Re: [evol-psych] More on love
- Thanks for comments, Robert. I've made a few comments and snips below.
On Saturday, October 2, 2004, at 10:01 AM, Robert Karl Stonjek wrote:
> TP: > So I read the diversity of opinionsexpressed here as quite
> normal --single "true" version is going to emerge
> > inevitable, in fact. No
> soon,way of thinking, should it.
> > nor, to my
>point out that the labels we use in science have
> I largely agree, but
> historical and currentdefinitions that should be respected.
TP: Very true.
> Studying the behaviour associated with Love is OK, as long as weTP: Precisely. This is one reason why, in my own work, I took detailed
> realise that not all Love results in discernable behaviour, Love may
> persist even though indicative behaviour is only intermittent, certain
> behaviours that may be motivated by Love may be motivated by other
> emotions or by no emotion and so on.
interview data from people whenever it was methodologically possible.
Such words do not -- cannot in principle -- convey their inner
feelings, but words offer a shared window in parts of another person's
experience. In the last analysis, our feelings remain our own. Yet I
feel we must make an effort to understand what others think and feel.
> RKSuse this same general framework
> Each of those you mention above could
> for the word love. Only looking for theouter signs of Love is to
> deny the rich inner life known to exist inhumans. The artists, poets
> and other expressors of emotion are merelyexamples of people who can
> express these things - others largely keepit all inside. The fact
> that so much more can be expressed through thearts is indication
> enough that much of our emotional life never findsexpression.
TP: "Never" is perhaps too strong. "Not often" is better, I think. I
completely agree that the arts convey truths about love that may
sometimes elude the lenses of the biological and social sciences.RKS:
To further specify, I do not express all my emotions. Indeed, as you yourself have pointed out, we do not have adequate words (in English, I can't speak for other languages) to describe our inner life. Perhaps I pointed out that we do not consummate all our desires eg I might want a bar of chocolate now, and then forget about it. The next craving for chocolate may occur some days hence and be unrelated to the first mentioned. Further, I may feel a desire for something like chocolate, maybe a bit more mushy, and don't know just how to describe what I am craving for. Did I once eat something mushy and chocolaty and recall only the sensation upon which the craving I now have is based?A poet or artist or writer of some kind may describe this sensation beautifully, but it would have alluded me for life unless I happened to read that poet or stumble once again upon that mushy chocolaty thing which only my craving now recalls. Emotions, especially when they get tangled up and form complex feelings, are much like this - we seem to recall the complex of emotions, at least occasionally, more readily than the actual events or observations that caused them. But even complex emotions are probably rarely unique to any individual and so these may be the subject of poetry.An example. When I ride a bicycle into the country I am overwhelmed with feelings that I hesitate to even have a stab at describing, and yet Beethoven gives such an accurate description of them in the form of his 'Pastorale' Symphony, which he himself says describes the feelings upon visiting the countryside. But what if I had never heard Beethoven's sixth symphony?Kind Regards
Robert Karl Stonjek
> RKS:are saying "I like this word 'Love', everybody pays attention
> when Isay it/write it/study it etc. But I don't like the vague
> emotional andfeeling part of it. So I'll take the word, and all the
> benefits ofusing the word, but I toss out the bits I don't like, even
> if thosebits happened to be the original, main and core meaning of
TP: Without naming anyone, I sometimes feel that scholars who try to
interpret love solely, purely, or primarily in utilitarian or
functionalist terms -- what John Allen Lee calls "pragma" -- toss out
too much. But, on the other hand, when I read such writers, I merely
try to reinsert the stuff they threw out.
