Monday, January 24, 2005

Preliminary explorations

Love requires:

1) complete vulnerability by the lover (the agent acting on love)

2) relationship with the object of one's love (the beloved).

Let it be noted there are obviously different kinds of love, or different emotions, relationships, interests, wants, needs, denoted by "love." Kierkegaard alone argued for sharp distinctions between the selfishness of erotic love, and the self-lessness of married love, in Either/Or. And then there is the whole question of love in Plato's Symposium, and again in Kierkegaard's Stages on Life's Way. Indeed, Kierkegaard, coming in no small part from his Romantic European culture, considered human love something developed in maturity as one moved from selfishness to self-lessness, and the highest form of this love is the most self-less, embodied, for Johannes de Silentio, in the "Knight of Faith."

The question of whether one disciplines a child out of "love" is forced out by 1) above, if only because the exertion of authority (power) required in such a situation obviates the vulnerability necessary in the definition. Is all discipline of children based on love? We say so today, but in Victorian England, for example, where "children should be seen but not heard," discipline was meant to impose social order on a bestial nature. Indeed, the notion of valuing children as human beings (and thus "loving" them, as the common parlance has it) is a post-industrial, bourgeois sentiment, made possible more by the luxury of being able to raise children qua "children," rather than as hands in securing the family's existence. "Love" (like hospitality) will always have culturally specific limitations to its definition. But we have to eliminate as many of those as possible in order to get at the paradox of "love your enemies."

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