♦ LAST UPDATED ON January 8, 2021 ♦
My simple view of love’s genesis goes like this: the construct of love assembles in consciousness in the form of Gestalt and fosters a new sense of belonging for the lovers.
This is provided for by the binary nature of biological sex, which is entailed by primeval instincts and needs that evoke, stir and arouse intense emotions and erotic passions which, subsequently, cause re-alignment of perspectives which, subsequently, motivate reason — kind of as afterthoughts — and inspire manners, behaviors, and actions.
Does all that make love an illusion, an instinct, an emotion, a passion, a virtue, a phenomenon, or an action alone? No, the Gestalt of love is not reducible to just one ‘thing.’ Love is a construct of many ‘things,’ reflecting a symbiosis of ‘nature and nurture.’
Aristotle, the great philosopher of Ancient Greece, already stipulated that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Love, in the opinion of this author, is such a whole.
As such it is experienced in different ways by various folks in different eons. The Biblical text speaks of love originating in God. However, the author of this blog does not really know if even a God exists or not. Who can know, and not just wish for? For theologians and others to have said not only in faith but with conviction that they also know — for sure — what God is like and wants and needs seems to then be a real stretch of wishful and coercive imagination.
Why and how does God, supposedly, love humans? What is so loveable about us that a god cannot make it without us earthlings — even if we were really nice people? Would a god not be better off to ‘love’ another god, someone more like him or herself — absolute, unchanging, and eternal? ‘No,’ think theologians, ‘that possibility spells disaster to our case. Therefore, there can only be one god after all (so as to bind him or herself to us). Yes, that is how we can make it work.’ The earthly Wizards of Oz have spoken. Fifty thousand or more gods would truly be very unmanageable for them.
Anthropology, on the other hand, recognizes that we cannot reconstruct the genesis of love based on historical facts as we do not have any hard evidence as to how our very early ancestors lived and ‘loved.’ Were they monogamous or polyamorous and to what degrees? Were hominids even aware of a thing like love as a distinct, worthwhile experience? Were women always a prized possession of men? When and how did men and women diverge in terms of their sensibilities, their needs and wants, regarding love?
At some point in ancient history, early humans seem to have started to adorn themselves with ornamental seashells and perhaps tattoos. Might that have been the time in history when love emerged as a distinct-enough, personal experience worth protecting from rivals?
We know that even in the animal kingdom, most mothers ‘love’ their offspring as they care for them. Is that caress already a quality of what can be labeled love, a kind of love that goes beyond mere instinctual behavior? We just do not know how and when love started.
Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud had a quite few things to say about that, but most current thinkers discount Freud’s anthropological writings based on his psychoanalytical insights rather as conjectures, as too mythological in themselves.
Freud’s perhaps more valuable insights into love, which for him was ‘Zärtlichkeit’ in his native language (or affection in English), refer back to the affective and sensual psychic development during human childhood. He never took a stab at explaining love other than from the perspective of child development. However, to reflect on that rich material is past the scope of this site.
Both religion and anthropology cannot answer all questions regarding love and life. Love, for these many reasons, is a bit ineffable, but — in the end — necessary, intriguing as well as worthwhile.
As such, however, love still creates novel beginnings between two people like nothing else can.
Skeptics of Love
Still, many do not believe in the phenomena of love-as-that-whole. Skeptics include such philosophical luminaries as René Descartes and Immanuel Kant – with their attention rather given to the constituent parts of the whole.
Outright enemies of romantic love, that is ‘falling in love’ and subsequently ‘being in love’ as unwillable, sentimental psychic states, are possibly the many social Darwinists, believing in sexual desires as the core of relationships between men and women. They believe in social engineering as a means to ensure the dominance of their racist or otherwise elitist interests.
Romantic love, sentimental and unwillable and unpredictable, cuts across all efforts of social engineering, be that the enforcement of caste or similar groupings based on privilege.