- One of the many reasons that the behavioral sciences have crept forward at a snail's pace over the past century, compared to physics, chemistry and biology and their applied counterparts, is that physics, chemistry and biology and their applied counterparts all start primarily by studying measurable structure and measurable energy and then name what they are studying with a precisely defined technical word. The behavioral sciences are stuck with words that have vague, popular and lay meanings. If I wanted to understand what happens between two people when they meet and then want to be with each continually and be sexual with each other, etc., I wouldn't hamstring myself by having to use the meaning of love, as found in dictionaries, poems and popular songs. I would start with observing the two people. Unfortunately, many in the behavioral sciences use a term that has a specific scientific meaning for them but has other meanings for other people. There was even a several day discussion on this list a month or so ago on what is behavior. Other words that are equally confusing because different people define them different ways are emotion, mood, feelings, affect, mind, consciousness, etc.In ethology for example, behavior is defined as "the movement of an individual or a part of an individual over space and time" and mood is defined as "a specific internal readiness to act." These definitions are important for ethology because at least two ethologists know what each other means when they use these two terms. Yet, when I with my ethological perspective try to talk to other people whose orientations are not ethological, things get very confusing when they hear the term behavior and mood and plug in their definition. This results in a lot of semantic arguments that often turn into hierarchal contests to see whose definition is better and we will use in whatever we were talking about in the first place.Regards,Jay R. Feierman----- Original Message -----From: Robert Karl StonjekSent: Saturday, October 02, 2004 2:45 PMSubject: Re: [evol-psych] More on loveJay R. Feierman
> I agree with Tim Perper's comments below. When one studies love, one is
> studying a non-tangible concept that exists by definition. Love is not a
> structure. Since different people will have different definitions of love,
> different people will study different concepts and then have disagreements
> as to what love really is. Love is whatever one defines it to be. Since all
> categories are arbitrary, when one starts categorizing, one will have a
> number of arbitrary categories and sub-categories. As a result, much of this
> discussion has been semantic. People are arguing over whose arbitrary
> categories and subcategories are more real and more useful and whether love
> is drive or an emotion. These questions can only be resolved by the
> definitions of love, drive, emotion, etc.RKS:
This would be all fine and dandy if we were discussing a relatively new phenomena or the definition of a recently introduced word, but Love has been part of the English language since before the 12th century (according to Merriam-Webster) making it among the earliest 'English' words we know of.I think 8 centuries is a sufficient period for a pattern of definition to form. In those 8 centuries, and across the English world, Love refers to an emotional feeling. The heart, for instance, has been associated with love for most of those 8 centuries.We are hearing argument about the nature of Love as if we are studying some new animal's behaviour. We have all felt the emotion that we are labelling Love, why suddenly try to remove the label from the subjectively identifiable feeling?
> When possible, it is always better to start by studying tangible structures
> over abstract concepts that exist only by their definitions. Behavior
> (movement of an individual or a part of an individual in space and time) is
> a structure. Structures are more recordable, measurable and quantifiable.
> Helen's categories of lust, romantic love and attachment, as well as
> Robert's subcategories of relationship behavior (lust, romantic love, social
> forming behavior and desire for proximal bonding) all have concomitant
> behaviors associated with them. Would it not be better to start by studying
> the behavior of people and then categorize the behavior? The behavioral
> categories can then be labeled. Then, one could then ask Tinnbergen's four
> questions (function, proximate cause, development and evolution) about the
> now labeled categories of behavior. That method has untangled a lot of very
> complex behaviors in non-human animals. Studying neurotransmitters and
> functional brain imaging is also studying structure, which Helen Fisher is
> currently doing. These types of studies will eventually elucidate proximate
> cause. However, it is still better to use behavioral structure to get
> replicable groups on which to do these neurotransmitter and functional brain
> imaging studies. Comparing engaged versus long-time married couples would be
> an example of defining groups by behavioral structure. That would be better
> than asking people how they feel to define groups.
It is perfectly valid for some discipline or other to start with the study of tangible behaviour, indeed, it is most prudent to do just as you've suggested. But as the word 'Love' as been associated with an intangible feeling that may or may not result in a visible behaviour, it would also be prudent to choose other labels for the behaviours so identified.Ask yourself, why would anyone choose a label so shrouded in fuzziness in the first place? Isn't fuzziness a property of what the word describes, what Timo called "non-rational reasoning". Why choose a word that indicates "non-rational reasoning" to label observable behaviour? You can't observe reasoning, rational or not - reasoning is not behaviour, it is quite precursory to it.
> Just because we are self-perceptive (introspective) of our own internal
> motivating states does not mean that this is where we should start in trying
> to scientifically understand a phenomenon. Robert Stonjek in another recent
> posting in response to Tim Perper's suggestion to study behavior said, "Not
> every aspect of love results in behavior." I would suggest that we leave
> those aspects to the poets and songwriters. Natural selection selects on the
> basis of behavior and so should we.
