A book on ethics and philosophy of values

(Note: this is a non-professional translation of the original text in French. Help improve this translation: please report any mistake!)


Misrahi proposes this second essential condition: Love is a reciprocal link by which each one attributes a value to the other one. Thus true love is reciprocal: it takes care of the beloved without enslaving it. Otherwise, love leads to conflict and disappears 1.
These two authors hold the view that love requires some behaviors, some conditions, without which it disappears, or is transformed into its opposite, contempt.

However, by love, they do not mean the same thing: by this term, they denote a relationship between two human beings, whereas for me love means something much more general, as already shown: a relation between a spirit and any content of meaning = X whatsoever.

So I do not think that reciprocity is an essential condition of love; we can love nature or painting though it is not reciprocal, and we can even love a human being, viz. attributing a value to him, without him attributing one to us (for instance, consider the case of one's love for a dead historic character).
By contrast, we find another example of ‘essential condition’ applied to another emotion, in the work of Aristotle, in his reflections upon friendship: he who has many friends has no friend, he remarks. It is precisely this kind of condition that I would like to identify for love, as defined above.

Now it is easier to understand what distinguishes my conception from the traditional doctrines about ‘laws of love’. I propose, instead of a psychological description of the regular phenomena observed in this feeling, or a discipline of love, to identify the behaviors that we must necessarily adopt to be called “lovers”, in other words, the essential conditions which constitute the meaning of love.

The laws that I try to identify are neither empirical nor moral; it seems they have no name. These laws derive from the meaning of a concept, so that it could precisely be a consistent and meaningful concept. For this reason, we could call them ‘semantic laws’, or else, since they determine our behavior in order to make it adequate to a concept, ‘pragmatic laws’. Every concept has pragmatic or semantic laws like, for instance, ‘to be considered as greedy, one must eat with great appetite’. In fact, I will not employ these terms, in view of the difficulties as to using neologisms, but I will simply use the word commonly employed, viz. ‘laws of love’, it being understood that here, this term denotes something else than a moral imperative, or a psychological regularity, viz. something which concerns neither fact, nor right.

So I support the idea that there are laws (or essential conditions) of love. If our behavior violates one of these conditions, then it is impossible to love what we intend to love yet. For instance, let us remind the first ‘law of love’ that I have proposed: if we want to love something, while maintaining that it has no value, it is impossible for us to love it. Our feeling will be a different one: it could be desire, envy, but in no case the feeling that we intended to have, namely love.

This principle, if true, has very important consequences that I am going to present and discuss, now.

1. What is ethics?