A Historical Account of Love

David Peterson
Department of Psychology
Simon Fraser University

On Love

In ancient times the universe was thought to be composed of four basic elements: earth, air, fire, and water. These four elements were considered to be the roots of the cosmological world because all things developed from the joining and separating of these basic elements. The Greek philosopher Empedocles introduced the idea of the eternal element of love as the most important in the cosmos because it was the agent that united all the other elements. The objective of love was said to be the permanent possession of goodness that was accomplished in two ways; through the natural science orientation of physical beautification as a means to achieve ordinary love, or through the human science orientation of mental refinement as a means to achieve special love. The goal in life was to orientate one's self to both aspects of love, the natural science, physical aspects of beautification, as well as the human science, spiritual aspects of refinement. This integral process is paramount to the Psycho-social theory of Erikson who stresses the need to experience both aspects of a life stage in order to have a successful and healthy development. In the successful resolution of the dialectic of love, the human science orientation appears to be both a desired and healthy resolution. In examining contemporary Canadian society it appears that the values associated with refinement and the human science orientation to love became the direction of public policy, mental health, and even the structure of government.

Love is the predominant theme that runs through ancient Arabic poetry and the personal teachings of the masters. Sufism, an outgrowth from the Islamic tradition, describes love as essentially the creator of states of experience and suggests that there are two general forms of love, an ordinary love that beautifies existence and a special love that refines existence (Shah, 1964:316). One could operationalize ordinary love as the perception of beauty in the form of an object, which in turn can be defined as the quality of being very pleasing in form and colour. Beautification is considered to be the process of embellishing or decorating and adorning, and it is the process of aesthetic improvement through detail (Oxford Universal Dictionary, 1955:160). Therefore, the form of love that beautifies existence begins to represent a Natural Science world view of love because it relates the experience of love to objects in the environment and quantifies the experience through the sensation and perception of the matter. Special love could be operationalized as the experience when love becomes profound and abstract, as one perceives the beauty of the essence beyond the form. Special love is the refinement of existence. Refinement can be defined as the act or process of refining, to purify or separate extraneous matter, to free from impurities, to purify and cleanse moral imperfections, and to raise to a higher spiritual state (Oxford Universal Dictionary, 1955:1656). Thus, the form of love that refines existence also orients itself toward a Human Science world-view of love because it relates to the essence of the experiences in qualifiable terms rather than quantifiable matter.

In the Symposium Plato establishes the measure for all theories and forms of love by distinguishing the difference between its appearance and its reality. He states that love has its perfect form and its imperfect appearance, stating that, it is the perfect form that is both the goal and the true reality. Plato, through Socrates, describes love as the desire for something that is lacking, meaning that the desire of love is for the inaccessible or absent. He continues by expressing the dialectical notion that love is neither attractive and good, nor repulsive or bad because it is in the middle ground. Love is between attractive-good and repulsive-bad as true belief is the middle ground between knowledge and ignorance. The experience of both aspects of love is crucial in order to find a harmony where love is a lover of love, not an object of it. Plato's theory states that the objective of love is the permanent possession of goodness for oneself and this goal is achieved through natural science and human science methods. When hierarchically organized the lower forms of love, which can also be identified as ordinary love or beautification, seek immortality with love through physical means such as procreation. The higher forms of love, which can be categorized with special love and refinement, focus on intellectual endeavours and the absolute beauty of knowledge, as well as the wisdom to teach and educate as a means of achieving immortality with love. Thus, Plato's theory provides two orientations of love that must both be recognized to form a healthy harmony that strives for the higher forms of special (human science) love, without denying the lower forms of ordinary (natural science) love.

Naturwissenschaft on Love

The Natural Science World-view of love focuses on the fundamentals of magnetism with attraction and repulsion as the primary characteristics of interest. This view accords with ordinary love as focusing on the physical beautification of objects of love and the qualities of matter. In the natural science orientation people are connected to objects through the movement and growth toward an object of love in the same manner that heliotropism draws plant leaves toward the sun and hydrotropism draws the roots toward water. The historical development of the natural science world-view on love can be seen through the mechanical drives of Thomas Hobbes, the empirical associations of John Locke, the physical-cognitive orientation of William James, and the physical models of Sigmund Freud.