RKS:The word love, for most of it's 8 centuries, was the label for a condition of introspection which is best described by poets and songwriters - why try to take their word away and use it for something else? Oh, funding, I forgot funding, and book sales, and the publication of papers. The word became as saleable as it is today specifically because of the work of those poets and songwriters, and now you are suggesting that we rip off their word because it is more popular and saleable than the phrase 'Relationship Forming Behaviour', and then remove that aspect of the label to which the songs and poems were directed?At least I don't have to wonder why some people in the community, especially the emotionally driven, feel an opposition to a cold science that seems to be attempting to drain the emotion from their life. This debate has shown them to be correct, at least as far as the word 'Love' is concerned. We hear suggestions that the emotional content of love should be drained away, as if the emotional aspect and its 8 year history are merely incidental and can be ignored or trampled on.There may be a valid argument that some disciplines, such as ethology, do not deal with internal states such as felt emotions. This is obviously prudent as it is not possible to ask a lab rat how it feels about some other lab rat. You put them in the same cage and see if they copulate.But many here seem to have forgotten that this subject is Evolutionary Psychology, which is more or less Evolutionary Biology plus Cognitive Science. In the family of disciplines making up cognitive science is one called 'Philosophy' and another 'Phenomenology'. Phenomenology deals with the internal states of the mind as experienced by an individual eg emotions as felt. Thus any definition of emotion or love which specifically removes felt emotion as felt and experienced by an individual especially where no discernable behaviour follows is to cut one or more disciplines out of the Evolutionary Psychology family and so that definition is not compatible with this discipline.It makes sense to start with the best candidates for empirical grounding of the subject, but we must not burn bridges which will be essential later on.Kind Regards
Robert Karl Stonjek
- On Saturday, October 2, 2004, at 04:45 PM, Robert Karl Stonjek wrote:
> Jay R. FeiermanTP: Yes, the word is old, and writings about it even older. But words,
> > As a result, much of this
> > discussion has been semantic. People are arguing over whose arbitrary
> > categories and subcategories are more real and more useful and
> whether love
> > is drive or an emotion. These questions can only be resolved by the
> > definitions of love, drive, emotion, etc.
> This would be all fine and dandy if we were discussing a relatively
> new phenomena or the definition of a recently introduced word, but
> Love has been part of the English language since before the 12th
> century (according to Merriam-Webster) making it among the earliest
> 'English' words we know of.
> I think 8 centuries is a sufficient period for a pattern of definition
> to form. In those 8 centuries, and across the English world, Love
> refers to an emotional feeling. The heart, for instance, has been
> associated with love for most of those 8 centuries.
> We are hearing argument about the nature of Love as if we are studying
> some new animal's behaviour. We have all felt the emotion that we are
> labelling Love, why suddenly try to remove the label from the
> subjectively identifiable feeling?
as words, change meanings. Modern -- and post-modern -- definitions of
love are certainly not the same as they were for theologians writing in
the middle ages who saw it rooted in _caritas_ or for Provencal
troubadors who, rooted in Ovid (introduced into Europe in the mid
1000s) who saw it rooted in Eros or the Renaissance writers who saw it
rooted in Platonic ideals of Pure Contemplation of Beauty.
Let me make a small change in what you wrote, from "studying some new
animal's behaviour" to "studying some animal's new behaviour." By that,
I mean to refer to a medieval Latin formula, _Amor novus est_ = "Love
is always new," more metaphorically, "Love is always reborn." For a
young person falling in love for the first time, love is like nothing
that ever existed. It does not come on us as something old or
familiar-from-long-experience, but unprecedented, powerful, glorious,
frightening, all those things -- alluring and dangerous all at once.
It's only us older folks, imbued with a taxonomizing spirit, who insist
that lots of people have felt that way before. Then us "older and wiser
heads" concoct a variety of labels that do not supersede the basic term
-- "love" -- but enrich it with a variety of recognizable variations in
love style, trajectory, neurotransmitter status, and other arcane
Yes, love has clear subjective meanings and is a subjective feeling and
state. But those meanings, feelings, and states have "objective"
correlates, in the sense that the lover chooses certain words and
non-words (murmurs and so on) to describe and convey feelings and in
the sense that the lover enacts certain observable behavior patterns
that index various states of feeling. From there it's a short step into
the traditional concerns of psychology, and to discuss motivation,
drive, need, and so on.
Thus, "love" does not refer to only one thing -- here I agree
whole-heartedly with Jay -- but to an array of events and occurrences.
Some are purely internal ("subjective"), others are dyadic and nonverb,
others find words, still others find actions. All of these change and
shift with time. The question that I was raising is how do we *study*
such things without totally falsifying it, and commented that when push
comes to shove we must study something tangible, to borrow Jay's word.
Those tangible somethings might be words in a diary, written with
passion and desire, or they might be fMRI records, but we have to be
able to point to them as data and evidence.
