Love is one of the most intense emotions we can experience. It is the reason we forgive our partner for being late, or why we work hard to make our dreams come true. It is also why we cheer for our favorite team, or why we feel devastated when they lose. We can love many things and people, but the word is typically associated with a romantic relationship. While everyone has their own definition of what love is, most people agree that it’s an incredibly intense feeling.
The complexity of the concept is reflected by how many different theories about it there are. Several of them are clustered into four broad categories: (1) love as union, (2) love as robust concern, (3) love as an emotion and (4) love as valuing. The fact that some ideas are lumped together in the same category does not necessarily mean that they are incompatible or contradictory; rather, the clustering is a way to make sense of the rich and varied nature of this idea.
One of the most widely accepted theories of love is that it is a feeling of affection, attraction or fondness. The idea is that this feeling is the basis for our commitments to others and for our behavior in general. This theory is also closely related to egoism, which is an ethical system based on the belief that you should only act for your own good, not for those of other people.
Whether or not this theory is valid, it can still help us understand the origin of love feelings and why some are more likely to lead to long-term relationships than others. Research shows that certain factors are linked to our feelings of love, such as a person’s attractiveness and the ability to fulfill our needs, including those for mating, companionship, sex, and self-esteem. Arousal and novelty can also increase our chances of falling in love, as can the existence of family traditions or a shared activity, such as playing football or opening presents on Christmas Eve.
Some philosophers and scientists have taken a quasi-reductionistic approach to this notion of love, defining it in terms of concepts such as affection, evaluation, attachment and so on. This approach has a problem, however, because it does not adequately explain how the different aspects of this feeling are related to one another.
Other philosophers and scientists have argued that the concept of love is more than an emotion. It is a practice and a way of life that can have enormous benefits, as demonstrated by individuals such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Maya Angelou who have promoted well-being for themselves and others through their lifetime commitment to love. This view of love is often compared to the mystical notion that it is a spiritual connection to other human beings. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as “spiritual love.” It is the kind of love that is based on selfless concern for all of humanity.