e2: all is shit in love and war
moving on from your breakup like a philosopher, pt.1
abstract concepts are cocaine to philosophers, who have been trying to define romantic love at least since Plato (whence the term “platonic”) & Vatsyayana. and while it’s hard for me to write about love without cringing, theory lets me examine the concept from afar, like i would a strange shiny object.
the thought is that if i can understand the kind of creature love is, and identify what it is to be in love, i can logic into existence a route out of it. i recognize that this is a dubious hypothesis: after all, isn’t love the sort of messy, gross thing that you can’t reason your way out of? i respond: what’s the harm in trying?
the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy contains a helpful article in which the author divides various views on love into discrete lumps. in part 1 of this regrettable series, i consider the first view-lump, which claims that love consists in the formation of a union. after a brief description of this view, i move on to reverse-engineering a set of steps to get over someone. (links to Tinder profiles available on request.)
love as union (LU)
the most well-known proponent of LU is probably Aristotle, who famously wrote that lovers are like “two bodies and one soul”. whether he meant this in a flowery metaphorical sense or a weird literal one, it implies that eros comprises a kind of joining of previously separate entities. love means the merging of self and other, from which arises a two-headed “we”.
conservative philosopher Roger Scruton, another proponent of LU, argues that love is when “all distinction between my interests and your interests is overcome”. in other words, falling in love leads to the mixing of our concerns, making them one. the union, the we, is the “haver” of these shared concerns, and for whose sake each lover acts.
Robert Nozick, on the other hand, constructs a view of love that is oddly analogous to a social contract. on his account, lovers transfer “rights to make certain decisions unilaterally into a joint pool”. here, lovers partially relinquish their autonomy and submit to a ‘higher’ authority, namely the union. Nozick’s love, then, is not a mere attitude, but a contractual relationship.
having gotten the exposition over with, i now use it as a base for my theory. hopefully, the exact antithesis of each aspect of LU will present an actionable thesis. again, i’m doubtful as to the efficacy of this method, but i’ll consider meta-concerns later. now:
(i) if love is a relationship that creates an entity of “us”, then the end of that love means that the “us” no longer exists. to translate this into practical terms—i.e. something one can act on—you need to stop thinking of yourself as part of a pair. consciously correct yourself each time you catch yourself referring to an “us”. after all, if “we” do not exist anymore, it makes no sense to refer to “us”. dear newly-single, banish the first-person plural from your vocabulary. it’s dragging you down without you knowing it.
(ii) if love is the merging of self and other, it’s time to take back the self. remind yourself of your authentic interests. what did you like to do & think about when you were single? examine your hobbies. which of them continues to demand your investment when you’re unwilling, and which doesn’t? what passions sustained after you stopped trying to impress your ex? you need to re-draw the defining lines of your identity, so many of which were erased during your relationship.
(iii) if love is the pooling of a couple’s concerns, getting over love means that you ought no longer act for the sake of “us”. your ex’s problems aren’t yours to solve anymore. embrace that! the imperative to act out of concern for you both has now vanished. you’re free to act solely on your behalf and in your interest. this means you can be as selfish and as impulsive and as you please. in any case, that’s my interpretation.
(iv) your contract, so to speak, has been terminated. you are free to take back your autonomy: in fact, you really should. the rights that you relinquished belong to you once more. go ahead and make decisions without consulting your ex—including the homunculus of them that lives in your head. aim to silence that voice altogether by simply ignoring it every time it speaks.
no data available.
on the lookout for suitable candidates that are willing to subject themselves to this method.
philosophers seem to have the unique ability to turn the most scintillating topic into a snooze-fest. the good news is that as theories of love go, LU is probably the most boring one. stay tuned for the evils of patriarchy, schadenfreude, and stock options!