Friday, February 08, 2013

Day 5: Your definition of love, in great detail

OK, I think this is kind of a stupid prompt.  I don't think that my definition of love is that different or that much more interesting than anyone else.  If you asked me what "meaning" means, that would be different.  So let's get deep and talk about defining love.

Love is the feeling you get at six o'clock in the morning when you get dressed in the dark so you don't wake your spouse.  It's when you let the other person play video games while you cook dinner.  And you can feel this way about plenty of people, and I think that's really great, that you can love lots of people. 

So maybe your definition wouldn't include anything about video games or cooking or waking up early or whatever, but it's all the same feeling. 


The Paulymath said...

> What is this thing called love?

Unwritten Law #16 : Don't perform a test unless you are prepared to live with the results.

You asked for it, you got it ...

I believe it is a belief - the belief in the value of a person that is more than just their flesh, bone, organs and mind.

But having suggested such a general and all-encompassing meaning, "Love" is a greatly used, and abused, term in the English language. It has commonly been lamented that this word means too much, and so is meaningless, unless qualified further.

Somewhere I have a text titled, "The Greeks had a word for it", it is not at hand, so I am ad-libbing from memory here. And I am a very amateurish Greek scholar, and generally limited to Koine Greek (New Testament), but I do know that the Greeks had at least resolved the concept of "love" to a minimum of the following three ideas :

Agape {A-gah-pay}     Divine love, sacrificial love [Strong's #26]

Eros {Eh-ros}     Romantic, passionate love (associated with Eros and Cupid), also rendered as Erotaz [Non Koine word]

Filia {Fih-lee-a}     Brotherly love; similar to, but far more profound than, friendship [Strong's #5373]

The shades of "Love" tie in quite nicely with my very recent philosophizing on the shades of meaning of honesty and truth. Look at the different implied meanings of the following three statements

1) I really love you.
2) I honestly love you.
3) I truly love you.

My point being that "I love you" changes with time in a relationship.

(1) I associate with the adamo concept of love [see sequel posted below] (fall in love with = passionate, romantic love)

(2) I associate with the re-assurance statement well into the relationship, it is not always sincere ("Of course I love you Dear!"), but it is never the same adoring, infatuation of first love.

(3) Is rare, I am afraid to say. Have I not read somewhere that you can only truly love someone after they have really hurt you or let you down, and you have come through a better person for it?

So maybe these can be mapped to the three forms listed above

Eros     I really love you.
Filia     I honestly love you.
Agape     I truly love you.

That is the gist of what I wanted to say, to follow is further supporting material I noted that is secondary.

The Paulymath said...

I don't know what the size of the contemporary Greek corpus is, but the full Koine vocabulary is only around 5544 words (last word in Strong's concordance is 5624, and I estimated not so long ago that around 80 words are omitted). In comparison, the Oxford English Dictionary corpus has 616'500 words, but we are still stuck in a rut using the vague word love!

I will not be able to access the OED's definition for a while (but I will do so and post again), so Roget's will have to suffice for now. I have removed all except the synonyms :-

Title: Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases
Author: Roget
Original Date: ??? Maybe early 1930's ?

897. Love -- N. love; fondness; liking; inclination; regard, dilection, admiration, fancy.
affection, sympathy, fellow-feeling; tenderness; heart; benevolence; attachment.
yearning, eros, amour; gyneolatry†; gallantry, passion, flame, devotion, fervor, enthusiasm, rapture, enchantment, infatuation, adoration, idolatry.

865. Desire -- N. desire, wish, fancy, fantasy; want, need, exigency.
mind, inclination, leaning, bent, animus, partiality, penchant, predilection; propensity; willingness; liking, love, fondness, relish.

Why can we instead not use words like the following to express what we mean (admittedly we need to 'verbify' some of them, and also avoid Fowler's identified "pedantic humour" syndrome) :

affection, tenderness; attachment; yearning, passion, enchantment, infatuation, adoration, desire, fancy, liking, fondness

The Greek prefix Phil- creates many related words that do make it into the shortlist of 5544 Koine Greek words :

philadelphia     Brotherly love
philandros     Love of a husband
philanthropia     Love of mankind
philargulia     Love of money {spelling may be wrong ?}
philautos     Love of one self
philo-theo     Love of God
philoneylia     Love of confusion
Philosophia     Love of wisdom
philo-storgos     Love of tenderness {spelling may be wrong ?}
philo-tekros     Love of ones children

And now other tangents :

The very first Latin lesson I had I can still remember, my very first word was "amo, amare (to love)". I thought that it was maybe the most primitive Latin verb, but no it is not :-

do   I give
eo   I go
no   I swim, float, sail
ago   I (perform one of many actions like) do, live, manage
alo   I cherish, nourish
amo   I love, cherish
aro   I plough
edo   I give out; OR   I eat, consume
emo   I buy, purchase
ico   I hit, strike, wound
neo   I spin, weave
oro   I speak, plead, entreat
ruo   I rush, fall, be ruined
sto   I stand, stand fast
sum   I am

I like this word, it reminds me of adam = a man.
adamo I fall in love with, find pleasure in.

And the most well known expression of love (French) has a just-as-romantic rendition in Latin

te amo = Je t'aime

Finally, nothing to do with love, unless you consider the link with the pure love of languages,

(I really don't believe google.translate's "agape glossas", philologos seems more believable)

the shortest sentence in Latin is shorter than the shortest sentence in English (they are the same imperative sentence) :

  I!       Go!

The Paulymath said...

Bertrand Russell is the consummate polymath, I love his take on love :

To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.
  - Marriage and Morals (1929), Ch. 19: Sex and Individual Well-Being

Love should be a tree whose roots are deep in the earth, but whose branches extend into heaven.
  - Marriage and Morals (1929), Ch. 19: Sex and Individual Well-Being

Love is something far more than the desire for sex, it is the principal means of escape from the loneliness which afflicts most men and women throughout the greater part of their lives.
  - Marriage and Morals (1929), The place of Love in Human Life

Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.
  - The Conquest of Happiness (1930)

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.
  - The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell (1951-1969)

Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (May 18, 1872 – February 2, 1970) was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. In 1950 he was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature.

Paulymath said...

A year has flown by,
  I now write words short and sweet.
          Say it with Haiku.

This is what Love is (Fromm)
Love is the only
  satisfact'ry reason for
        human existence.

Love is the only
  sane and satisfactory
    answer to the
      problem of
human existence.
  Erich Fromm, "THE ART OF LOVING", 1956

This has been a journey for me :
I first read Gaarder, I have read Freud, I am reading Frankl - now I look forward to reading Fromm.