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What is love?

Discussion in 'Physical & Life Sciences' started by mindlight, May 31, 2015.

  1. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    Before people shift this into the philosophy or theology forums please hear me out.

    The Reductionist Materialist view of reality will attempt to explain this in one way while Christians and many normal people definitely think of it practically in an entirely different way. I wish to explore this discrepancy between usage and scientific analysis as a way of exploring the limits of the scientific methods, as an example of its misuse and as a platform to discuss the questions raised by its inadequacy.

    It seems to me there are 3 distinct ways to describe the state of "being in love".

    1) Reductionist Materialism: Will describe the biological systems involved , heightened levels of specific chemicals in specific areas etc
    2) Humanism: This label may not be the best to apply and maybe the discussions related to this OP will provide me with a better one. The point of this perspective is that while it possesses a broader of view of what love is than 1) it cannot be regarded as a specifically religious answer to the understanding of love. This approach to describing the love state recognises that the software of our humanity is just as important as the hardware and that having all the biological conditions being in place may not necessarily result in love in all individuals in precisely the same circumstances. It explains this in terms of the internal logic of subjective systems that interact with these biological systems to produce different results in different cases. In this model science can inform the discussion setting limits and capabilities of what love is but it cannot give a complete account of causation as much of that causation is unobservable or individually unique.
    3) Spiritual: A Spiritual explanation for love cites an otherworldly source for the capacity to love in the worst of circumstances e.g. Christ on the cross. Many Iraqi Christians have exhibited this kind of love. Forgiving those who burnt their houses and killed their friends and relatives and praying for their enemies for instance. There are others who have been selfless examples of love ministering to the suffering e.g. Mother Theresa or victims of cruel tyrannies e.g. Corrie Ten Boom who have continued to exhibit the qualities of loving when biological and even subjective reasoning would appear to give no cause for that to continue to be the case.

    Reductionist Materialism would in my view reduce love to some kind of animal state. Humanism would make it a merely human phenomena describable in human terms and the Spiritual explanation would require a supernatural source for love.

    The object of love varies considerably but I wish in the main to consider love as a personal phenomena in this OP rather than of ideas or systems for example. So love of a human person or a god or God would qualify in that respect.

    So the questions:
    1. What is love?
    2. Which perspective do you take and why?
    3. Why would you consider the other perspectives incomplete or untenable?
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2015
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  2. The Cadet

    The Cadet SO COOL

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    I'm not sure how this differs from the materialist point of view. Yes, how any individual responds to certain stimuli may be different. But everything that is functionally "different" here can still be pinned down to brain chemistry. It's like saying that one person defines a computer as the sum of its electrical parts, and the other does not because the other recognizes that sometimes computers with the same specs will run certain pieces of software differently... But that's easily explained by the computer's past use and history; if one computer has a virus and the other does not, this at no point moves away from materialism (reductionist or not).

    Unless you're saying the "software" is something like a soul, at which point we run into the same issue we're going to run into below:

    It doesn't cite an otherworldly source, it asserts an otherworldly source, and it's something that needs to be demonstrated, not asserted. What's more, there's nothing inherently otherworldly about forgiving people who have done great harm to you. Human psychology is incredibly complex. Would you consider, say, Stockholm Syndrome to be sourced to some capacity for love? There's nothing inherently supernatural about results like this. It shows a type of social cohesion and empathy that many people simply are unwilling to display, and it's certainly more an exception than the rule, but that doesn't make it supernatural in any way, shape, or form.

    Meanwhile, when examining love, we can use Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging to track blood flow through the brain, and we can see that "love" produces certain patterns. It all comes down to brain chemistry and emergent brain states.
     
  3. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    No that is still position 1) in my view and an articulation of reductive materialism. Thomas Nagels Mind and Cosmos is an example of position 2). You might also have heard of the philosophical concept of Qualia. Unique subjective thoughts.

    It might well be possible to describe the actions of brain functions with the corresponding chemistry but the holistic effect of love (or not love) is not something reducible to it. Nor can the causation be accurately explained in these terms.