In the Leviathan Hobbes outlines his materialistic theory of love through a distinction between two primary mechanical drives in animals: vital and voluntary. These drives, or passions, when directed within the body of a man are called endeavours. When there is an endeavour toward something, the cause of approachment is referred to as an appetite or desire. While, an endeavour that retires away from something is considered an aversion. For Hobbes, love functions in the same manner as an endeavour in which people have love for appetites and hate for aversions and the middle ground between the appetites and aversions are objects of contempt (Hobbes, 1952:61-63).

John Locke continues the natural science view of love in his essay Conerning Human Understanding where he emphasizes ordinary love in the sensory experiences and reflections on matter. In the chapter 'Of Modes of Pleasure and Pain' Locke describes love as being merely a complex idea composed of the reflections and perceptions of sensory experiences which individuals associate with feelings in the body. For Locke, the experience of love is, "reflecting upon the thought...of the delight which any present or absent thing is apt to produce." He employs the example of grapes by suggesting that it is the taste we love rather than the grapes themselves for if one were to destroy the taste of grapes we would no longer love them because it is the matter, not the essence, that we love. Furthermore, the pleasure or pain that we receive from its application or use in conjunction with our senses often qualifies love and hatred for an object. Locke, therefore, in continuing the natural science view of love, is concerned with the matter of the object and its relationship to the individual who desires it (Locke, 1952:176-177).

William James accounts for love in a theory, which organizes itself around the natural science world-view of love by synthesizing the theories of Hobbes and Locke in an amalgamation of materialistic drives and empirical associations. William James expresses his theory of love and its will in an analogy that ranges from iron fillings and magnets to Romeo and Juliet. He states that iron fillings will follow a magnet in whatever directions it moves and even when separated by a barrier they remain stuck drawn to each other. The problem for the iron fillings and the magnets according to James is that they have fixed means, which gives their unity an uncertain end. However, in the case of Romeo and Juliet, James states that, they will not remain idiotically pressed with faces against a barrier because with the lover it is the end that is fixed and the path that is infinitely modifiable. Love, for William James, appears to be an experience determined by a magnetism that leads to the association of certain sensible experiences with the ideas of the object (James, 1952:4-5,391-392).

Sigmund Freud's theory of love generally fits in the company of the natural science world-views, however, there is a point of divergence where Freud bridges his natural science models with human science aspirations. In doing so, Freud personifies 'natural' instincts and drives into 'human' characters such as the animalistic Id and the ultra-moral Superego. In his theory of love, Freud transforms love into its two opposites of love and hate. He emphasizes that because opposites originate from a unified whole they behave in the same manner and thus it is quite common to find these 'instincts' of love directed toward the same object. Freud mechanically breaks down three aspects of love into hating, being loved, and loving oneself. From these three aspects of love he posits the three polarities of pleasure versus pain, activity versus passivity, and ego versus the external world all of which must be balanced to achieve a healthy state of equilibrium. The issue of harmony is formally addressed in such Freudian concepts as the marriage of love and work wherein the individual must face the desires of the pleasure principle and acknowledge them in conjunction with the reality of work. Sigmund Freud, therefore, carries the torch of the natural science perspective on love into a new territory by bridging his mechanical models with human science theories and the descriptions of people and their relationships to love (Freud, 1952:418-421).

Geisteswissenschaft on Love

Love all...creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it... love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love. --Fyodor Dostoyevsky "The Brothers Karamazov Part II"

The human science world-views love as the creative force that engenders and renews all things, as well as the power that draws all things together into a unity of peace, preserving nature itself against disruptive life forces. The human science view parallels special love in its focus on the process of refinement through the teachings and actions of spirituality and purification. The historical development of the human science perspective on love has grown through the influences of St. Augustine and his existential search for meaning and true happiness, and in Dante's theory that love is everywhere and in everything requiring balance and harmony. The human science world-views have also been influenced by Spinoza's theory of one love with many states, Kant's issues of love and free will, and Hegel's dialectic approach to love.

