Love: A History

Simon May. Yale Univ., $27.50 (304p) ISBN 978-0-300-11830-8
Philosopher May (Atomic Sushi) reexamines the Western notion of love arguing against the illusions–not to be confused with characteristics—of love, namely unconditionality, eternity, and selflessness. May begins his argument by deconstructing the root of these ideas; starting with the Hebrew Bible, he reviews stories such as God ordering Abraham to sacrifice his son, and concludes that “[w]e should model human love not on how God is said to love us but on how we are commanded to love God.” Delving through the New Testament, May provides numerous examples of conditional love. With detailed excerpts and discussion, he explores a wide range of the philosophies about love, including those of Plato and Socrates; Spinoza, Schlegel, and Novalis; Nietzsche, Freud, and Proust—and how the concept of human love changed over time. May finds that our expectations of love are out of line with reality—that unconditional, eternal, and selfless love may be an ideal that is impossible or extremely rare. However, people continue to seek love because they need “ontological rootedness,” which brings “a rapture that sets us off on—and sustains—the long search for a secure relationship between our being and theirs.” May’s argument is not groundbreaking but his discussion of the philosophies provides a coherent narrative that is aided by his illustrative writing. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/06/2011
Release date: 07/01/2011
Paperback - 294 pages - 978-0-300-18774-8
Open Ebook - 294 pages - 978-0-300-17723-7
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