No one I know who studies this subject wants to throw out the
individual's feelings or experiences. Without them, we have nothing to
study. But I don't see how to study those feelings and experiences
>TP: I won't disagree. Would you be willing to provide an example of one
> > Jay Feierman
> > When possible, it is always better to start by studying tangible
> > over abstract concepts that exist only by their definitions. Behavior
> > (movement of an individual or a part of an individual in space and
> time) is
> > a structure. Structures are more recordable, measurable and
> > Helen's categories of lust, romantic love and attachment, as well as
> > Robert's subcategories of relationship behavior (lust, romantic
> love, social
> > forming behavior and desire for proximal bonding) all have
> > behaviors associated with them. Would it not be better to start by
> > the behavior of people and then categorize the behavior? The
> > categories can then be labeled. Then, one could then ask
> Tinnbergen's four
> > questions (function, proximate cause, development and evolution)
> about the
> > now labeled categories of behavior. That method has untangled a lot
> of very
> > complex behaviors in non-human animals. Studying neurotransmitters
> > functional brain imaging is also studying structure, which Helen
> Fisher is
> > currently doing. These types of studies will eventually elucidate
> > cause. However, it is still better to use behavioral structure to get
> > replicable groups on which to do these neurotransmitter and
> functional brain
> > imaging studies. Comparing engaged versus long-time married couples
> would be
> > an example of defining groups by behavioral structure. That would be
> > than asking people how they feel to define groups.
> It is perfectly valid for some discipline or other to start with the
> study of tangible behaviour, indeed, it is most prudent to do just as
> you've suggested. But as the word 'Love' as been associated with an
> intangible feeling that may or may not result in a visible behaviour,
> it would also be prudent to choose other labels for the behaviours so
these other labels?
> RKSTP: No, I don't think it's *quite* that cynical or self-serving. For
> Ask yourself, why would anyone choose a label so shrouded in fuzziness
> in the first place? Isn't fuzziness a property of what the word
> describes, what Timo called "non-rational reasoning". Why choose a
> word that indicates "non-rational reasoning" to label observable
> behaviour? You can't observe reasoning, rational or not - reasoning
> is not behaviour, it is quite precursory to it.
> > Jay Feierman: Just because we are self-perceptive (introspective) of
> our own internal
> > motivating states does not mean that this is where we should start
> in trying
> > to scientifically understand a phenomenon. Robert Stonjek in another
> > posting in response to Tim Perper's suggestion to study behavior
> said, "Not
> > every aspect of love results in behavior." I would suggest that we
> > those aspects to the poets and songwriters. Natural selection
> selects on the
> > basis of behavior and so should we.
> The word love, for most of it's 8 centuries, was the label for a
> condition of introspection which is best described by poets and
> songwriters - why try to take their word away and use it for something
> else? Oh, funding, I forgot funding, and book sales, and the
> publication of papers. The word became as saleable as it is today
> specifically because of the work of those poets and songwriters, and
> now you are suggesting that we rip off their word because it is more
> popular and saleable than the phrase 'Relationship Forming Behaviour',
> and then remove that aspect of the label to which the songs and poems
> were directed?
example, when people ask me, I say I study courtship and how men and
women meet, fall in love, and decide to have sex (or not). I don't say
I study love, then to talk only about results of Likert scales about
partner preferences. (No, I'm not picking on anyone.)
In his further comments, which I snipped for reasons of space, Robert
reminds us not to burn our bridges to the emotions. I agree. But I
cannot study someone's emotions directly --only through the correlates
of what they say and do. I can empathize and even convince myself that
I feel as they do, but I might well be deluding myself, thereby to deny
the other person an existence independent of my own perhaps very
wrong-headed visions of what he or she feels.
Yes, there are writers who will cynically use terms like "love" to sell
a magazine piece or a book, but I don't think we need to worry too long
about them. They're small potatoes, as my mother used to say. Frankly,
I am more concerned by tendencies among scholars to *reduce* love not
to words used to sell books, but to fit it into pre-existing
theoretical frameworks, especially functionalist or utilitarian
frameworks. These folk -- no names! -- tend to see "love" (however
defined and by whomever!) as *merely* a way to make a good marriage,
one that has financial or social advantages. These are the people who
say, "Oh, love is just a name for selfishness where we delude ourselves
emotionally in order to get money from a potential husband, eggs and
uterus from a potential wife, or a comfortable lifestyle from someone
who supports us."
Such a view seems to me to be far too narrow, and, if truth be told,
far too cynical. It really *does* seem to deny the powerful internal,
subjective *experiences* of falling in love, of ecstatic sexuality, of
wonderfully playful sex, and so on. That view about love also has a
name -- "pragma" -- which we can define more or less as the idea that
"love" is or should be primarily a recipe for making a good bourgeois
marriage. Against them, for centuries, have risen up phalanxes of
ireful romantic poets and others who denounce such Philistinism not
only as wrong-headed and foolish, but as profoundly anti-erotic and
inhuman as well.