In the City of God and On Christian Doctrine St. Augustine's theory of love points out the duality of the emotion indicating the positive aspects of love that include yearning. Yearning is regarded as desire, and the emotions of having and enjoying which is thought to be joy. Conversely, he delineates the negative aspects of love and regards them as fleeing which is fear, and feeling which is sadness. From this range of emotions, that all individuals experience, St. Augustine suggests a choice must be made between good and bad for the right choice will result in well-directed love while the wrong choice will destroy itself in ill-directed love. As in Plato's theory of love a decision must be made, and St. Augustine suggests that after both aspects of love, positive and negative, have been addressed, "he who resolves to love God, and to love his neighbor as himself, not according to man but according to God, is on account of this love said to be of good will" (St. Augustine, 1952:380-1). In resolving the duality of love the individual aims at the, "enjoyment of God for his own sake, and the enjoyment of one's self for one's own sake," which fulfills the existential need for meaning. To Augustine, true happiness can only be found in God, existentially this can be extrapolated to mean that true happiness and love can only be found in one's self and in the meaning one creates (St. Augustine, 1952:380-1) through knowing and having a strong relationship with God.

Dante's theory of love, in the Divine Comedy, builds upon the human science world-view wherein love is said to be everywhere and everything, and requires a harmony like the balance of a fragile eco-system. Dante states that, "Neither creator nor creative my son was ever without love, either natural, or the mind and this thou knowest." Dante sees love as the entity that creates all things, an idea that Empedocles used in describing the unification of the four basic elements. However, love is not always a strong and powerful bond for it is also fragile and its direction requires a balance, "The natural is always without error; but the other may err either through an evil object or through little or through too much vigour" (Dante, 1952:79-80). Therefore, in his human science orientation Dante describes love as an all-encompassing energy that must be kept in equilibrium.

Spinoza, in his theory of love, envisions a unitary energy with changing states which depend upon the emotions and attitude invested in it. He introduces to the human science view the paradox that if love is an energy the more love one has for something one also increases their hate for that thing as well. Love is a joy that man tries to preserve as much as possible, and as the care and commitment given to the love object increases, so does the investment in love. These efforts are restrained by hatred and sorrow because as the love grows greater so too does the hatred. Thus, one has the capacity to hate the object that he loved more than one would have had one not loved it at all. The question must be asked, "Is it better to have loved and felt pain than to have avoided pain by never having loved at all?" The dilemma Spinoza addresses in his theory based on meaning and balance in the unitary enterprise of love as had previous human science theorists (Spinoza, 1952:408-411).

Immanuel Kant discusses the idea of free will in conjunction with his theory of love. He states that ordinary love, as an affection, cannot be commanded, but that special love is a love seated in the will and thus can be commanded. In bringing about the 'Second Copernican Revolution', Kant proclaims that our experiences are not completely determined by events outside our self. Kant suggests that the direction of our love is not wholly determined by our instincts and that individuals do have agency in the formation of meaning and the election of a direction. Keeping with the human science world-view and Plato's idea of love, Kant envisions the circumstances where love is not bound by mechanical drives and heartless association, but instead is able to love the forms and essence. In reflecting upon the Christian concept, 'love thy neighbor and thy enemy', Kant suggests that in the principles of action, not tender sympathy, love can be commanded (Kant, 1952:385-386).

