Love is any of a number of emotions and experiences related to a sense of strong affection or profound oneness. Depending on context, love can have a wide variety of intended meanings. Romantic love is seen as a deep, ineffable feeling of intense and tender attraction shared in passionate or intimate attraction and intimate interpersonal and sexual relationships.Love can also be conceived of as Platonic love,religious love,familial love, and, more casually, great affection for anything considered strongly pleasurable, desirable, or preferred, including activities and foods. This diverse range of meanings in the singular word love is often contrasted with the plurality of Greek words for love, reflecting the concept's depth, versatility, and complexity.
The definition of love is the subject of considerable debate, enduring speculation, and thoughtful introspection. In ordinary use, love usually refers to interpersonal love, an experience felt by a person for another person. Love often involves caring for or identifying with a person or thing, including oneself (cf. narcissism). Dictionaries tend to define love as deep affection or fondness. In colloquial use, according to polled opinion, the most favoured definitions of love involve altruism, selflessness, friendship, union, family, and bonding or connecting with another.
The different aspects of love can be roughly illustrated by comparing their corollaries and opposites. As a general expression of positive sentiment (a stronger form of like), love is commonly contrasted with hate (or neutral apathy); as a less sexual and more mutual and "pure" form of romantic attachment, love is commonly contrasted with lust; and as an interpersonal relationship with romantic overtones, love is commonly contrasted with friendship, although other connotations of love may be applied to close friendships as well.
The very existence of love is sometimes subject to debate. Some categorically reject the notion as false or meaningless. Others call it a recently-invented abstraction, sometimes dating the "invention" to courtly Europe during or after the Middle Ages. Others maintain that love really exists, and is not an abstraction, but is undefinable, being essentually spiritual or metaphysical in nature. Some psychologists maintain that love is the action of lending one's "boundary" or "self-esteem" to another. Others attempt to define love by applying the definition to everyday life.
Cultural differences make any universal definition of love difficult to establish. Expressions of love may include the love for a soul or mind, the love of laws and organizations, love for a body, love for nature, love of food, love of money, love for learning, love of power, love of fame, love for the respect of others, etc. Different people place varying degrees of importance on the kinds of love they receive. Love is essentially an abstract concept, easier to experience than to explain. Because of the complex and abstract nature of love, discourse on love is commonly reduced to a thought-terminating cliché, and there are a number of common proverbs regarding love, from Virgil's "Love conquers all" to The Beatles' "All you need is love".
2. Scientific views
Main article: Love (scientific views)Throughout history, philosophy and religion have done the most speculation on the phenomenon of love. In the last century, the science of psychology has written a great deal on the subject. In recent years, the sciences of evolutionary psychology, evolutionary biology, anthropology, neuroscience, and biology have added to the understanding of the nature and function of love.
2.1 Biology of love
Further information: Interpersonal chemistry Biological models of sex tend to view love as a mammalian drive, much like hunger or thirst. Helen Fisher, a leading expert in the topic of love, divides the experience of love into three partly-overlapping stages: lust, attraction, and attachment.
Lust is the initial passionate sexual desire that promotes mating, and involves the increased release of chemicals such as testosterone and estrogen. These effects rarely last more than a few weeks or months. Attraction is the more individualized and romantic desire for a specific candidate for mating, which develops out of lust as commitment to an individual mate forms. Recent studies in neuroscience have indicated that as people fall in love, the brain consistently releases a certain set of chemicals, including dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which act similar to amphetamines, stimulating the brain's pleasure center and leading to side-effects such as an increased heart rate, loss of appetite and sleep, and an intense feeling of excitement. Research has indicated that this stage generally lasts from one and a half to three years.
Since the lust and attraction stages are both considered temporary, a third stage is needed to account for long-term relationships. Attachment is the bonding which promotes relationships that last for many years, and even decades. Attachment is generally based on commitments such as marriage and children, or on mutual friendship based on things like shared interests. It has been linked to higher levels of the chemicals oxytocin and vasopressin than short-term relationships have.
In 2005, Italian scientists at Pavia University found that a protein molecule known as the nerve growth factor (NGF) has high levels when people first fall in love, but these levels return to as they were after one year. Specifically, four neurotrophin levels, i.e. NGF, BDNF, NT-3, and NT-4, of 58 subjects who had recently fallen in love were compared with levels in a control group who were either single or already engaged in a long-term relationship. The results showed that NGF levels were significantly higher in the subjects in love than as compared to the either of the control groups.
2.2 Psychology of love
Further information: Human bonding Psychology depicts love as a cognitive and social phenomenon. Psychologist Robert Sternberg formulated a triangular theory of love and argued that love has three different components: Intimacy, Commitment, and Passion. Intimacy is a form by which two people can share secrets and various details of their personal lives. Intimacy is usually shown in friendships and romantic love affairs. Commitment, on the other hand, is the expectation that the relationship is going to last forever. The last and most common form of love is sexual attraction and passion. Passionate love is shown in infatuation as well as romantic love. This led researchers such as Yela to further refine the model by separating
Passion into two independents components: Erotic Passion and Romantic Passion.