And so it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut says: people really *do* have
different visions of what love is, what it's for, how to use it, and
what to do about it. And that statement has both observable and
So Robert says love is old and we really need to respect and honor
that, and that we cannot toss out phenomenology, and he's right. Jay
Feierman (and me) say we need something to study, we can't chase after
vapors and will-o'-the wisps, and we're right (more on vapors in the
companion posting). Helen Fisher wants to study neurotransmitters, and
*she's* right. What I don't like -- it'll lead me to say that's _not_
the right way to do it -- is when people say that love is *simply* a
matter of making a good marriage, of finding a wealthy husband, of
finding a pretty young woman with good genes, of finding a mate whose
characters fit a pre-ordained laundry list of traits acceptable to
self, family, and one's small social circle. It's then that I feel the
lenses are closing down, rather than opening up.
- On Saturday, October 2, 2004, at 05:21 PM, Robert Karl Stonjek wrote:
> Jay R. FeiermanA comment on the word "vapors." Yes, we can study vapors, either as
> > Otherwise, I fear they are studying vapors.
> Your final comment is the most instructive here - "Otherwise, I fear
> they are studying vapours."
> Vapours are studied, that is the point. Vapours are studied by the
> discipline that specialises in the study of them. We would not expect
> behavioural scientists to study vapours, as you rightly point out, but
> my point is that vapours are studied.
> And so are emotions, and so is the aspect of emotion which is felt
> subjectively, and that aspect of subjective experience can not be
> excluded from Evolutionary Psychology. Thus when a word labels
> 'vapours' and 'solid objects', we are not at liberty to shear off the
> vapours and study only the solid objects but, rather, the aspect
> relating to the solid part is studied by experts in that field, the
> aspect relating to vapours is studied by experts in that field.
> When it comes to Love, we may observe that Love is BOTH a felt emotion
> experience personally, and often but not always results in observable
> behaviour. Thus we expect that the observable behaviour component to
> be studied by Behavioural Scientists, and the non-observable,
> personally felt aspect to be studied by phenomenologist. We are not
> at liberty to simply slice off the non-behavioural aspect and then
> claim that we don't really need the contribution of phenomenologist
> because we have defined love according to observable behaviour only.
physical chemists who study when and how liquids vaporize, or as
meteorologists who study vapors floating through the sky and are seen
as clouds. We can even study what people used to mean when they said
about someone, usually a woman, "Oh, she has the vapors," meaning some
kind of disorganized mental state.
But note that when we do that, we are still studying something, if not
an object like a wrench or a geological formation, then a temporally
structured array of feelings and their associated behaviors. It does
not *harm* love and its feelings for us to say that it can be studied
with the limited tool-kit of the behavioral, social, and
I do *not* think anyone here is saying -- I'm not! -- that we
**define** love as limited to observable behavior only. I don't know
what the situation has been in Australia, but certainly in the US that
viewpoint was associated with behaviorist schools of psychology (most
famously, perhaps, B.F. Skinner and those influenced by him). However,
behaviorism is passe in US psychology, rejected, among other reasons,
precisely because it denied a place to phenomenology.
It's one thing to say, ruefully, that we can't study all of it, as I
think Jay and I are suggesting. It's something quite different to say
that love can be understood ONLY by the limited tool-kit of the
sciences. Such a view is not only silly, it's positively sophomoric. To
give an example, Martha and I -- we're married, BTW -- have been
studying Japanese manga (an artform superficially similar to US comics,
but in history and graphic design very different) and their portrayal
of woman, love, romance, sex, and all the rest. So we are dealing
directly with how artists depict and create webs of understanding for
these emotions and behavior patterns. (We've published several articles
on the subject; see below.)
Yet even an artist must deal with something -- the aesthetics of
"representation" is complex, involving the history of styles and the
conventions of an artform, and needless to say the kinds of things
romantic/erotic manga deal with are very different than what
"scientists" usually study! A very special place exists in such manga
for feelings internal to the character, especially in what is called
"shojo manga," manga drawn by women for a readership of girls and young
women, with female protagonists. Then, in pages of imagery and words,
the artist, most often a woman, "enters" into the mindspace and
feelings of her heroine and depicts what the character is thinking and,
above all, feeling. To be sure, the character is not "real" in a
physical sense, but is realistic enough to make the phenomenology of a
girl's feelings very clear. In anime (Japanese animation), these
representations of emotional reality can be even deeper.
So we shouldn't give up just because the sciences can't discover it
all. There are other ways to explore love, passion, romance, sexuality
and its penumbra of emotions.
Perper, Timothy and Martha Cornog 2002 Eroticism for the masses:
Japanese manga comics and their assimilation into the U.S. Sexuality &
Culture, Volume 6, Number 1, pages 3-126 (Special Issue).
Perper, Timothy and Martha Cornog 2003 Sex, love, and women in Japanese
comics. In Robert T. Francoeur and Raymond Noonan, editors. The
Comprehensive International Encyclopedia of Sexuality. New York:
Continuum. pages 663-671.