    It is one thing to describe a pattern and another to understand it well enough to predict it. The scientific method requires that you can demonstrate that this set of stimuli produces this result and there is no conclusive experimentation that does this with love. Since we are not talking about mere brain functions it seems impossible for you to do this in merely scientific ways in predictable experiments that can be reproduced across multiple individuals.

    My own personal position accepts truthes from each of these positions. Which means I also accept there is much we can learn from science about the human brain and even the state of love. But an explanation of its causation across specific cases and the holistic ways it works across the brain is missing.

    Again the description of a pattern may say nothing and especially when there are crucial differences between individuals. To accept position 3) you have to be able to accept the miraculous and also that we are made in the image of God with that built in transcendence. Clearly this cannot be your position
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2015
  4. crjmurray

    crjmurray The Bear. Not The Bull.

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  5. OldWiseGuy

    OldWiseGuy Wake me when it's soup. Supporter

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    Love is deliberately doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons. It's also often thought to be an emotion of varying degrees of fondness.
     
  6. Gracchus

    Gracchus Senior Veteran

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    All sorts of things are called "love". People get sexually aroused, and they don't want to admit that they just got hard, so they say that they "fell in love". Even "motherly love" can be linked to neurotransmitters in the brain. Most of what passes for love is just chemistry. Sometimes "love' is just a business deal, just "tit for tat".
    I think that the "love" that Jesus talked about, however, was the effort to place the interests of another over our own, without the expectation of reward or recompense. This sort of "love" is very rare, and usually not worth the effort.
    Truth is better than love. Truth is the light of heaven if you can stand it, and the fire of hell if you cannot.

    But I do have a question: What is this doing in "Physical and Life Sciences"?
     
  7. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    Up to this point i have you tagged as a reductionist materialist with a valid point about the vagueness of the definition of love.

    Yes you had already quoted the erotic and familial forms of love in your merely animalistic appraisal of it but then you surprise everybody with an awareness of agape love. Even if you dismiss it as not worth the effort.

    I can speak with same passion about Truth as about Love and Life. They cannot really be separated.


    To some extent your own post answers that question as you suspect certain forms of love are best appraised scientifically and other forms philosophically. In saying this of course you dismiss the claims of science to be able to adequately explain agape love and to account for it. If you truly are a reductionist materialist you would be arguing that science alone can provide an authentic answer to this question.
     
  8. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    That sounds like good advice to newly weds still high on the feelings and the romance of that first coming together. In practice love requires action, hard decisions and sacrifice if it is to endure. Those brain scan will look very different in the case of newly weds and a couple that have been together 50 years. Scientist often sound merely descriptive in their accounts of love, pastors can sound prescriptive giving advice about how to succeed on the love journey and also motivational encouraging people to find new reasons to love when old ones die. There is an historic continuity between variable expressions of brain chemistry (joy, pain , hope, despair) that are somehow all a part of the same love and linked by a holistic appraisal of the whole person. A study of love that fails to embrace this diversity is not informed enough to be authoritative. A study of love that attempts to do this however is overwhelmed by the flexibilty of its complexity and may miss the simple unifying themes.
     
  9. Loudmouth

    Loudmouth Contributor

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    Isn't that what you are, a reductionist materialist?

    When you go to a car mechanic, do you go to one that does a séance to rid your car of evil spirits? Or do you go to a car mechanic that looks for real and physical reasons that your car doesn't work?
     
  10. Gracchus

    Gracchus Senior Veteran

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    Labels can be convenient, if you don't take them too seriously,.
    I think you missed the point: Different phenomena, are all labeled "love".
    Of course they can. That is why we need three words, "truth", "love", and "life".
    No! I am not talking about "forms of love", I am saying that the word "love" is used for things that are totally separate.
    The answer to a question may be adequate or inadequate. It may be right or wrong. But "authentic"!?
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2015
  11. The Rogue Tomato

    The Rogue Tomato New Member

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    Baby don't hurt me.
     
  12. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    Actually my car mechanic is a magician. He just whisphers a few words, twiddles a little under the car hood and hey presto broom broom my car works ;-)

    No of course you go to the person with the expertise to fix your problem. If it is medical then a doctor and if you want advice on eternal love to God Himself. I would not go to my car mechanic for marriage counselling. He is a man of few words and none of them relevant.

