics.

Wow! I feel like you just gave me a scientific answer to my question. I read what you wrote very carefully, and it connected the dots in my brain. I can totally see it as viewing somebody as a "positive value". In my case it is more like "intensely positive" almost to the point that I can say, I will give my life to ensure the well being of the person I love, if necessary. And from the way you explained, it seems like if my subconscious values make me feel that strong love, it may be so that my subconscious values are not explicitly identified. I need to think about and see what makes me feel that way.

So, I guess love, versus romantic love, would be that romantic love is experienced with a person, but love as the concept can refer to any object that one happens to value?

I guess it is the psychology aspect that I am trying to understand in the process of falling in love.

I appreciate the time you took to write such an in-detail response with references. I have some of her works and I will dig through them, to find out more. Thanks!

:)

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So, I guess love, versus romantic love, would be that romantic love is experienced with a person, but love as the concept can refer to any object that one happens to value?

Yeah from my understanding, definitely, there can be continuums of things like, "I love this pen," and "I love this car," and "I love this person," etc. There can also be different axes on the continuum itself, like e.g. I can isolate and consider as a different kind of love "I love this person over here" and "I love that person over there" since it has some similarities with each other and differences from "I love this pen," and "I love this car," so different kinds of love can be categorized like "continuums within a continuum" ("friendship," "family," and "romance," etc.)

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Guest InquisitMind

Many people use the expression "I love you, but I hate you at the same time". This did not make sense to me logically, even though there were times I felt that way towards certain people. Then I realized, that the "love" I had, was for the parts that I liked and considered as value. And the "hate", was for the things I considered annoying or plain bad. I guess when somebody is morally "gray", like Ayn Rand would say, that person's relationships with others is always a combination of love and hate.

My experience is that some people love their pets, more than they love other people. Like, emotionally, and subconsciously, their valuation of a dog can be higher than certain people they know. But they would never express themselves as such. In the same line of thinking, I can see how to a saint, the Bible may be of much higher value than let's say the lives of all the individuals in a tribe combined.

Ayn Rand spoke of hierarchy of values and it is interesting to think about what kind of hierarchy of values such people have.

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Many people use the expression "I love you, but I hate you at the same time". This did not make sense to me logically, even though there were times I felt that way towards certain people. Then I realized, that the "love" I had, was for the parts that I liked and considered as value. And the "hate", was for the things I considered annoying or plain bad. I guess when somebody is morally "gray", like Ayn Rand would say, that person's relationships with others is always a combination of love and hate.

My experience is that some people love their pets, more than they love other people. Like, emotionally, and subconsciously, their valuation of a dog can be higher than certain people they know. But they would never express themselves as such. In the same line of thinking, I can see how to a saint, the Bible may be of much higher value than let's say the lives of all the individuals in a tribe combined.

Ayn Rand spoke of hierarchy of values and it is interesting to think about what kind of hierarchy of values such people have.

The love and hate relationship is very complex; from my current situation I value someone and the way they make me feel so much that i wouldn't hesitate to give nearly anything to ensure it stays protected, even if it meant inconveniences for myself. However while I still completely love this person, their actions do at some points seriously hurt me in ways that no one else could. Hence at some points I resent her, for lack of a better word, stupidity, but that doesn't change how i view her as a whole. Love is not the opposite of hate, they are both opposites of apathy.

Edited by rdrdrdrd

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Love is embracing/protecting that which we value, as others have stated above.

This means that love can be either positive or negative on extreme ends of the spectrum, and everything in between. If a person's adopted philosophy (whether conscious or, as stated above as being more common, subconscious) places value on virtue, that love will express itself positively. If an individual's philosophy places value on vice, it would be negative.

People tend to choose who they love based on their own self-image. Someone who, for whatever collection of reasons, thinks lowly of themselves, often seeks (again, either consciously or in most cases, subconsciously) out people who consistently provide confirmation of their own belief that they are of little value. In contrast, a highly confident person who has a shining sense of self-woth will only offer their love to someone who they know to share a similar "sense of life".

2046's response is superb.

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