Virtues/Love

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Introduction:[edit]

Love lures us toward the good. We speak of love in many ways, for example: I love my wife. I love my son. I love my parents. I love riding my bike. I love Wikiversity. I love this or that pop singer. I love chocolate. I love reading. I love the latest movie. I love all you guys.The first motivation of a new-born infant is to seek an affectionate bond with a mother or mother surrogate.[1] Each example declares our attraction toward, or joy from, something we regard as good.

The Greeks had at least four different words for distinct forms of love: éros, philía, agápe, and storgē. Each describes a particular attraction toward the good.

Éros – wanting something specific that is good— Éros is love manifest as desire. It is a quest for something or someone in particular.[2] We are declaring our éros when we say I would love to hear that new song, or I would love to go sailing, or I would love to meet that hot chick that is new at school. We want it because we recognize it is good. We also declare our éros when we tell our romantic partner “I love you”, declaring “I want you”. Although éros is initially felt for a person, with contemplation it becomes an appreciation of the beauty within that person, or even becomes appreciation of beauty itself.

Philía—enjoying what is good—Philía is the love we enjoy as our hopes and desires are fulfilled; it is enjoying what we have. It is our capacity to derive joy from something or someone. When we are enjoying good music, great food, a walk in the woods, a magnificent sunset, the company of friends, satisfying work, beautiful art, the smiling face of our child, or the comforts of our lover, we feel a love for the good in what we have. We love what brings us joy. This is a love without want.

Storgē—bonding to the goodness of family and friends—This form of affection suggests a path from Philía to Agápe.

Agápe—sharing good with our fellow man—charity, generosity, good will, positive regard, and loving-kindness are all ways we share goodness with others, often strangers, and sometimes even enemies. This is a selfless, benevolent, humble, gratuitous, generous, gentle, giving, and unconditional love. This is a love that is free from ego and therefore frees us. [3] The good radiates from you to the love object. It is the joyful acceptance of the other, any other, as he or she is. [4] At its best it is universal love, extending to all people: lovers, friends, strangers, and enemies.

The Virtue of Love[edit]

Virtue is excellence in being for the good. Love draws us toward that good.

Where there is love, the other virtues are superseded and become redundant. Moral duty commands: Act as though you loved.[5]

“A short and true definition of virtue,” said Augustine, “is due ordering of love.” [6]

Love, through its role in procreation, brings us as close as possible to immortality.

Viktor Frankl describes an insight into love that occurred to him while marching to his work detail in a concentration camp:[7]

I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth—that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.

Indeed, love is all you need. [8]

Everyday Love[edit]

Practice the virtue of love every day in these ways:

  1. Refuse to hate.
  2. Want what you have, savor it and enjoy it.
  3. The virtues of fidelity, generosity, compassion, mercy, gratitude, humility, simplicity, tolerance, purity, gentleness, and good faith each prepare us for love. Practice them every day. Love will emerge and strengthen.
  4. Let love into your life. The grace of being loved precedes the grace of loving and prepares us for it. [9]

Assignment[edit]

Part 1: Notice those things that bring you joy or that you declare your love for. Are they good? What makes them good?

Part 2: List the various loves in your life. This might include a childhood pet, a favorite place, an aunt, uncle, or grandparent, a favorite activity, hobby, song, or book. Recall your feelings of joyful awareness. Extend these joyful feelings toward each person in your present family, including your spouse or lover, siblings, parents, and children. Continue to extend these joyful feelings to those more distant from you, including your neighbors, co-workers, and others. Develop empathy. Eventually strive to extend joyful feelings toward people you disagree with and those you dislike.

Part 3: Work to expand your capacity for love by striving to follow these steps (attributed to Plato): First love the beauty of one individual body; next we love all lovely bodies, since they all partake of the same beauty. Then we love the beauties of the soul, which are superior to those of the bodies; and afterwards the beauty of laws and institutions, followed by the beauty of the sciences, and finally the very soul of beauty, everlasting and supernatural, subsisting of itself and by itself, the beauty of which all lovely things partake, from which they all originate and receive their beauty. [10]

References[edit]

  1. The Nature of Love, 1958, Harry F. Harlow, University of Wisconsin, First published in American Psychologist, 13, 673-685
  2. Comte-Sponville, André (2002). "Chapter 18". A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues: The Uses of Philosophy in Everyday Life. Picador. pp. 368. ISBN 978-0805045567. 
  3. Comte-Sponville, André (2002). "Chapter 18". A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues: The Uses of Philosophy in Everyday Life. Picador. pp. 368. ISBN 978-0805045567. 
  4. Comte-Sponville, André (2002). "Chapter 18". A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues: The Uses of Philosophy in Everyday Life. Picador. pp. 368. ISBN 978-0805045567. 
  5. Comte-Sponville, André (2002). "Chapter 18". A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues: The Uses of Philosophy in Everyday Life. Picador. pp. 368. ISBN 978-0805045567. 
  6. Augustine, City of god against the pagans, as reported in Comte-Sponville, André (2002). "Chapter 18". A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues: The Uses of Philosophy in Everyday Life. Picador. pp. 368. ISBN 978-0805045567. 
  7. Frankl, Viktor E. 1984. Man’s Search For Meaning. Third ed. New York: Simon & Schuster—A Touchstone Book
  8. All you need is love”, by John Lennon
  9. Comte-Sponville, André (2002). "Chapter 18". A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues: The Uses of Philosophy in Everyday Life. Picador. pp. 368. ISBN 978-0805045567. 
  10. Plato, Symposium, 210a, as reported by Comte-Sponville, André (2002). "Chapter 18". A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues: The Uses of Philosophy in Everyday Life. Picador. pp. 368. ISBN 978-0805045567. 

Further Reading[edit]

Students interested in learning more about the virtues of love may be interested in the following materials:

  • Ruggiero, Vincent Ryan (2006). The Practice of Loving Kindness: A Guide to Spiritual Fulfillment and Social Harmony. New City Press. pp. 152. ISBN 978-1565482548. 
  • Armstrong, John (2003). Conditions Of Love. W. W. Norton and Company, Inc.. pp. 176. ISBN 978-0393331738. 
  • Salzberg, Sharon (2002). Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness. Shambhala. pp. 208. ISBN 978-1570629037. 
  • Lewis, Thomas; Richard Lannon, Fari Amini (2001). A General Theory of Love. Vintage. pp. 288. ISBN 978-0375709227. 
  • The module on love in the wikiversity course on what matters.