    An assessment of the scope and priority of the different methodologies employed by different kinds of experts would yield different choices depending on the problem to be solved.

    Most scientists i know are smart alec atheists so no good for discussing worship with. Also many of them are no better than my car mechanic when it comes to discussing child rearing and marriage or caring for the elderly.

    Normal people understand that different methods and indeed languages might be employed in different roles. they speak one language at work and another as a father or husband or son.

    It is scientists faith that their own way of approaching and answering questions is the most authoritative that jars against this common sense approach.
     
  13. Loudmouth

    Loudmouth Contributor

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    What God? Have any pictures?

    Everthing else in this universe you look for a physical source, except for love? Why the exclusion?

    Nothing like casting aspersions . . .

    It is the lack of faith that leads to a search of evidence for something real instead of something invented.
     
  14. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    Because the presence of love in all its forms in this universe changes everything. The world that we read with our senses is brutal and unkind. Of course it hides behind pleasant smiles and trained body language in many Western countries but without love we are all beasts or whores on the edge of war or wantonness.

    If we followed the reductionist materialistic view then survival and reproduction would cover our relations. There is no good "natural" reason to treat women as of equal worth and dignity and especially not fat, sick or old women that are not good breeding stock. Women are smaller , weaker and good for babies. Most men are too weedy to breed or should not pass on their genetic defects to the next generation. Without love most of us lack any semblance of dignity or worth and the world makes no sense at all.


    The smart alec comment was unfair of me. Afterall most atheists are not that intelligent ;-) if they could see then they would not be blind after all.

    No not a lack of faith, you simply trust your senses and your peer groups in Gods place. Sometimes that trust is reasonable and sometimes as in the case of origins, remote cosmology and discussions of human nature and consciousness the trust seems to me to be in something that has been invented.
     
  15. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    When I speak of the way of love , the Truth, the Life I have a personal focus in Christ who best revealed and demonstrated what all 3 mean. When you use these words truth, life or love they sound abstract and unconnected.
    True authenticity is about connection to ultimate reality, ultimate love, life or truth. Fakes sound like empty tin cans compared to the authentic person. Semantics was the cul de sac of Twentieth century philosophy.
     
  16. Neogaia777

    Neogaia777 Apprentice Supporter

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    Agape Love is described in the parable of the good Samaritan... And in Jesus said no greater love does one have than this, that one should lay his life down for his friends, which Jesus displayed on the cross.

    God Bless!
     
  17. Loudmouth

    Loudmouth Contributor

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    How does our love change the speed of rotation in the Andromeda galaxy?

    That's not how it works. The reductionist materialistic view would show that emotion is an emergent property of neurochemistry, which it is. What value you attach to that is completely up to you.

    You really need to study up on biology. There are very good natural reasons to protect your mates and offspring. There are also very good natural reasons to have social connections within a species.

    However, this really boils down to the naturalistic fallacy anyway.

    If you are going to accuse someone of ignoring evidence, you should at least have the decency to present the evidence you claim they are ignoring.

    What God? Evidence please.
     
  18. HitchSlap

    HitchSlap Burn the torch!

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    What is love?!

     
  19. Loudmouth

    Loudmouth Contributor

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    Baby don't hurt me. . . don't hurt me . . anymore . . .
     
  20. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    It was a loving God that created Andromeda and it is he who sustains it. For different reasons the speed of that rotation may well be variable. Human expressions of love have little to do with this.

    There are so many deviations from that in the examples of human history that we have from the Spartans to the Nazis. There is no natural reason to protect the old, the sick or the weak. The values that are attached to cultural decisions have a religious or non religious context and a godless context will very often ration the right to life. In the current context the cull of the unwanted baby and sanctioned murder of the sick and old through euthanasia legistlation gathers pace.

    Jesus was the physical evidence while on earth. The church is the evidence in his absence. There are enough examples of what love means. When it comes to remote cosmology, origins or consciousness an elaborate explanatory model has been constructed from what are speculations.

    Neurochemistry is related to emotion but it is a vehicle of expression rather than a cause. It is more probable that mind comes before body.
     
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