A book on ethics and philosophy of values

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II/ Love, as the key concept of axiology


1/ Reconstruction of the concept of love

To provide an overview of the reflections that philosophers have made on love is irrelevant, and beyond my skills, even if some question the importance of these reflections: Love occupies a prominent position in the writings of poets, writers, and even theologians, but a few philosophers have been talking about it 1.

All the same, let us recall the wise analysis of Descartes, who notes that love is good for digestion: I observe that when love occurs on its own [...] the pulse has a regular beat, but is much fuller and stronger than normal; we feel a gentle warmth in the chest; and food is digested very quickly in the stomach, so that love is beneficial to health 2.

Likewise, this is not the place to study the theological doctrines about the love of God, like that of Augustine or Thomas Aquinas, or else the famous controversy between Fénelon and Bossuet -whether a pure love for God is possible (without any calculation as to the reward of an eternal life)-.

In fact, the “love” that I shall deal with has little to do with the notion in its common sense, or even with the various definitions given by philosophers. What I would like to do is to propose an extension of the domain of love and an important modification of the definition of this concept. Naturally, there are many reasons to do so, as one shall see.

I support the idea that, contrary to a common assumption, love is not fundamentally a feeling between two spirits; on the one hand, it is not just a feeling, but also something quite different, and on the other hand, its object may be any content of meaning = X, including material concepts or immaterial ones, at any rate, even inanimate beings. Now let me explain in more detail what I mean by this extension of the domain of love.

1. C. Habib, Dictionary of ethics and moral philosophy, article « love »
2. Passions of the soul