Monday, April 27, 2009

Love in the time of Hedonism.

Recently over at Roissy's there was a stoush between the Errant Wife and Himself. The Errant Wife objected to Roissy's vitriol and replied in vicious kind. I really did not see what the fight was about, since both parties have essentially the same philosophy of life; Hedonism. Roissy has often said that he loves Love and the Errant Wife seems to be in search of it. The question in my mind through this exchange is how does a how does a Hedonist "love"? Or more importantly, what is the nature of Hedonistic love?

Hedonism, being a teleology which aims toward satisfaction of the self, is inwardly focused towards the individual. The goods of life have their value insofar as they provide pleasurable satisfaction to the individual. In other words, the goodness or badness of a thing is really a measure of how it pleases the individual apprehending the thing. Now clearly according to this philosophy, things of little pleasure will have little value, while things of great pleasure will have great value. Now clearly, being loved-both physically and emotionally--is perhaps the greatest pleasure possible and a hedonist the will value the lover as long as the lover pleasures them: The love of a hedonist is conditional.

But the nature of Hedonistic "love" is not the same as the nature of unconditional love, although they may appear the same they in fact polar opposites. Hedonistic love is the love of the utility of the loved individual. Its a love that exists as long as it is satisfied, it is innately selfish. The lover of a Hedonist must continually "provide" in order to be loved. Once the provision stops so does the "love". The hedonist lover is continually "taking" from his "beloved" and what he or she gives to their beloved is purely incidental to their being as the object of hedonistic love is the self.

The "marriage" of two hedonists will have all the appearance of a marriage. The partners will take delight in each other and will appear in love. However after the novelty of each other wears off and the pleasure that each receives from each other lessens, they will "fall out of love". Now it is true that the Hedonist lover can feel pain at the loss of his source of pleasure, but it is the pain of loss of loosing the pleasure not the pain of the loss of the thing itself. Since what is valued is the pleasure and not its source. A man may love the beauty of a woman but when that beauty fades so does the "love".

Unconditional love on the other hand, has as it's object the other; it is extrinsic to one's self. The love of the unconditional lover delights in the other regardless of the pleasures or grief that the lover receives from the loved. Indeed the perfect unconditional lover loves when there is no pleasure there at all except for the existence of the loved. To quote Percy Sledge:
When a man loves a woman
Can't keep his mind on nothing else
He'll trade the world
For the good thing he's found
If she's bad he can't see it
She can do no wrong
Turn his back on his best friend
If he put her down
This is perhaps where the vow stands as the perfect symbol of unconditional love. Made of our own free choosing, at the moment when we have glimpsed the beloved in their perfection, it is our desired promise, publicly proclaimed that the love we offer the beloved is unconditional. That thick or thin, our love is always there. It is a promise, not a fleeting feeling of the moment. When we keep our promises we love unconditionally. Love is sometimes a pleasure and other times a duty. In fact duty to our beloved can be a form of love.

Today I had a patient whose wife of 55 years died recently. He was clearly distressed as he missed her terribly. They were not the most glamorous couple and walking down the street, one would not notice them for any particular reason. They argued and fought, she bossed him and he annoyed her but he was always there for her and she for him. When she died he was cleaved in two, he and his partner had become one.