Some of us are distressed with so much talk of God’s love in religious and theological discussions.
Below is a paragraph I copied from a source I respect. It is a series of reflection from Paradisus Dei, which sponsors the That Man Is You program. The reflections are on the life of St. Joseph for each day in May 2023
“The secret passage to love, to paradise, is an open door to the Sacred Heart of Christ. His heart was wounded and opened by a sword, so that ours may be healed. An infinite love flows perpetually from his heart. Love is the strongest power in both the world and the heavens. Yes, love is more powerful than even the grips of death. It transcends this life and passes to everlasting life in heaven. Our actions, when done in and through love, transcend this life and have everlasting significance. This is precisely why we can and should find paradise at the School of Nazareth. Quite simply, the daily life of the Holy Family was an explosion of love. When we find pure love and the absence of evil, we find paradise…even on earth.”
Perhaps, I should speak only for myself when I write of being distressed with so much talk of God’s love.
So, I speak only for myself. But I speak for everyone when I argue that “love” does not mean “willing the good of the other.”
Note added later : I started to write on love because of my unease of so much talk of God’s love. However, I actually write only of personal love between human beings. I should also add that I strongly approve of stipulating that love is willing the good of the other when talking of what “love” means when talking of any love we are obliged to have.
How can I speak for everyone? For those who might be interest, I offer a statement of my methodological assumption. See Semantic Knowledge is Synthetic & Apriori.
As noted above, I would be happy to have most talk of love be reduced to talking of willing the good of others. I am glad that many Catholic preachers say that what they mean by love in their sermons is willing the good of others.
My semantic point about the meaning of “love” is quite simple.
If “love” meant “willing the good of the other,” then “love” does not designate something fundamental. It is the terms “will” and “good” which designate some fundamental realities. In principle, all uses of “love” could be replaced by talking of willing and what is good. Even my semantic intuitions conflict with such an reductive elimination of “love.” To be sure , in many contexts I can express almost, but not quite, what I mean by “love” using “will” and “good.” For instance, see my Love of God is Essentially Love of Neighbor wherein I argue that helping the distressed because of a sense of duty is almost the same as helping the distressed from a sense of love. I think that willing the good of the other is a necessary condition for calling any relationship “love.”
The linguistic uneliminability of “love” does not imply that “love” designates some unique basic highly valuable reality. The triviality on many yard signs “Love is love” is intended to tell the lie that the affection of a man for his wife is the same as the affection of one man for another because “love” is primarily a noun designating a basic feature. The need to modify “love” with various adjectives as “maternal,” “paternal,” “fraternal,” “romantic,” “erotic,” “homoerotic,” “platonic,” illicit, etc., bring out that the semantical fact that “love” is a relative term. To speak more precisely, we should use terms such as “the love of a mother for . . ,” “the love of sexual desire for. . ,” etc.,.
See Bonding Necessary for Love for my proposal that willing the good of the other plus the proper bonding to another provide necessary and sufficient conditions for personal love. Also the type of bonding indicates the type of loving.