For me, loving someone means that you wish the best for that person (or other species of animal, for that matter), and that you hope for him or her to find contentment and happiness even if that means that you end up losing out somehow. For example, a mother goes hungry so that her child can have something to eat.
The excellent British film, "Separate Lies" deals with just this theme, and I commend it to you if you can find it. If you do, let me know what you make of it.
However, as you rightly point out, love may mean something different to someone else--it is one of those words which defy exact definition. Much easier to say what it is not: not desire, not sexual heat, not need to possess, etc.
Thanks for making the effort to see the
film. I am glad you enjoyed it. And, yes, the movie was a classic
character study which was why I recommended it to you as part of our
conversation about differences in human character.
You wrote, "I love how reason and
science sweeps away the cobwebs of mythology whenever they turn their
piercing gaze on any subject, especially ones like religion, human
origins, and love."
Yes, science has great explanatory
value, but also has its limitations. Reducing all human experience to
mechanics fails to explain many things, and the best scientific minds
avoid such reductionism. This is particularly true in areas such as
beauty, poetry, love, etc. Evolutionary psychology is an interesting
field, but, in my opinion, falls very far short of elucidating the
origins of love and compassion. Speculation--even very intelligent
speculation--is not evidence.
I understand that it might be
comforting to someone who does not feel love or compassion to reduce
such experiences to mere operations of the brain--and in a way they are,
as I said in my last post--but human experience comprises enigmas
which the best science understands are unfathomable. For example, Max
Planck. 1932: "Every advance in knowledge brings us face to face
with the mystery of our own being." Or Sir Arthur Eddington.
1929: "We have learned that the exploration of the external
world by the methods of the physical sciences leads not to a concrete
reality but to a shadow world of symbols, beneath which those methods
are unadapted for penetrating."
This is because the brief of science is
to understand things which are quantifiable, but love and
compassion, when truly experienced, are quite beyond measure. This is
why universities have faculties of science and faculties of
arts and letters. This, by the way, does not imply anything
"supernatural." It simply means that science has no way to
explain our internal experience of the world, which might be quite
natural but also inexplicable. For example, science can analyze the
chemistry of an apple, and can pinpoint the areas of the brain which
are activated when one bites into an apple, but science has no way to
explain the subjective taste of an apple. To put this in generalized
formal terms: qualia are beyond scientific interpretation.
Now this is the very point you miss
when you ask, "How can we say what it's not if we can't say
what it is?" Let me explain. Suppose you were blind to the color
red, as many people in fact are, but you could see other colors. If
you came to me, who can see red, and asked me what red is like, I
would have absolutely no way to explain that to you. Speaking of the
wavelength of red or the receptors in the retina or the brain
(science) would avail not at all. The best I could do would be to
say, "Well, Daniel, red is a color but it isn't blue, it isn't
green, and it isn't yellow." This is what happens when a
psychopath (sorry, I know you hate that term, and I don't like it
much either, but have no other) asks me to explain love or elucidate
compassion. In fact, this happens sometimes in my practice. I am
reduced to saying what those experiences are not, which is,
basically, that they are not about getting your way, or achieving
your goals, or being satisfied, or coming out ahead.
I stress this point because while it is
true that fallacious cobwebs need sweeping away, and that good
science often serves as the broom, that does not mean that
love, compassion, beauty, poetry, etc. are fallacies, or can be
explained away by science. That is why I emphasized in my last post
that such experiences are not imaginary. A self-described
"cold fish" such as yourself might want to reduce
everything to science and logic, but doing that is like wearing
blinders which will screen your view from much of human experience, even if it is not your experience.
No, love certainly is NOT simply
cognitive in nature. That is the entire point. Love is a mystery
which is quite beyond explaining. That mystery has a particular
flavor which, once tasted, can never be forgotten. It cannot be
taught. It cannot be learned. It can only be felt and experienced (or
In the film, Bill felt no love at all.
He cared only for himself. But James truly loved Anne, and his last
gesture in the story demonstrated that love. His concern was not that
he had somehow been cheated, but that she might feel guilty for
having abandoned him, and he wished, motivated by his love for her,
to assuage her guilt and leave her happy even if he was not. Clearly,
as you stated, you would not be capable of such a gesture since, like
Bill, you care only for yourself, and would be more attracted to
vengeance than tenderness. Please understand that in saying that I
mean no disrespect at all. Having taken my measure by reading my
website and my replies to you, I think you already know that. I just
like to see things as they are without judgment either pro or con.