- On Saturday, October 2, 2004, at 01:23 PM, Jay R. Feierman wrote:
> I like what you said below, which has to do with love, but I will only
> comment on your footnote on the "Epistemology of the concrete." I
> would call
> that "structural epistemology." How do we know things about structure
> matter? When structure refers to behavior (behavior = the movement of
> individuals or parts of individuals in space and time), Niko
> Tinnbergen had
> it right a half century ago when he said, "If you want to understand
> or know
> behavior (i.e., to do behavioral epistemology), you need to understand
> function, proximate cause, development and evolution."
> JRFTP: I have another posting on the word "vapors." I know what you mean
> The stone axes of early hominids to which you referred in the footnote
> the outcome of stone-finding and flaking behaviors (plus the
> capability for
> imitation learning). The stone axes are to behavior what bile is to the
> liver and urine is to the kidney. These worked stones, although
> are obviously not the behavior themselves. Ironically, the same four
> questions are asked by archeologists about these worked stones as
> ethologists ask about behavior. What is their function, how were they
> (a variation on their proximate cause), how do they relate to similar
> more primitive worked stones ( a variation on their evolution) and
> what are
> the steps or sequences involved in making them (a variation on their
> development)? If we don't ask any other questions of structures,
> behavior, then we are simply doing taxonomy. I believe that behavioral
> scientists will learn the most about love if they use the structural
> of archeology and the other physical sciences. Otherwise, I fear they
> studying vapors.
-- insubstantial stuff that floats away whenever we try to grab hold of
it, to see it, to fix it firmly enough to find out what it is or may
be. Lab science is **full** of stuff like this -- things that happen
once, or sort of happen, or that no one can quite define or locate.
My absolute favorite story about this is Robert Louis Stevenson's "Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," where Dr. Jekyll's potion is made from an
ingredient he obtained from a none-too-honest pharmacist, and which
turns out to have been mislabeled. So he can't get any more. Yup,
that's how bench science can go wrong! I always wondered how come RLS
knew this -- I thought it was only us lab people.
By contrast, the Sherlock Holmes stories paint an entirely too rosy
picture of what logic, observation, and science can do. Holmes'
inferences never go wrong, which makes him a magician, not a scientist.
But that's different from trying to understand these stories as
stories. THAT we can do. It's just that we can't do a damn thing with
mislabeled chemicals bought from strange pharmacists and imported from
I like the expression "structural epistemology." We necessarily stand
outside the experience of making stone axes a million years ago, and
yet we want to understand them.
- Hi, all,
One last comment before I retire from the fray for a while -- I've got
some other kinds of things to do -- though I've enjoyed all the
discussion and comments.
It's about theories of love. This is a game that goes back to Plato's
Symposium, and has entertained people ever since. Here are three
different ways I've found useful to think about all these theories.
1. Platonic vs. Ovidian
2. Love is primary vs. love is derivative.
3. Love is banal/profane vs. love is sacred.
1) In the Platonic view, from the Symposium, Love -- capital L -- is an
ideal form, a Platonic essence, not a particular example, but an
abstraction that informs *all* examples of love (small l). Neo-Platonic
Christian writers saw Love as originating with God, who is the source
and proper object of all Love. In this view, Love is always the same,
with one and only one fixed True Form.
By contrast, for Ovid, love (small l) was a complex, ever-shifting form
of play and engagement with a partner, always fascinating and ever
shifting. Its crux is not its fixed form -- it has none -- but in the
potentials and possibilities it opens up.
2) "Love is primary" means that love exists in its own right as a human
experience, emotion, and state. It has its own domains of influence
over our activities, behavior, and feelings. It is crucially linked to
sexuality, but is not the same as sexuality. For example, a man can
have a loveless but sexual encounter with a prostitute. But, for a
great many women and men, sexuality can link directly to love, to give
the experience of passionate or ecstatic sexual love, that altered
state of consciousness that we call "being in love."
"Love is derivative" means that in the theory, love arises from or
because of the action of processes that are conceptualized as deeper,
more fundamental, or more "primary" than the experience of love itself.
In these theories, love arises late in a chain of explanation as the
consequence of prior processes that create or engender love. For
example, one quite traditional view is that love arises because earlier
in the chain of causation processes of procreation stirred one to find
and cleave to a partner (this view was held by St. Thomas Aquinas).
Many modern, secular theories of love are of this kind, e.g., Freud's
ideas, though they don't necessarily place procreation in the
underlying driver's seat.
