A book on ethics and philosophy of values

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4/ The hidden face of love


If the idea above is true, then it appears that love is not only a feeling of subjective pleasure taken from the thought or presence of the beloved, as I first suggested. Love is also an affirmation, a judgment, and even a thesis, which could be summed up this way: “this, which I love, has a value”. In so far as love attributes a value to the beloved thing, it says something of something, which is the classical definition of a judgment. It postulates a reality (the presence of a value in the beloved being or object), and so it is a kind of theory, of thesis.

So love is not just a blind sentiment, devoid of meaning, viz. the expression of the pure power of unconscious impulses or vital movement; it has also, beyond its obvious nature of feeling, a cognitive aspect.

It can be assumed that there is in man a meaningless chaos of power, with no rational basis: it would be a mistake to deny it. I call ‘desire’ this irrational chaos in us, but at the same time, we must recognize (against irrationalism) the existence of a quite different feeling having a cognitive nature: love.

If a judgment is present in the very heart of love, we must examine it.
First of all, it is a judgment which needs not to be explicitly formulated. It is absurd to imagine that we can love someone only if we have said aloud “You have a great value”. Even if this explicit formulation is requested, in a slightly different form, in this privileged kind of love that is marriage, one cannot believe that this is the case in all other forms of love.

In reality, we can make a judgment instinctively or unconsciously, for example, the newborn, when feeding, embraces the idea that he must live (otherwise, he would not eat). It is not easy to understand this kind of judgment, actually having a cognitive nature, despite its vital and instinctive origin, especially for us, who tend to adopt a simplistic dualism between irrationality, devoid of all meaning, and the logical judgment, explicit and rational, whose modalities are studied in grave treatises of logic.
I think that this kind of judgment, in the heart of love, this kind of rationality lying in the heart of irrationality, is worthy of consideration.

To sum up, I hold that axiological judgments are a real class of judgments, and are not at all reducible to logical judgments. Furthermore, the axiological judgment is precisely what makes the ancient dualisms –rational/irrational, reason/emotion, logical/illogical, cognitive/pathological – disappear… dualisms that are called into question by contemporary thinkers, nowadays

So I define love as the presence of a judgment of value in a feeling of pleasure. It may be objected that love has been defined differently, from the very start, in its initial sense from a historical point of view. Thus Plato, who defined love as the suffering from the absence of the beloved –Eros-, or Aristotle, as the pleasure taken from the beloved –Philia-. How could I sweep aside all that has been written about it, without taking it into account?
I am prepared to concede that love is suffering, or pleasure: it is consistent with the conception of love as an affirmation of value. But I add that suffering or pleasure are only secondary aspects of love, since they do not concern love itself, but its concrete realization (a love which cannot be achieved will be suffering, or pleasure, in the opposite case).

Now love appears both as a sentiment and as a thesis; or rather, as a thesis hidden deep inside a sentiment. But it seems to me that the cognitive aspect of love has been ignored, or at any rate received less attention than its irrational (or sentimental) aspect, studied or celebrated by psychoanalysis, religion, poetry, philosophy, etc. So the question arises: would we discover something really interesting, if we explored this cognitive side, viz. what I call the “hidden face of love”?
To determine this, we must once again operate negatively, viz. examine what would happen if one denied that love involves in itself an axiological judgment, attributing a value to the beloved object: our love, I think, would be transformed into contempt. It is this feeling, opposed to that of love, which we must now analyze. Since for me, the meaning of a concept consists in its difference with other concepts, we will better understand what love is, if we grasp the meaning of the opposite notion, namely contempt.