Following developments in electrical theories, such as Coulomb's law, which showed that positive and negative charges attract, analogs in human life were developed, such as "opposites attract". Over the last century, research on the nature of human mating, such as in evolutionary psychology, agree that pairs unite or attract to each other owing to a combination of opposites attract, e.g. people with dissimilar immune systems tend to attract, and likes attract, such as similarities of personality, character, views, etc. In recent years, various human bonding theories have been developed described in terms of attachments, ties, bonds, and or affinities.
Some Western authorities disaggregate into two main components, the altruistic and the narcissistic. This view is represented in the works of Scott Peck, whose works in the field of applied psychology explored the definitions of love and evil. Peck maintains that love is a combination of the"'concern for the spiritual growth of another", and simple narcissism. In combination, love is an activity, not simply a feeling.
3. Psilosophical views
People, throughout history, have often considered phenomena such as "love at first sight" or "instant friendships" to be the result of an uncontrollable force of attraction or affinity. One of the first to theorize in this direction was the Greek philosopher Empedocles, who in the 4th century BC argued for the existence of two forces, love (philia) and strife (neikos), which were used to account for the causes of motion in the universe. These two forces were said to intermingle with the classical elements, i.e., earth, water, air, and fire, in such a manner that love served as the binding power linking the various parts of existence harmoniously together.
Later, Plato interpreted Empedocles' two agents as attraction and repulsion, stating that their operation is conceived in an alternate sequence. From these arguments, Plato originated the concept of "likes attract", e.g., earth is attracted to earth, water to water, and fire to fire. In modern terms this is often phrased in terms of "birds of a feather flock together".
Bertrand Russell describes love as a condition of "absolute value", as opposed to relative value. Thomas Jay Oord defines love as acting intentionally, in sympathetic response to others (including God), to promote overall well-being. Oord means for his definition to be adequate for religion, philosophy, and the sciences. Robert Anson Heinlein, one of the most prolific science fiction writers of the 20th century, defined love in his novel Stranger in a Strange Land as the point of emotional connection which leads to the happiness of another being essential to one's own well being. This definition ignores the ideas of religion and science and instead focuses on the meaning of love as it relates to the individual.
Falling in love
"Falling in love" is a mainly Western term used to describe the process of moving from a feeling of neutrality towards someone, to one of love. The usage of the term "fall" implies many things: that the process may have been in some way inevitable or uncontrollable, risky or putting the lover in a state of vulnerability, that the process is irreversible, or all of these things. The term is generally used to describe an (eventual) love that is strong.
In his socio-psychological theory Francesco Alberoni states that falling in love is a process of the same nature as religious or political conversion.
People fall in love when they are ready to change, or to start a new life.
According to Alberoni, falling in love is a rapid process of destructuration-reorganization called the nascent state. In the nascent state, the individual becomes capable of merging with another person and creating a new collectivity with a very high degree of solidarity. Hence the definition: falling in love is the nascent state of a collective movement formed of two people only.
In order to understand if someone is truly in love, the individual must be put to truth tests and, in order to find out if he or she is loved in return, the beloved is also put to reciprocal tests. The incandescent process of the nascent state through these tests gives way to certainty and produces a stable love relationship. According to Alberoni, the phenomenology of falling in love is the same for young people and adults, for men and women and for homosexuals and heterosexuals: this is because the structure of the nascent state is always the same.
Unlike the theories consolidated by psychoanalysis, the sociologist does not consider falling in love as a regression, but instead sees it as launching oneself towards the future and change, and thus as fundamental to the formation of a couple in love.
Greek words for love
There are a number of different Greek words for love, as the Greek language distinguishes how the word is used. Ancient Greek has three distinct words for love: eros, philia, and agape. However, as with other languages, it has been historically difficult to separate the meanings of these words. Nonetheless, the senses in which these words were generally used are given below.
Eros (ἔρως érōs) is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. The Modern Greek word "erotas" means "(romantic) love". However, Eros does not have to be sexual in nature. Eros can be interperated as a love for someone who you love more than the Philia love of friendship. It can also apply to dating relationships as well as marriage. Plato refined his own definition. Although eros 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. It should be noted Plato does not talk of physical attraction as a necessary part of love, hence the use of the word platonic to mean, "without physical attraction". Plato also said Eros helps the soul recall knowledge of beauty, and contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth. Lovers and philosophers are all inspired to seek truth by eros. The most famous ancient work on the subject of eros is Plato's Symposium, which is a discussion among the students of Socrates on the nature of eros.
