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!)


3/ Love, as a problem


First of all, a question arises: what are these conditions of love, and how many are they? It would probably be very interesting to discover this sort of “Tablets of laws” of love.

Secondly, love is not self-evident anymore. Once again, it is difficult to find the proper words to express this idea. I could say that love becomes a ‘demanding concept’.
What does that mean? As long as love was considered only as a simple feeling of subjective pleasure taken from the thought or presence of the beloved, it was easy for us (or at least, easier) to know if we loved this or that thing or being. I take pleasure from contemplating nature during a ride, so I love nature: it is as simple as that.
Now if we admit that love, by its very nature, requires conditions, then the question arises: have we satisfied these conditions in our relation to the object? And if it happened that we have violated one of these conditions, then our relation to the object would not be a kind of love, but something completely different.
We would intend to love the object, but it is not certain that it is the case: we may not succeed in loving it. In other words, love becomes a problem.

Love becomes problematic because we are not sure, as long as we have not identified each of its conditions, that we do not violate one of these imperative requirements that love involves, by its very meaning. Consequently, it is possible that we have never loved what we thought we loved.

Then the following question arises: what is our real feeling, if it is not love? In what is our ‘intention of love’ degraded, when violating one of its conditions? Precisely in the opposite of love: contempt. A concrete example will illustrate these enigmatic abstractions.
Sometimes, two lovers may formulate this kind of sentences, which fill us with admiration: “I love you, and I don’t know why”. Or, else: “I love you, without any reason”.
If we consider carefully these two propositions, we realize that they are nothing but two insults, disguised in compliments, viz. consist in a sort of contempt, disguised in love. Indeed, they amount to this: “As hard as I try, I cannot find what makes you valuable”. Obviously, the intention of the two lovers is not this one: they want to love each other. But their intention remains a dead letter, because they violate a requirement that arises from the very nature of love.
This one, that I have tried to establish by this brief analysis, requires from the lover that he should be able to show what makes his beloved valuable. Otherwise, it would consist in a behavior which amounts to something like: “I think that you have a value, but it is quite possible that I am wrong, and that actually you have none, that you are despicable”.

Now this fundamental notion of ‘disguised contempt’ –disguised in love- appears to us.