This post is a follow-up to this one and the comment section. It may be we can come at this issue of mystery and love from a different angle. Since focusing on the word “mystery” did not get us very far, perhaps we should focus on the word “love”.
Further, I think some confusion could have been avoided if we would have been more specific as to what type of love we were calling mysterious or more mysterious than all the examples given by Bernard. It could be that some aspects of love are even more mysterious than other aspects. We can see this in how the western world understands the word “love” and its use in context. In English, we use the word “love” to say, “I love this bread” and we use the same word to say “I will love my spouse forever.” The same word is being used, but very different meanings are in play.
In seminary, we learned that in the Greek, there are several different words used for love, three of which are pertinent to this discussion. The first is eros, by which is meant sexual desire and passion. The second is philia, by which is meant deep friendship. This love is marked by deep loyalty and protectiveness, what we might find among co-workers, in sports, or in what soldiers and police persons often exhibit, but of course may have no erotic aspect whatsoever. The third is agape. This is a radical and self-less love for everyone, even the stranger. The Christian tradition took this even further and said it was love toward even one’s enemies. We are told this is the type love God has for us and even that God “is” this type love—God isthis love in an ontological way. This love is God and a gift from God to creation by grace.
Now, it could very well be that Bernard was using hunger to show that it is much like eros. We know there is a biological sex “drive” and that physical changes take place within our bodies and minds, which can be empirically demonstrated and detected. All this is much like how hunger seems to function, except hunger is an even more powerful drive because without its satisfaction, we die. The same is not true if we don’t have sex. Still, they are similar in many ways and perhaps this is what Bernard meant.
However, I would hope people would have been able to figure out which type of love I was speaking of, just by context, perhaps I should have been clearer. I was certainly not speaking of eros, or erotic “love”. I was speaking more of the philia type, but most specifically, the agape type love. With this type, I see huge differences between it and biological urges/drives like hunger and much more mysterious than such urges/drives.
Hopefully then, noting the differences within the word “love” itself, will help us understand each other’s view a little better.
Bernard and JP, please review this link, specifically Section 4.
The view in this link (which is a neutral academic site) that comes closest to describing my own is noted here:
“Expressionist love is similar to behaviorism in that love is considered an expression of a state of affairs towards a beloved, which may be communicated through language (words, poetry, music) or behavior (bringing flowers, giving up a kidney, diving into the proverbial burning building), but which is a reflection of an internal, emotional state, rather than an exhibition of physical responses to stimuli. Others in this vein may claim love to be a spiritual response, the recognition of a soul that completes one’s own soul, or complements or augments it. The spiritualist vision of love incorporates mystical as well as traditional romantic notions of love, but rejects the behaviorist or physicalist explanations.
Those who consider love to be an aesthetic response would hold that love is knowable through the emotional and conscious feeling it provokes yet which cannot perhaps be captured in rational or descriptive language: it is instead to be captured, as far as that is possible, by metaphor or by music.”
Bernard, in his attempt to show that love was no more mysterious than biological drives or the complex behavior of physical objects, seemed to be proposing the same view of love as noted here:
“Some may hold that love is physical, i.e., that love is nothing but a physical response to another whom the agent feels physically attracted to. Accordingly, the action of loving encompasses a broad range of behavior including caring, listening, attending to, preferring to others, and so on. (This would be proposed by behaviorists). Others (physicalists, geneticists) reduce all examinations of love to the physical motivation of the sexual impulse-the simple sexual instinct that is shared with all complex living entities, which may, in humans, be directed consciously, sub-consciously or pre-rationally toward a potential mate or object of sexual gratification.
Physical determinists, those who believe the world to entirely physical and that every event has a prior (physical cause), consider love to be an extension of the chemical-biological constituents of the human creature and be explicable according to such processes. In this vein, geneticists may invoke the theory that the genes (an individual’s DNA) form the determining criteria in any sexual or putative romantic choice, especially in choosing a mate. However, a problem for those who claim that love is reducible to the physical attractiveness of a potential mate, or to the blood ties of family and kin which forge bonds of filial love, is that it does not capture the affections between those who cannot or wish not to reproduce-that is, physicalism or determinism ignores the possibility of romantic, ideational love—it may explain eros, but not philia or agape.
Behaviorism, which stems from the theory of the mind and asserts a rejection of Cartesian dualism between mind and body, entails that love is a series of actions and preferences which is thereby observable to oneself and others. The behaviorist theory that love is observable (according to the recognizable behavioral constraints corresponding to acts of love) suggests also that it is theoretically quantifiable: that A acts in a certain way (actions X,Y,Z) around B, more so than he does around C, suggests that he “loves” B more than C. The problem with the behaviorist vision of love is that it is susceptible to the poignant criticism that a person’s actions need not express their inner state or emotions—A may be a very good actor. Radical behaviorists, such as B. F. Skinner, claim that observable and unobservable behavior such as mental states can be examined from the behaviorist framework, in terms of the laws of conditioning. On this view, that one falls in love may go unrecognised by the casual observer, but the act of being in love can be examined by what events or conditions led to the agent’s believing she was in love: this may include the theory that being in love is an overtly strong reaction to a set of highly positive conditions in the behavior or presence of another.”
