The Meaning of Love


Love is something we all experience in some way. It can be a deep affection for someone, like Romeo loving Juliet, or it can be a feeling of pleasure in something, such as when you eat chocolate cake or watch your favorite movie. It can also be a sense of responsibility to another person or even an animal, as when you love your parents or your dog. The emotion of love can also give us motivation to achieve goals, such as working hard at school or volunteering for a good cause.

Philosophers have struggled with the meaning of love for centuries, and it is still a subject of great controversy. Some argue that it involves a special kind of evaluation that makes you feel differently about the person you love than you would about anyone else. Others think that it is simply a strong desire to see the world be a better place and a feeling of satisfaction when this goal is achieved. Still others think that it is a complicated mix of emotions and other attitudes that cannot easily be boiled down to one simple concept.

It is also controversial whether love consists of a single, universal property or is rather an idiosyncratic attitude that differs from one person to the next. This question is important because if it is an idiosyncratic attitude, then there is no way to justify it by appealing to properties that everyone could agree on. But if it is a universal property, then the idea that we should all try to make the world a better place through love seems a compelling one.

In addition to the debate about what love is, there are a number of related issues. One is how to distinguish between different kinds of love, such as parental love, romantic love and platonic love. Another is how to explain why some people are more prone to love certain things or other people, and what makes some of them so devoted to their loves.

Psychological studies show that when people are madly in love, their brains have a surge of activity in the caudate nucleus and ventral tegmental area, or VTA. These are parts of the reptilian core of the brain, associated with reward and pleasure. They also have lower activity in the frontal cortex, which is responsible for reasoning and judgment. This suggests that the irrationality of love allows us to overlook flaws in a partner and make decisions without thought, which may explain why it is so hard to break up.

Some philosophers have tried to understand these complexities by breaking down love into four broad categories. These are: love as union, love as robust concern, love as valuing and love as an emotion. It is important to note that the theories in each of these categories sometimes include, without contradiction, ideas central to other categories. Thus, classifying a particular theory can often be an exercise in excessive pigeonholing.