Hegel, influenced by the human science world-view and its concern for issues such as meaning, harmony, unity, and will, proposes a dialectical theory of love. In the same manner that Sigmund Freud brought his human science aspirations into his natural science models, Hegel bridges the two world-views with the dialectic approach of thesis-antithesis. This dialectic approach models both the positive and negative aspects of ordinary and special love to yield a healthy synthesis. Hegel sees love as a conscious bond with another so that, "I am not in selfish isolation, but win myself consciousness only as the renunciation of my independence and through knowing myself as the unity of myself with another and of the other with me" (Hegel, 1952:133). From this process an individual experiences two moments in love, ordinary and special. First, an ordinary love orientation of individual and love object where one does not wish to be a self-subsistent and independent person because it would cause feelings of defectiveness and incompleteness. Second, a special love orientation where the individual relates with the love object finding oneself in another person, counting for something in another, while the other in turn comes to count for something in that person (Hegel, 1952:133). Thus, Hegel's dialectic theory, like the human science world view, draws together the issues of meaning, balance, unity, and will, in a theory that acknowledges the natural science perspective in his attempt to refine the theory of love into a healthy synthesis.

An Eriksonian Perspective on Love and Canada

This account of the natural science and human science world views on the theory of love have developed through a mingling of the 'great scholars' approach with an overwhelming zeitgeist influence which is evident in the progression of themes. Love itself has not changed during this period of time, rather our understanding, at least scientifically, has improved. The need to understand the dual aspects of love including both the natural science physical aspects of beautification and the human science spiritual aspects of refinement are evident throughout the historical development of the theory. The process of addressing the dialectical aspects of love can be seen as parallel to Plato's concept of love as the middle ground between two opposites. This concept of a middle ground is also addressed in the function of ritualization when Erikson stresses the need to experience both the positive and negative aspects of the life stages to successfully develop a healthy and positive resolution. These resolutions have specific functions that have appeared throughout the theories of the natural science perspectives and the human science perspectives, as well as between them. Furthermore, these resolutions can also be identified in the development of Canadian society and its human science orientation toward the formation of its values, public polices, and structures of government.

Erikson's theory of the ego functions of ritualization describes a healthy resolution of love in the way that an individual experiences both the ritualization and ritualism of love. Ritualization, in the case of the theory of love, can be seen as special love and the proper way of doing things that also confirms one's identity and gives a sense of belonging to a community. Ritualism, or ordinary love, is an empty ceremony that is devoid of meaning and leaves the individual enstranged. Therefore, a theory of love built upon the natural science physical orientations of ordinary love juxtaposed with the human science spiritual orientation of special love reaches the harmony of Plato's middle ground through the functions of ritualization. There are seven ego functions of ritualization and they manifest themselves in the development of the human science theory of love and its relationship to the natural science views. In St. Augustine's theory the ego function of destiny and identity resolves the issue of a need for meaning and gradually transforms the individual into a being with a purpose, ideology and identity. In the theories of Dante and Spinoza the issues of balance and unity address the social and worthiness functions wherein the individual learns the right way to do things and thus joins personal desires with shared group goals. In the theories of Hegel and Freud, there is an issue of resolving dialectically opposed ideas through a synthesis. This is addressed by the interpreting, sanctification and moral functions of ritualization wherein individuals learn about general visions which shared by the community and thus they are helped to develop an ability to distinguish good and bad (Monte, 1995:279-80).

The development of Canada and Canadian culture shows the positive resolution of love and demonstrates many of the ritualization functions. One can see these influences from the times when Cartier, searching for a passage to Asia, discovered the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1534 and the next year he traveled up the river as far as Hochelaga, now known as Montreal. On this voyage, Cartier picked up the Iroquoian word for village, Kanata (thought to be the origin 'Canada'), and used it to apply to the whole region he discovered (Colombo,1992:71). Canada's relationship with human science influences begins with the meaning of the name 'village', where it is a country with a communal (village) attitude. During the period of Confederation Scottish immigrants influenced Canadian society with their values and beliefs, as well as the socio-political structures they brought with them. The social function of ritualization is found in the Scottish immigrants that is synonymous with the human science aspects of a special and refining love that is evident in the 'Crofters' from the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. The Scottish Crofters where eighteenth century Celts who had formed communal properties as a result of unfavourable socio-economic conditions. Many of them left Scotland in the 1870's when the British controlled Crofter's Commission revoked their property deeds. The Scottish Crofters social political influence in Canada, which demonstrates both the moral and identity functions, as well as the notion of community. This social mileux has been experienced well into the twentieth century through the formation of the C.C.F. in the prairies and in the influence of the post-war socialist policies adopted by non-socialist governments. The human science orientation of special love and refinement of community, social and moral concerns has become an institutionalized fixture in the Canadian psyche (Parman, 1990).