*So my questions to Bernard and JP are five-fold:
First, where do you fall within the behaviorist/physicalist/determinist view of love? Do these three capture entirely your views in this area? Why or why not?
Second, whether you agree with my view or not, would you agree that such a view (if one holds it) leaves room for many aspects of love to be mysterious in ways other aspects to being human are not, such as biological urges?
Third, if you do not agree with my view, please review the following and tell me, given what is noted by the writer, why we still shouldn’t view love as a greater mystery in some aspects than other first-person experiences, such as stubbing our toe or feeling hunger pains:
“If love does possess “a nature” which is identifiable by some means-a personal expression, a discernible pattern of behavior, or other activity, it can still be asked whether that nature can be properly understood by humanity. Love may have a nature, yet we may not possess the proper intellectual capacity to understand it-accordingly, we may gain glimpses perhaps of its essence-as Socrates argues in The Symposium, but its true nature being forever beyond humanity’s intellectual grasp. Accordingly, love may be partially described, or hinted at, in a dialectic or analytical exposition of the concept but never understood in itself. Love may therefore become an epiphenomenal entity, generated by human action in loving, but never grasped by the mind or language. Love may be so described as a Platonic Form, belonging to the higher realm of transcendental concepts that mortals can barely conceive of in their purity, catching only glimpses of the Forms’ conceptual shadows that logic and reason unveil or disclose.”
Fourth, given my view of love, relying as it does upon a spiritual aspect, wouldn’t the mystery different than that of hunger reside in that very question—“does love have a spiritual aspect?” Unless one can say it most definitely does not, because none exists, there then must be some difference as to the degree of mystery, true? Isn’t the difference inherent in not being sure one way or the other whether or not there is a mystical/spiritual aspect to agape love?
Fifth, to this claim regarding the mystical/spiritual aspect to love (God is love), we would think an agnostic could only respond: “I don’t know.” Since he doesn’t know whether or not God or the spiritual exists (maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t), he must remain open to the Christian’s assertion and cannot rule it out. Thus, to the claim love is mysterious in a way hunger is not, because of this aspect-he must remain neutral, of no opinion, because otherwise it would require he comment upon the existence of God or the spiritual. Thus, how can an agnostic disagree or object to my assertion, as an agnostic?
If Bernard and JP will address these questions, perhaps we can get closer to what each is trying to communicate, whether or not we end up agreeing upon everything or every point.
I can see where an atheist/physicalist/materialist would say, “I can’t agree with Darrell’s view here, that there is a mystical/spiritual aspect (God is love) to love, because the spiritual/God does not exist”. However, since Bernard or JP have never come right out and asserted anything like this, as Burk has, I still do not understand their objection to my claim agape love is more mysterious than hunger.
Putting that aside, I am still baffled as to why Bernard and JP think love no more mysterious than eating a sandwich, regardless. How is love no more mysterious than experiencing hunger, rolling pumpkins, sneezes, or cars? What reasonable person would suggest such? It has been my experience that most people, both educated and not, now or in the past, think love to be one of the most mysterious aspects to existence, our lives, there is. Thus the reason it has been the source and topic of so much poetry, literature, art, song, and other creative forms for centuries. It clearly cannot be exhausted. That Bernard and JP do not share that understanding is rather shocking frankly. What type of world-view or sensibility would fear recognizing love as mysterious in ways that a rolling pumpkin, hunger, or sneezes are not? Why this fear? Does the fear arise from thinking such a view opens the door to the spiritual (God) existing? I suspect so. If one is agnostic however, whence the fear? What is the worse that could happen if we thought love mysterious in a way hunger is not, especially if one has already admitted that love is indeed mysterious? If we agree love is mysterious, why the parsing and splitting of hairs over the depth/difference of its mystery? Again, this is baffling.
To repeat: I think love is mysterious in a way hunger is not (I don’t think there is any significant mystery to hunger at all), because the, “…spiritualist vision of love incorporates mystical as well as traditional romantic notions of love…” This is further qualified by the Christian claim that God is love (agape) and that love is reflected in humans by way of creation/our conscious selves/souls, therefore its source and origin is not entirely biological or physical.
Of course, one need not agree to this aspect of love to still make the case that love is mysterious in a way hunger is not (as noted in the link I gave where even an atheist notes the difference). Again, hunger (the biological urge/drive) does not meet the criteria of intentionality, will/choice, deep desire/longing (to love and be loved) over a life-time (yet if not met either way, we live, we work, we go on), deep introspection, and the “incalculable” relational aspect. All these aspects are still relevant, even without the spiritual aspect.
