A book on ethics and philosophy of values

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The laws of love that have traditionally been proposed have been either psychological laws (which establish this or that regularity of love as a feeling) or moral laws (which constitute a discipline to which love must submit in order to be moral or just).

A telling example of a psychological law of love can be found in the words of Tacitus: Omne ignorum pro magnifico 1, which could be translated as: "Everything we do not know is considered magnificent". This seems to express a law of love, along the lines of "We love what we do not know". Ovid contrasted this with his famous Ignoti nulla cupido 2, which means "You do not desire what you do not know".

It is in Saint Augustine, on the other hand, that we find a conception that comes closest to that of the moral law of love. Augustine distinguishes between two kinds of love (in lines that overlap with the opposition between the two cities - earthly and Christian - in The City of God: These two loves, of which one is holy, the other unclean, one social, the other private, one taking thought for the common good because of the companionship in the upper regions, the other putting even what is common at its own personal disposal because of its lordly arrogance; one of them God’s subject, the other his rival; one of them calm, the other turbulent; one peaceable, the other rebellious… 3.

This leads Augustine to define virtue as a certain kind of love, one that has turned in the right direction, which is that of order: The brief and true definition of virtue is the love of order 4. Here we see a kind of discipline to which love must submit, constituting a kind of ‘canon’ enabling us to establish the value of one love.

For my part, I am seeking to bring to light something quite different from the laws of love as they have just been presented.

Three examples from literature and philosophy could be used to illustrate what I mean by the essential condition of love:

Shakespeare first:
Let me not to the marriage of true monds
Admit impediments ; love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests an dis never shaken

We can sum it up as follows: love is not love if it changes when its object changes, or if rejected, rejects its object in turn.

1. The Agricola
2. The Art of Love
3. The Literal Meaning of Genesis, XI, 14, 19-15, 20
4. City of God, XV, 22
5. Sonnet 116