The Philosophy of Love

Love can transform our lives, our relationships, and our world. It is a puzzling emotion that confuses us and makes our hearts sing. It inspires poets, philosophers, and ordinary people. It can break our hearts or heal them, it can be selfless and narcissistic. It is a powerful force that moves mountains.

Traditionally, the concept of love was viewed as an emotional experience that comes and goes based on the ebb and flow of feelings. More recently, some writers and thinkers have argued that love is an action, not simply a feeling. This view suggests that while feelings of love may come and go, the decision to love and to show up for the other person is the core element of a loving relationship.

Some philosophies distinguish two types of love, kama and prema. Kama is love of a partner or family and includes companionate love, loyalty, and attachment. Prema is a deeper spiritual love, which includes compassion and mercy. The Hindu philosopher Narada Bhakti Sutra describes a nine-fold path of love, which includes compassion, kindness, forgiveness, generosity, and devotion to God.

Some studies suggest that humans have a biological and hormonal framework for love. In the first stage, lust, we feel driven by hormones like estrogen and testosterone to meet sexual needs. The second phase, attraction, is triggered by chemicals like oxytocin and vasopressin, which promote emotional bonding. The final phase, attachment, is based on the development of secure bonds with others.