However, I do not need those aspects to still assert love is more mysterious than hunger, because what certainly makes agape love mysterious in a way different than hunger is the mystical aspect or the assertion that “God is love” and all human examples of that type of love find their origin and source in our being images bearers of God, we are capable of that type of love by way of creation, regardless of whether we recognize God existing or not. The sun shines on the grateful and the ungrateful. Notice too that such is what makes agapelove intrinsically relational (and “incalculable” in that sense), something hunger doesn’t even come close to having to the same degree, if at all. Hunger cares nothing about relation nor does its existence have anything to do with the social aspect to being human (which is intrinsic to love). Bernard tried to tell us, “but, people get together to eat” without realizing he was making my point not his. Hunger is not why people eat together. People eat together because of philia or agape love. He responded, “but you brought the relational” up. No, relation is intrinsic to philia and agape love; there is no need to bring it up—it is already there. But to smuggle in the relational or social to try and show love no more mysterious than hunger is to prove my very point. If there is something one can say about one aspect to being human that one cannot say of another, then within that difference resides the greater degree of mystery.
Finally, this *link and one of the writer’s views (noted below) sums up very nicely how we might think about love and in so doing also tells us why love is so much more mysterious than hunger or whatever other mistaken category we might imagine could be compared to it. To see this all one need do is replace every use of the word “love” in the quote below with the word “hunger” and one can see how utterly false it would be to say that love is no more mysterious than hunger.
“The English metaphysician F.H. Bradley, who for a short period in the early twentieth century was hailed as Britain’s greatest philosopher, showed us that fundamentally, love is an experience beyond self: love is the experience of the Absolute. Whatever is your life, whether you are a motor mechanic, a dentist, or an astronaut, says Bradley, love is what you experience when you become aware what you really are – when the subject and the object becomes one, whole and indivisible. That is a ‘real’ experience – every other experience is a mere ‘appearance’. What you believe is real experience is like watching a 3D movie. It caters to your senses, it can be either pleasure or pain, but it is never an experience of deepest truth, as love is [can we say this of hunger?]. The problem is that none of us can remain in the present because we live in time, and time is constantly changing. When we learn to stand still, not at the level of the body, but at the level of the mind, and become aware that we are not what we thought we were, then love may manifest itself in experience and become absolute for a simple split second, or more. In Buddhism this is called ‘Enlightenment’; in Christianity, ‘Heaven’; and in our ordinary day-to-day life, ‘Happiness’. So love is happiness experienced at the level of the mind, devoid of time, when you become one with the Universe, without cares, worries, pain or pleasure [is that how we experience hunger?]. Don’t seek it, go after it or chase it, simply experience it – then you will ‘know’ what love is.” -Ignatius Udunuwara, Univ. of New England, NSW
Actually, if we were to look at this a little deeper, we might say that when we replace words like “love” with words like “hunger” and understand them to be the same type of thing, we actually experience hell—we turn heaven into hell. Hell is an urge that can never be satisfied fully, we always get hungry again. Hell is selfish and cares only for feeding its own stomach. Hell is about me and my wants. Hell is personal consumption. Hell like hunger is a lack, while love is a satisfaction, not in feeding ourselves, but in meeting the needs of others. Physically, and literally, when I feed someone else, I don’t get less hungry. The lack remains; the hunger remains. However, love is the very opposite. When I give it away, when I feed it to others, I find I am full now and I have more than when I began. I am satisfied. Obviously I’m speaking metaphorically, but if one cannot perceive the difference here, what then are we to say? If one cannot “get” the difference, then maybe this is just a difference of sensibility. If so, there is not much I can do about that. Such is not an educational matter or lack of information; it is not a matter of reasoned argument or logic—it is something else entirely.
Love is the very opposite of satiating our own hunger or needs and why we experience happiness, or heaven on earth, when we are “in” it and living “out” of it. As the writer notes, love is “an experience of deepest truth”. And that is a great mystery indeed-and why we can say, love is truth and truth is love. Hunger is not an experience of “deepest truth”. Hunger is just a physical experience, like a sneeze, or any other bodily function or sensation we are aware of mentally. We cannot reduce one experience to all others, make them all the same, and in that difference, in the distance between a hunger pain/physical sensation, and love, there is a significant difference in mystery, one we can only try and capture, however partially, in poetry, song, art, and philosophy. We also capture it when we, without words, simply love in our doing and being. The two (the articulation in art/philosophy and the act of loving) together, speak of an infinite distance between the one experience (hunger) and the other (love).
I think I’m done here. I’m hungry; I’m going to go get something to eat.
*Before making any general comments or asking follow-up questions, please quote my questions in order and respond to each. Thank you.
*As an aside, this link might be good for reference too. From the link (Section 6):
“‘Why do we love?’ It has been suggested above that any account of love needs to be able to answer some such justificatory question.”
No such question need be asked of why we hunger, sneeze, cough, urinate, or defecate, nor does anyone contemplate a justificatory “why?” as to these physical events in any sort of reflective, introspective way—they are purely physiological/biological reflexes. We seek no justification for these natural processes in our bodies (they are self-explanatory) like we do love, although we study these reflexes and try to learn more for biological/medical reasons. And these bodily functions have never, as noted of Helen of Troy, had the effect of launching a thousand ships, nor have the poets, song writers, or musicians spoken and sung of their mysteries. To assert that love is no more mysterious than our experience/sensation of hunger is to reveal, I believe, an egregious lack of historical, cultural, social, and philosophical awareness (which goes to what I was speaking to as far as sensibility, or lack thereof, and against such deficits no argument can prevail).