Philia (φιλία philía), means friendship in modern Greek, a dispassionate virtuous love, was a concept developed by Aristotle. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity. In ancient texts, philia denoted a general type of love, used for love between family, between friends, a desire or enjoyment of an activity, as well as between lovers. Agapē (ἀγάπη agápē) means "love" in modern day Greek. The term s'agapo means "I love you" in Greek. The word "agapo" is the verb "I love". In Ancient Greek it often refers to a general affection or concern, rather than the physical attraction suggested by "eros"; agape is used in ancient texts to denote feelings for a good meal, one's children, and the feelings for a spouse. The verb appears in the New Testament describing, amongst other things, the relationship between Jesus and the beloved disciple. Many Christian scholars have consequently argued that the verb's use in the New Testament is simply to describe God's love for humanity (compare with Spinoza's amor intellectualis Dei, the intellectual love of God). In the end, "agape" is differentiated from "eros" above. In biblical literature, its meaning and usage is illustrated by self-sacrificing, giving love to all--both friend and enemy. The word "agape" is not always used in the New Testament in a positive sense. II Timothy 4:10 uses the word in a negative sense. The Apostle Paul writes,"For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world...." The word "loved" here is a form of the root word "agape". Thus the word "agape" is not always used of a divine love or the love of God. Generally, in the New Testament it refers to a total commitment or self-sacrificial love for the object loved. The word seems to contain more of a mental or intellectual element than the other Greek words for love. It is a rational love that is not based on total self-interest. By this a Christian is required to love (agape) someone who is not necessarily lovely or loveable. The Christian by God's grace and mercy is required to "love" someone that he may not necessarily like or love in the sense of having warm fuzzy emotional feelings toward. It is a love that acts in the best interest of the other person. The classic biblical text on this self-sacrificial love is the well-known biblical verse, John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son...." A Christian is required to love his enemies ("...Love your enemies..." Matthew 5:44). Thus, the Christian is required always to do good and have the best interest of his enemies in view when he acts.
Storge (στοργή storgē) means affection in modern Greek; it is natural affection, like that felt by parents for offspring. Rarely used in ancient works, and then almost exclusively as a descriptor of relationships within the family.
“What is love? This mystical, mythical question goes back to ancient times—without a coherent answer. Each person’s experience of love is uniquely varied, and each person’s understanding of love is different from the next. Love varies from one period to another along the length of a human life; a person can have many loves, but each experience will be different from the next. Summing it up, or pinning it down, are both impossible.
“Love is like a continually shattering mirror that always leaves behind images etched in people’s hearts; but it will itself remain a mystery forever.
“Many people give themselves over to this mystery, but while love can produce the most tender and delicate feelings in anyone’s soul, it alone can open a window in the hearts of a very few.
“A simple analogy might be that of spring water which satisfies an extremely thirsty soul. Imagine, in the intense heat of midsummer, a very thirsty shepherd, using both hands to scoop the running water from a roadside creek to drink with a joy that satisfies his thirst. Such a sensation is beyond compare.
A transformative process
“Similarly, when a tired and weary person returns home from far away, he says to himself, ‘Finally, I have come home,’ before stretching himself out on his bed to rest. This joy, too, is beyond compare. Again, when a writer who has been up all night working puts the last full-stop at the end of his article; this, too, is boundless consolation for the heart. These all are phenomena of love.
“In fact, love is a sort of deeply pleasing satisfaction, but with various manifestations. It defies explicit definition. Khalil Gibran gives us an extremely vivid description: ‘For even as love crowns you, so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, so shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth. That is to say, love can occupy the deepest places of your mind, shake the foundations of your life, and force you to leave your native land. Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself. He threshes you to make you naked. He sifts you to free you from your husks. He grinds you to whiteness. He kneads you until you are pliant; And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.’
“Love is the kind of process described above; it makes you understand yourself. Only through this process, will you be able to become a soul, to become a part of life. Gibran uses a real life image to describe it, precisely because it is so difficult to give an explanation. A profound understanding of the process is even more difficult.
“Everybody has a different explanation and a different definition regarding the love they experience. The majority of people can suddenly fall in love with a stranger. If you ask them what they see in their lover, sometimes they can’t give you a clear answer. But the fact of their regard for each other is indisputable.
“Regardless of the secret mystery of love, it is a process in your feelings and in your heart. Love, too, always manifests itself in the body. Love will appear repeatedly in your life. In fact, the Gibran description of love is also talking about a solid, concrete form of love. Still other forms of love exist secretly in a human life.
'Performance of the self'
“Love is a kind of performance of the self, a satisfaction of the self; love is a kind of need, or is a much-needed satisfaction. Love is a kind of tendency toward both secret transformation and public transition. No matter what, if you fall in love with an actual person, you can feel your body making various unexpected changes. You might also realize that changes are taking place in your thoughts as never before.
“If this kind of phenomenon appears in your life, you may presume you are in love, for these phenomena are a form of love in themselves. Regardless of whether these phenomena last a long time or a short time, whether they are painful or enjoyable, they constitute riches, which will inscribe themselves in your heart forever.
“In brief, as a living human being with a soul, it is impossible not to fall in love in the course of a lifetime. Love is like the sunshine; no matter how tightly you shut down your heart, the sunlight will find a way to shine into it. Love’s process is unstoppable. Therefore, my advice would be: Don’t waste your precious time trying to define the meaning of love. The best definition is already in your own heart and mind.”