3) To say that love is banal and profane means that it is really --
basically, at root, fundamentally -- only a set of embodied, hormonal,
chemical, neurotransmitter, electrical forms of activation of nerves
and brain cells, or that it is really nothing more than a desire to
find a mate and make a good marriage, or that it is nature's way of
getting us to stay together long enough to raise children, or only a
deluding "Naturschwindel" disguising one's sex drive, and so on.
("Naturschwindel" means "swindle of nature.") In this view, poets and
fevered lovers are more than a bit crazy. These views refer any
explanation of love to other non-amorous domains, like biochemistry or
bourgeois utilitarianism, that are conceptualized as more basic than
the excitations of love.
By contrast, the idea that love is sacred goes back to Plato and
before. This idea holds that all Love (capital L again) comes from the
gods or from God or from the Higher Spiritual Powers in the universe.
In this view, it is through love -- and only love -- that we *really*
make contact or apperceive the Other, with whom we fuse into a higher
unity. Martin Buber's "I and Thou" is a modern example. Many mystics,
like Hildegard of Bingen and St. Teresa of Avila held such views.
All these views overlap and interact in various ways idiosyncratic to
whoever is doing the theorizing. But, broadly speaking, I've found it
useful to think about these 3 different dimensions of theory when I try
to figure out what one more enthusiast is trying to say about love.
Needless to say, the literature is immense, absolutely HUGE, on all
- Tim Perper
fray for a while -- I've got> Hi, all,
> One last comment before I retire from the
> some other kinds of things to do -- thoughI've enjoyed all the
> discussion and comments.about theories of love. This is a game that goes back to Plato's
>Symposium, and has entertained people ever since. Here are three
>different ways I've found useful to think about all these theories.
> 1. Platonic vs. Ovidian
> 2. Love is primary vs. love is
> 3. Love is banal/profane vs. love is
> Needless to say, the literature is immense, absolutely HUGE, on all
> these topics.
Very true, especially that last bit. I think for the purposes of Evolutionary Psychology we should consider Love to be a compound of various emotions and drives (unspecified in the first approximation) that leads to key subjective experience and various identifiable behaviours.That first approximation fits more than just Love - the properties outlined above are not unique to Love. But this combining together of foundational emotions and drives is, in and of itself, what actually evolved. In other words, before Love as we are familiar with it, we would expect to find the foundational drives and emotions expressing directly eg sexual drive manifesting immediately in copulatory behaviours; desire for proximity manifesting immediately in mating behaviour (displays, nest building, leking etc); and the emotion experienced, if indeed non-humans have these subjective experiences, would be specific to the particular drive or emotion enacted at that time.Ethologists would like to simplify human inner experience and behaviour to the pre-love form of emotion ie to single drives manifesting as singular, identifiable behaviours. But this is just not so in the case of humans. The very reason why some Love conditions as experienced by humans does not resolve to or manifest as behaviour is because the emotion is a compound and not a single feeling or emotion.But as a compound of emotions and drives it has a single identifiable label and a single overarching feeling associated with it but no single behaviour identifies it exclusively. Those that simulate being in Love, say, for a devious purpose, bind together the component behaviours with knowledge, not with the overarching emotional/drive composite. But the independent behaviours - compliments, gifts, even sex etc, can all happily occur independently of Love.If foundational studies need to be done, as Jay strongly advocates (and to which I agree in principle), then Love should be left well alone until the foundational elements of Love have been sufficiently understood ie mating behaviour, family forming behaviour, sexual behaviour, and all the behaviours that have identifiable singular elements should be considered as well as identifiable singular emotions as experienced. Once we have the building blocks, we can then begin to peace them together to form the complex of emotions like Love which seems to be already present in our first memories.Attempting to reduce Love to a foundational form is obviously an error of the first degree - there is no way one can shoehorn such an obviously complex and well worn label into a simple framework ahead of better understanding of the constituents which are foundational to it.All of Tim's observations are closer to the foundational than Love itself, and so could be included in the family of foundations that Love encapsulates. It is, indeed, the bringing together of properties which is one of the feature of Love that is consistent in all cases ie the bringing together of some set of drives, emotions and behaviours. Hate, the opposite of Love (by many accounts) can be summarised as the breaking apart of foundational properties into the constituent or original form and in doing so, dissipating the love that bound them.Evolutionarily, especially where Evolutionary Psychology is concerned, Love, then, is an individual's version of what a tribe or other grouping of people actually are ie the gathering together of various individuals to form a single composite that works together. This connection is not immediately obvious and I don't intend to press it here, only to point out that Love as an overarching emotion and the tribe as an emotionally bound group most probably formed together, Love being a necessary cognitive binding tool and foundation stone of the tribe.Non human animal groupings may be bound more simply, and even early human tribes may have been bound on a strictly needs basis. But somewhere along the line, Love and its binding power emerged, perhaps as a selected trait, or perhaps it simply is an emergent property, but social and individual forms almost certainly developed together..Kind Regards
Robert Karl Stonjek
- Evolutionary accounts of love will be as varied as theories of love. If
I believe that love truly and really is X, Y, and Z, then my
evolutionary account of the origins of love over hundreds, thousands,
and millions of years will of course deal with the evolution of X, Y,
and Z. If you believe that love really and truly is P, Q, and R, then
your evolutionary account will try to explain where P, Q, and R came
from. So we end up with a range of evolutionary descriptions or
analyses that are as varied -- and for the same reasons -- as our
original descriptions of love.