One of the most important functions of ritualization is the ability to interpret good from bad and St. Augustine in On Christian Doctrine states that,

Men are prone to estimate sin, not by reference to their inherent sinfulness, but rather by reference to their own customs, it frequently happens that a man will think nothing blamable except what the men of his country and time are accustomed to condemn and nothing worthy of praise or approval except what is sanctioned by the customs of his companions. --Book III ch.10

Many people feel that it is Canada's position on moral issues that gives it a unique identity and keeps it from being identified with the United States of America. The social welfare system in Canada appears to embody Hobbes notion of a 'commonwealth' where he states there is a need for love and kindness of others in a society. Opposed to this is the love of persons for pleasing senses only, a natural lust, with which Canada is less identified (Hobbes, 1952:61-63).

William James theory of bodily, social, and spiritual selves and their relationship to external consciousness demonstrates the danger of not positively resolving the social and sanctification functions of the ritualization process. James states the most palpable selfishness of a man is his bodily selfishness wherein he identifies himself with his body because he loves it rather than it because he finds it to be identified with himself. This self love is described as insensibility to all but a single set of things and embodies the individualistic goals of the United States, which Canada can observe without experiencing.(James, 1952:391-392)

When looking at Sigmund Freud's distinction between the narcissistic type of ordinary love and the anaclitic type of special love and the resolution of these opposites one can identify many similarities in the structures of the Canadian government. The narcissistic personality type that resembles an ordinary love seeks objects that are like the self, what it once was and what it would like to be, a very individualistic and self-satisfying orientation. On the other hand, the anaclitic type of personality that defines special love seeks someone who will tend and protect (Freud, 1952:418-421). The opposites of the narcissistic and anaclitic personality types appear to mirror the differences between the American and Canadian structures of government. The Canadian government is constructed on a federal system based on the principle of the division of powers between levels of government where each level shares an equal responsibility to provide for the citizens. The Canadian government is based upon the parliamentary system wherein the executive duties are shared between a formal executive and a political executive as opposed to the American government that is built on a presidential system that focuses on one individual. Furthermore, the executive and legislative branches of government also have different relationships. The Canadian government has a fusion of power based on the principle of collective responsibility whereas the American government has a separation of power where independent branches have no collective responsibility. The structure of the Canadian government, like the construction of the anaclitic personality, produces behaviour that is highly correlated with the human science views of special love (Landes, 1995:128-30).

When applying Plato's idea of a middle ground and Erikson's concept of ritualization to North American politics it becomes easy to analyze the development of Canadian society and to suggest that it has a human science orientations toward the formation of its values, polices, and governmental structures. One can observe the manner in which the United States identifies with the ordinary view of love that beautifies matter and object, its Protestant individualism, laissez-faire views on capitalism, and belief in manifest destiny. While Canada experiences the special love that refines existence in the balanced structure of government, a socialist heritage, a struggle to keep two distinct cultures, and social welfare policies that provide care for all citizens. Canada has been able to address Erikson's desirable and undesirable aspects of love and in doing so has benefited from the functions of ritualization and developed a successful and healthy resolution in a middle ground between two dialectically opposed positions.

The natural science and human science world-views on the theory of love have shown two methods of satisfying the objective of love. The objective of love is the permanent possession of goodness, which has historically been understood through dual aspects of ordinary and special love. The process of addressing the dialectical aspects of love is parallel to Plato's idea of love as the middle ground between two opposites. Erikson also addresses this idea of a middle ground in the function of ritualization, which stresses the need to experience both the positive and negative aspects of the life stages in order to successfully develop a healthy and positive resolution. These resolutions have specific functions that appeared throughout the theories of the natural and human science perspectives. These resolutions can also be identified with the development of the human science orientation toward values, polices, and structures of government in Canada.


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