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.


Tom said...

I've never been a fan of unconditional love (except perhaps parental love).

If someone's love for you is truly unconditional and does not depend on what you are and what you do, what about you is truly being loved?

The Social Pathologist said...

Very good question.

Answer: Potential and remnant goodness.

Imagine a couple who initially are deeply in love and after years the "love" fades. The unconditional love is directed to the loved as it was and the hope that it will be that again. Unconditional love is directed toward our potential goodness. It loves us for what are capable of being not what we are. It could also be said to be a function of the intellect and not a sentiment, hence a duty.

As I say to my troubled married couples, try to see in each other what your saw in each other when you first met, and work towards that vision.

Tom said...

Answer: Potential and remnant goodness.A very good answer. Thank you.

Hope said...

"They argued and fought, she bossed him and he annoyed her but he was always there for her and she for him."

The idea of unconditional love as it is commonly understood is: no matter how ugly you are, how harshly you treat someone, or how you wrong that person, they would still love you. That's not really love. It's more like abuse, and the abused person is welcoming further abuse which perpetuates the cycle.

I was in a long relationship where there was constant fighting, and it was awful. With this man that I've been living with for a while, we resolve issues by talking them out calmly, trying not to attack or hurt each other, and being honest.

So because of this we are able to have a healthy relationship without much strife. We have the understanding that we respect each other and therefore will not bring harm to each other.

Related to your other post: I do not think that the idea of taking "pleasure" in another is love. It is more like "wishing someone else well even if it brings you yourself no pleasure." A loving father would wish to see his daughter happy with another man even though it means he is no longer the man she loves the most. That is selfless, unconditional love, as opposed to perhaps a selfish sort of love a man who wants to keep a woman around for his own pleasures would feel.

Anonymous said...

I am so sick and tired of the misuse of the word 'hedonism'. Hedonism has nothing to do with ethical egoism, an egoist is not necessarily a hedonist and most hedonists are utilitarians. Hedonism is a theory of value which states that happiness is the only intrinsic good and stress is the only intrinsic bad. If happiness is good, then it is good regardless of who experiences it.

The Social Pathologist said...

It depends what you mean by happiness.