What is Love?

This is the question that has boggled the minds of philosophers, theologians, scientists, and many more types of people—including the everyday man or woman. Why is this question so difficult to answer? Well, not only are there so many different types of love, defining love is notoriously complex. This essay will focus first on a universal definition of love, and then spread out into the variety of facets this phenomenon entails.

The word “love” has gone through various dictionary definitions throughout the eons. According to the Harvard Crimson, “The roots of the word “love” can be traced back to the Indo-European root leubh, meaning “to care” or “to desire,” approximated from words including the Latin lubet, “it pleases” and the Sanskrit lubhyati, “he desires.” Along with “love,” related English words like “libido” and “belief” also descend from *lebuh. According to The Bloomsbury Dictionary of Words, while the word “love” initially meant “find pleasing,” it later took on associations with “praise,” “trust” and “belief”’ (Cocola, Jim). This follows a common pattern in romantic relationships that begins with pleasure, progresses to admiration, and finally becomes about trust. We can look at history to see that humanity has considered love to be, in essence, a variety of virtues and feelings. To say one sentence about love is seemingly impossible. That is why is important to differentiate between the types of love we humans experience.

What constitutes “pure love” is highly debatable. Religious or spiritual people will say “pure love” is that love which is divinely inspired or related to the divine. Other people will say friendship is the truest love of all. While others will say unconditional love is the only pure form of love. There is no consensus on what constitutes “pure love,” however there are similarities between the definitions. Most ideas about what “pure love” is circles around the concept of something transcendent. This variety of love is commonly above attachment, hate, codependency, and other forms of limitations.

Perhaps the most famous depictions of love in the western world are discussed by Plato, Aristotle, and other historical sources. We can say there are seven flavors of love: romantic love, friendship, familial love, universal love, uncommitted love, practical love, and self-love. Romantic love is marked by passion and sometimes lust between people to create a bond. Love based on friendship, on the other hand, can be said to be shared goodwill, companionship, trust, and more. In a similar vein, familial love is carved out of dependency and familiarity, and is almost automatic. Another type of love that is commonly inbuilt is universal love. This slice of love is based on feeling care for God, strangers, nature, and other encompassing factors. It can also relate to altruism, where we want to help others in need, even if we do not know them well, or do not expect something in return. A more baser type of love is uncommitted love, which involves teasing, flirting, seducing, and sex without attachments. The opposite comes in the form of shared interests and duties with practical love. Often, people are drawn towards each other based on activities, hobbies, professions, and other factors. This can form a strong bond between two or more people at a time. Lastly, self-love is controversial. It can be said to be healthy with self-affirmation and self-confidence, but unhealthy with narcissism and vanity (“These Are the 7 Types of Love”).

All of these types of loves intermix in our lives. It is difficult to find someone who does not have all these flavors of love present in his or her experience of reality. However, it is up to us to determine the most significant type of love and to search for it. Commonly, figuring out what this most important flavor of love is will indicate what we need to do with our lives, how we need to act, and how we want to construct our family and work lives. Therefore, knowing what love is to you is not only a philosophical pursuit but also a practical one.

Works Cited

Cocola, Jim. “Redefining Love.” The Harvard Crimson, www.thecrimson.com/article/1998/2/9/redefining-love-pi-adore-you-i/.

“These Are the 7 Types of Love.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201606/these-are-the-7-types-love.

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