The comment illustrates something Jay Feierman said. One reason
biologists have made considerable progress in understanding biological
functions and evolution is that we can pick up and look at things like
bones and kidneys, measure them, watch them, and see how they work.
They are, in Jay's word, "tangible." Convergence of description arises
because after a while everyone does reach consensus on what bones and
kidneys are, do, and look like. We can *all* pick them up and look at
them, sure in the knowledge that we're examining the same thing.
But as long as love is truly and really X, Y, and Z to one person, and
really and truly P, Q, and R to someone else, there will be no
consensus and we will not converge on a canonical or consensual
evolutionary account of where love came from.
Like I said, it's an always interesting topic. But other things are
calling on me now...
- Timothy Perper
>varied as theories of love. If
> Evolutionary accounts of love will be as
> I believe that love truly and really isX, Y, and Z, then my
> evolutionary account of the origins of love overhundreds, thousands,
> and millions of years will of course deal with theevolution of X, Y,
> and Z. If you believe that love really and truly isP, Q, and R, then
> your evolutionary account will try to explain whereP, Q, and R came
> from. So we end up with a range of evolutionarydescriptions or
> analyses that are as varied -- and for the same reasons-- as our
> original descriptions of love.illustrates something Jay Feierman said. One reason
> The comment
> biologists havemade considerable progress in understanding biological
> functions andevolution is that we can pick up and look at things like
> bones andkidneys, measure them, watch them, and see how they work.
> They are, inJay's word, "tangible." Convergence of description arises
> because aftera while everyone does reach consensus on what bones and
> kidneys are,do, and look like. We can *all* pick them up and look at
> them, sure inthe knowledge that we're examining the same thing.
>as love is truly and really X, Y, and Z to one person, and
> But as long
> really andtruly P, Q, and R to someone else, there will be no
> consensus and wewill not converge on a canonical or consensual
> evolutionary account ofwhere love came from.
>topic. But other things are
> Like I said, it's an always interesting
> calling on me now...RKS:
That is partly true. I don't think we should shift to the other extreme (contrasting with ethologists limited definitions based entirely on certain behavioural patterns).Love is far better grounded than, say, a belief in God where both the God, the feelings corresponding to the belief, and just what is in fact is believed in are all variables.Love as an emotional feeling has always been associated with the heart, and one feels loving feelings in the heart region. This is one point of fixation that grounds definitions.There is a full set of accompanying emotions related to Love of which any individual will only experience some subset of. There is also a full set of general behaviours that can be identified, but again, any given subject is unlikely to enact the entire set. Some of the emotions and behaviours relate to the termination phase, for instance, or are only experienced in certain forms of love.But all have accompanying common feelings, which is why we group these behaviours together in the first place.Indeed, it is worth asking why so many behaviours fall under the same label in the first place - what is the common thread? Loving a car, as Jay suggests, may be sudden and complete - what is the connection between that and the Love of a wife? You want to own the car and drive it here and there. Not everyone associates those desires with their wife. Generally, one want to have sex with the wife, to share the building of assets, particularly the house, and to start a family. What do any of those have to do with an ATV??We might catalogue desire, but then what of the consummatory phase - when the asset or wife is secured? Now how are they the same? They are the same because of the common feeling associated with Love (pure form) but not the accompanying feelings that for the car and the wife will be quite different.If we minimise the importance of the emotional precursor of love, the feeling, then aren't we also severing the common link between all forms of Love?I think that Tim is right regarding specific definitions, indeed he has to be right in view of the quiet different requirements that various disciplines have. But I do think a first approximation must be possible, indeed, it is essential lest we revert back to the days when every profession had its own set of weights and measures that were quite incompatible with any other, only we will be doing that with vocabularies. A 'Lexical' metric system need only deal with first approximations, some of which I have suggested for Love in this and previous notes. Surely we can at least manage that, after all, there is surprisingly little confusion of the meaning of the label "Love" in general society despite its wide range of applications. If humans can develop a working cognitive first approximation then I'm sure that science can do the same.Kind Regards
Robert Karl Stonjek