What is Love?
There are a few Greek words for love, as the Greek language distinguishes how the word is used. Ancient Greek has four distinct words for love: agápe, éros, philía, and storgē. However, as with other languages, it has been historically difficult to separate the meanings of these words. Nonetheless, the senses in which these words were generally used are given below.
- Agápe (ἀγάπη agápē) means “love,” such as in the term s’agapo (Σ’αγαπώ), which means “I love you.” In Ancient Greek, it often refers to a general affection or deeper sense of “true love” rather than the attraction suggested by “eros.” Agape is used in the biblical passage known as the “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13, and is described there and throughout the New Testament as sacrificial love. Agape is also used in ancient texts to denote feelings for one’s children and the feelings for a spouse, and it was also used to refer to a love feast. It can also be described as the feeling of being content or holding one in high regard. Agape was appropriated by Christians for use to express the unconditional love of God.
- Éros (ἔρως érōs) is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. The Modern Greek word “erotas” means “intimate love;” however, eros does not have to be sexual in nature. Eros can be interpreted as a love for someone whom you love more than the philia, love of friendship. It can also apply to dating relationships as well as marriage. Plato refined his own definition: Although eros is initially felt for a person, with contemplation it becomes an appreciation of the beauty within that person, or even becomes appreciation of beauty itself. Plato does not talk of physical attraction as a necessary part of love, hence the use of the word platonic to mean, “without physical attraction.” In the Symposium, the most famous ancient work on the subject, Plato has the middle-aged Athenian philosopher, Socrates, argue to aristocratic intellectuals and a young male acolyte in sexual pursuit of him, that eros helps the soul recall knowledge of beauty, and contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth, the ideal “Form” of youthful beauty that leads us humans to feel erotic desire — thus suggesting that even that sensually-based love aspires to the non-corporeal, spiritual plane of existence; that is, finding its truth, just like finding any truth, leads to transcendence. Lovers and philosophers are all inspired to seek truth through the means of eros.”
- Philia (φιλία philía) means friendship or affectionate love in modern Greek. It is a dispassionate virtuous love, a concept developed by Aristotle. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity. In ancient texts, philos denoted a general type of love, used for love between family, between friends, a desire or enjoyment of an activity, as well as between lovers.
- Storge (στοργή storgē) means “affection” in ancient and modern Greek. It is natural affection, like that felt by parents for offspring. Rarely used in ancient works, and then almost exclusively as a descriptor of relationships within the family. It is also known to express mere acceptance or putting up with situations, as in “loving” the tyrant.
- We live in this world when we love it. ~ Rabindranath Tagore
- Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~ The Bible : 1 Corinthians
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast,
it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
~ The Bible : 1 Corinthians
- Lian is a virtuous benevolent love. Lian should be pursued by all human beings, and reflects a moral life. ~ Confucius
- Ai is universal love towards all beings, not just towards friends or family, without regard to reciprocation. ~ Mo Zi
- One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: that word is love. ~ Sophocles
- All you need is love. ~ John Lennon
- In love, one and one are one. ~ Jean-Paul Sartre
- True love doesn’t come to you it has to be inside you. ~ Julia Roberts
- What a grand thing, to be loved! What a grander thing still, to love! ~ Victor Hugo
- The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved – loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves. ~ Victor Hugo
- The first duty of love is to listen. ~ Paul Tillich
- The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost. ~ G. K. Chesterton
- Grow old along with me the best is yet to be. ~ Robert Browning
- Love comforteth like sunshine after rain. ~ William Shakespeare
In ordinary use, love usually refers to interpersonal love.
Interpersonal love is love between human beings, and is more sympathetic than the notion of very much liking for another. Although feelings are usually reciprocal, there can also be unrequited love. Interpersonal love is usually found in an interpersonal relationship, such as between family members, friends, and couples. However, people often express love for other people outside of these relationships through compassionate outreach and volunteering.
Some elements that are often present in interpersonal love2:
- Affection: appreciation of other
- Attachment: satisfying basic emotional needs
- Reciprocation: if love is mutual
- Commitment: a desire to maintain love
- Emotional intimacy: sharing emotions and feelings
- Kinship: family bonds
- Passion: sexual desire
- Physical intimacy: sharing of personal space
- Self-interest: desiring rewards
- Service: desire to help