Explor­ing Love


What’s behind the idea of love and peace? Why is it so chal­leng­ing to reach a con­sen­sus on the mean­ing of love? Can we real­ly agree with Hobbes› world­view, which sug­gests that all our actions and thoughts are ulti­mate­ly dri­ven by self-interest?

Dur­ing and after the project, I delved deeply into the con­cept of «love» and encoun­tered numer­ous def­i­n­i­tions. One def­i­n­i­tion stood out to me: Love is close­ly linked to non­vi­o­lence and aris­es from our free will. Although I expe­ri­enced this feel­ing in 2003, I could­n’t artic­u­late it pre­cise­ly at the time.


Searching for a Definition

A philo­soph­i­cal per­spec­tive: The works of Erich Fromm, espe­cial­ly «The Art of Lov­ing» and «To Have or To Be,» great­ly inspired me. Fromm posits five equiv­a­lent forms of love, not just one sin­gu­lar form. In «To Have or To Be,» he describes love as a path of nonviolence.

An alter­na­tive sci­en­tif­ic per­spec­tive views love from a bio­log­i­cal stand­point, sub­ju­gat­ing it to evo­lu­tion. Some stud­ies argue that every­thing we do ulti­mate­ly serves repro­duc­tion, and love is a trick of nature to moti­vate us to reproduce.

How­ev­er, some schol­ars do not view this pure­ly sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly. Mar­tin Nowak, a pro­fes­sor of evo­lu­tion­ary biol­o­gy at Har­vard, con­sid­ers God and nat­ur­al laws as equal. For him, the pure­ly bio­log­i­cal view does not ful­ly explain our moti­va­tion to explore and focus on cer­tain things.

In Chris­tian­i­ty, love is defined as a cen­tral virtue. Gian­ni Vat­ti­mo, an Ital­ian philoso­pher, wrote a book about the future of Chris­tian­i­ty. In «The Future of Reli­gions,» he sees Christianity’s role as a host for oth­er reli­gions, aim­ing to unite them. Thus, love is also seen as a path to rec­on­cil­ing religions.

Non­vi­o­lence is a cen­tral theme in Bud­dhism. The belief in the har­mo­ny-seek­ing nature of humans is a fun­da­men­tal require­ment, as I read in an inter­view with the Dalai Lama in GEO.

Despite these diverse per­spec­tives, there is also a pure­ly emo­tion­al and roman­tic view of love.


Is there something universal in all these definitions?

The Uni­ver­sal in the Indi­vid­ual
Philoso­pher Ernst Cas­sir­er explains how some­thing uni­ver­sal can emerge from the indi­vid­ual. He empha­sizes that the uni­ver­sal and the indi­vid­ual must be seen as com­mon. The uni­ver­sal aris­es from the shared indi­vid­ual and is based on per­son­al free­dom while being uni­fied into a uni­ver­sal com­mon form. This sug­gests that we have the free­dom to devel­op a uni­ver­sal def­i­n­i­tion from an indi­vid­ual desire like peace or love. Thus, Cas­sir­er agrees with Bud­dhism: humans should dis­cov­er this uni­ver­sal desire for peace with­in them­selves, bring it to light, and real­ize it in their life context.

How­ev­er, there is also a risk that a pos­i­tive uni­ver­sal desire will tip and become total­i­tar­i­an. Here, C.G. Jung’s book «Man and His Sym­bols» proved to be a help­ful guide. Jung empha­sizes the impor­tance of sym­bols for us humans but also how they are repeat­ed­ly abused to manip­u­late peo­ple. Nev­er­the­less, this manip­u­la­tion is often long-term understood.

The abuse of sym­bols remains a con­stant dan­ger. There­fore, it is cru­cial that we col­lec­tive­ly rede­fine sym­bols like love.

With all these insights, I can say that I have found a def­i­n­i­tion for myself. For me, «love» is a non­vi­o­lent, con­struc­tive path. There­fore, I am hap­py to embrace Erich Fromm’s def­i­n­i­tion of love (see «ABOUT»).


In this sense: Let’s find and spread the LOVE!
Rudi-Renoir Appoldt