Why do we love? A philosophical inquiry - Skye C. Cleary
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Robert Solomon and Kathleen Higgins have put together a selection of excerpts from Plato’s Symposium to late twentieth century philosophies in the Philosophy of (Erotic) Love. Irving Singer wrote extensively on the history of love in his trilogy called The Nature of Love, which also starts with Plato, plots the rise of romantic love, and then explores ideas of love in the modern world.
More recently, philosopher Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins at the University of British Columbia has been investigating the metaphysics of love, including questions such as “what is love?” Berit Brogaard, a philosopher at the University of Miami is researching the reasons for love and whether true love needs to be unconditional.
The BBC has a series of animations exploring what Jean-Paul Sartre, Plato, and psychological egoists say about love. Educator Brad Troeger gives an overview of different ideas about what love is in another TED-Ed lesson. Don’t you love that lesson?
Scientists are also working on ideas about why we love. Dawn Maslar discusses romantic chemistry in the TED-Ed lesson on ‘The Science of Attraction’. The mathematician Hannah Fry has been exploring patterns in looking for love. Anthropologist Helen Fisher turns to MRI scans to investigate some of the ways that love affects our brains. Tristram Wyatt, a zoologist, talks about the role of chemical signals in attraction. Psychotherapists such as Esther Perel are working on helping us figure out how to make love last.
To go directly to the sources, Plato’s Symposium is available on the MIT website. More on Arthur Schopenhauer’s philosophy of love can be found in the chapter of The World as Will and Idea called “The Metaphysics of the Love of the Sexes”. Some of Bertrand Russell’s views about love can be found in Marriage and Morals especially the chapter called “The Place of Love in Human Life”. For more on the ideas of the Buddha, What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula is one place to start. The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin is also sometimes translated as The Story of the Stone.
Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex was a groundbreaking work that was one of the pillars of the feminist movement. She explains how and why she became an intellectual and a feminist in an interview with Studs Terkel and a TV interview with French journalist Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber.
For more on Simone de Beauvoir’s and other existential views of love, check out the educator Skye C. Cleary’s book Existentialism and Romantic Loveand find out more about her writing on her website here.
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