A book on ethics and philosophy of values

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II/ Love, as the key concept of axiology


A/ Reconstruction of the concept of love


Attempting to draw up an overview, even a brief one, of the reflections that philosophers have devoted to love is, of course, beyond the scope of my skills, even if some question precisely 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.

We should also remember Descartes' wise analysis, which 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.

Nor is this the place to look at the theological doctrines that have tried to think through the nature of God's love, such as those of Augustine or Thomas Aquinas, or at the famous theological controversy between Fénelon and Bossuet over whether there could be a pure love of God (with no calculation on the part of the believer as to the possible reward of an eternal life).

In reality, the 'love' I am going to talk about has little to do with the notion as it is understood in common sense, or with the multiple meanings it has taken on in philosophy. What I would like to achieve is both an extension of the domain of love and a major change in its understanding - so that it becomes something else altogether. This re-elaboration of the concept of love is obviously not gratuitous, and I will try to justify it.

The idea that I would like to defend, then, is that contrary to the traditional conception, love is not fundamentally a feeling between two persons; on the one hand, it is not just a feeling, but also something quite different, and on the other hand, it can take as its object any content of meaning=X, including material concepts or immaterial concepts, in any case beings that have neither life nor mind.

It is this extension of the domain of love that I now propose to explore.


1. Dictionnaire d'éthique et de philosophie morale, "love" article by C. Habib
2. The Passions of the Soul