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Unconditional love?

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  • I know someone, who I'll call Helen, who hates her grandfather because he (her grandfather) gives only criticism and scorn to Helen's father, but showers Helen's father's brother (Helen's uncle) with praise, honors, affection, and responsibilities within the family business. 
  • Helen claims that her grandfather, who is the "patriarch" and founder of the lucrative family business, should have "unconditional love" for all of his children. She sees her grandfather as engaging in a serious violation of the principle of "unconditional love" by showing such favoritism to her uncle (as compared to her father).
  • Helen claims that her father is just as competent and responsible in business as is her uncle.
  • However, Helen's grandfather sees Helen's uncle as much more competent and responsible in business as compared to her father.
  • I think Helen's basic ethical view is that even if her uncle was more competent than her father, her grandfather should nevertheless have "unconditional love" for all of his children and so give the roughly same level of praise, love, acceptance, encouragement, and opportunities to all of his children. 
  • Although a high degree of the ethics of "unconditional love" can be found in the Christian religion, Helen is not religious.
  • Helen obtained her ideas about the necessity and righteousness of "unconditional love" from her university studies of psychologists Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow.
  • I am conflicted about all this.
  • I can empathize with how Helen feels when she sees her grandfather giving her father nothing but criticism and scorn, but giving her father's brother nothing but praise, encouragement, and affection. 
  • And yet, "unconditional love" seems to be a highly impractical and unworkable ethical system. 
Edited by The Laws of Biology
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2 hours ago, The Laws of Biology said:
  • I am conflicted about all this.

What is love?  Is it what you feel for someone?  What you do?  What you get from someone else?

Is it finite?

Is it a unique aspect of an individual relationship or a fungible collective quantity shared or dispensed to many at a time?

IS love ever conditioned, or is it simply present or absent?

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17 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

What is love?

One source states this:

Conditional love

Some authors make a distinction between unconditional love and conditional love. In conditional love, love is "earned" on the basis of conscious or unconscious conditions being met by the lover, whereas in unconditional love, love is "given freely" to the loved one "no matter what". Loving is primary. Conditional love requires some kind of finite exchange, whereas unconditional love is seen as infinite and measureless.

Unconditional love should not be confused with unconditional dedication: unconditional dedication or "duty" refers to an act of the will irrespective of feelings (e.g. a person may consider that they have a duty to stay with someone); unconditional love is an act of the feelings irrespective of will.

Unconditional love separates the individual from their behavior. However, the individual may exhibit behaviors that are unacceptable in a particular situation.


Humanistic psychology

Humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers spoke of an unconditional positive regard and dedication towards one single support. Rogers stated that the individual needed an environment that provided them with genuineness, authenticity, openness, self-disclosure, acceptance, empathy, and approval.

Also, Abraham Maslow supported the unconditional love perspective by saying that in order to grow, an individual had to have a positive perspective of themselves. In Man's Search For Meaning, logotherapist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl draws parallels between the human capacity to love unconditionally and living a meaningful life. Frankl writes: "Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the essence of another human being unless he loves him. [...] Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize ... potentialities." For Frankl, unconditional love is a means by which we enable and reach human potential.



In Christianity, the term "unconditional love" can be used to indicate God's love for a person irrespective of that person's love for God. This comes from the concept of God sending His only Son, Jesus Christ down from heaven to earth to die on a cross in order to take the punishment for all of humanity's sins. If someone chooses to believe in this, commonly called "The Gospel", then Jesus' price on the cross pays for their sins so they can freely enter into heaven, and not hell. The term is not explicitly used in the Bible, and advocates for God's conditional or unconditional love, using different passages or interpretations to support their point of view, are both encountered due to confusion about God's nature. The cross is a clear indicator of God's unconditional love in that there is no way to earn one's way to heaven, one must simply believe. In all other religions cited below, there is a conditional striving to achieve a sense of unconditional love, based on one's own efforts and understanding. In Christianity, it all depends on Jesus, not the person's effort nor understanding. A passage in scriptures cites this "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—" Ephesians 2:8,9, NIV. God's discipline can be viewed as conditional based on people's choices, and this is where some may become confused. His salvation is a free gift, but His discipline, which is shaping of good character, can look more conditional. Ultimately, knowing God and free passage to heaven have already been supplied by a God of unconditional love. One can simply choose to believe in order to receive such love. The civil rights leader and Pastor, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was quoted as saying "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality".

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4 hours ago, The Laws of Biology said:

"unconditional love" seems to be a highly impractical and unworkable ethical system. 

I agree.

4 hours ago, The Laws of Biology said:

he (her grandfather) gives only criticism and scorn to Helen's father, but showers Helen's father's brother (Helen's uncle) with praise, honors, affection, and responsibilities within the family business. 

For this to be right behavior on her grandfather's part, there would have to be a very big difference between the father and the uncle.


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