What Is Love?


Psychologists agree that love is a complex emotion. They define love as “strong affection for another person.” They note that there are many ways to express love, including being kind, accepting, and celebrating diversity. Love also involves commitment. It changes one’s worldview and makes one’s beloved part of it. Some types of love are cultural, while others are biological.

Though many philosophical accounts of love are specific to personal relationships, others provide more general accounts. For example, Frankfurt (1999) provides a general account of love. Jaworska & Wonderly (2017) present a more universalized account of love. These theories have a wide range of implications for our understanding of love.

Studies show that romantic love increases dopamine levels in brain areas associated with desire and reward. It also affects the caudate nucleus, a part of the reward system. In addition, it activates the ventral tegmental area, a part of the reptilian core of the brain. This part of the brain controls feelings of wanting, motivation, focus, and craving. The same brain areas light up when someone takes cocaine.

If we understand love as an appraisal of the beloved, we would respond to this question by appealing to the valuable properties of the object of our affection. But such an account of love misses an essential point: love is a creative act. It is not a response to antecedent value.