Monday, April 21, 2014

Is Love Missing in Philosophy?

Something has been bugging me throughout the semester in studying Plato, Descartes, Rousseau and now Nietzsche. Something important is missing. It took me a long time to lay my finger on the problem I was having. I thought, at first it was the utter disregard for a plurality of opinion: they all think they have the one true answer. And then I encountered Nietzsche. Plurality of opinion is not exactly a problem there.

It was there that I realized the utter lack of Love in Philosophy.

In Plato's work "Republic" he proposes a plan to manage marriage and procreation in order to eliminate strife and jealousy within the "Happy City". He proposes year-long marriages and any children produced would be raised in common with all the children, so that parents would protect all the children instead of just their own.

In the "Discourse on Method" Descartes never addresses relationships at all, really. But he does state that plans and projects handled by one individual are better and more well crafted than those handled by more than one person. Where, then, would that leave a relationship?

Rousseau believes that Savage Man would have met up, had relations and moved on leaving babies with their mothers, until such time as that child no longer needed a mother.

And now, we are delving into Nietzsche's "Beyond Good and Evil" where he seems to be of the opinion that love is a trap and a barbarous one at that! The idea of self-denial and self-sacrifice is repugnant to Nietzsche. In Nietzsche's vision the "will to power" is the driving force of life: when you enter a relationship, you give nothing up. You work to gain instead.

The point of a Philosophy class is to introduce you to thoughts that are not your own and make you consider them carefully - perhaps changing or shading your own thoughts. This is not always a safe thing. You can get lost in your head so thoroughly that you can't find your way out again.

Philosophy challenges us to think about what beliefs we hold and why. Where do these ideas come from and do they have merit? In that way, and for that reason, Philosophy is an essential study for me as an American Catholic. I am beginning to see how some of the things I value are in direct opposition to what my ideals are. And these challenges to my ideals are making me reconsider not only my ideals, but my values.

What does what I do say about what I believe?

We all have Ideals and Values. What we hold as ideals are not necessarily the same as our values. For example, I have an ideal of having a clean, well-maintained house. The value is that I like to read, write and spend time with my family much more, so the house is a bit, well, slip-shod.

I am also beginning to see how our country has gotten to the place where it is in the political and social values and ideals that we embrace. Frankly, our values, do not reflect our ideals. As a culture, we hold an ideal of self-sacrifice and self-denial, but when the rubber meets the road, our culture does not value self-denial. How very Nietzschean of us.

The lack of Love that I find in the philosophers I have studied, is not actually a lack. It's more like a black hole. It would appear that, to these four thinkers, Love, like a cancer, must be cut away from us in order to free us to think and to make us happy, productive people. As we think more and more about what we believe about ourselves, our own opinions and the world around us, we learn to love ourselves more, and others less. Only through this do we find Truth.

Really? That sounds as enchanting as a rattlesnake in a rolling barrel.

I can't explain why Nietzsche thinks that self-sacrifice is unnecessary in a love relationship. I can't see how a relationship would work any other way.

When you love someone, you give things up. It's a part of the ideal of love, and if it's not a value as well, then the relationship will not last. You and your spouse will eat each other alive vying for supremacy in the will to power struggle unless someone surrenders.

And what if neither one of you surrenders? Well, neither one of you wins.

But, what if you both surrender? What happens then? Does everyone lose?

No. We fill up what the other is lacking. The things that I provide to Michael are different than the things he provides for me. We allow each other to be built up and strengthened and this in turn strengthens us as individuals.

This is Love. It is self-sacrifice. It is self-denial. It is self-knowledge. It is humility.

It is the cross.

Without the crucifixion and resurrection we are less than we could be. To look at one without the other is to miss the point of Love. Yes, the resurrection is a triumph, but without the sacrifice, it is hollow. It is an empty tomb, but also an empty show of power.

When we look upon the crucified Christ, we see the depth to which love must take us. Love will consume us, but we are not lost to ourselves by that sacrifice. Instead, in his passionate love for us, Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist and fills up what we are lacking in ourselves.

So, during this Easter season, it is important to celebrate the Risen Christ, but let's not forget that victory comes to us at a price.

1 comment:

  1. All excellent points. Thank you for giving us some thoughts to chew on today...