Category Archives: meaning of love

August 5 Notes

I prefer setting aside, or at least greatly reducing, talk of love in religion. See Love Is More Than Willing the Good of The Other . Of course, I can not practice Christianity without hearing, reading, singing and praying the word “love.” For good or ill, perhaps ill, none of the emotions I feel or hope for on God’s part, are what I might label “love.” In so far as I can make sense of talking of God’s thoughts and feelings, I certainly want God to think well of me, give me strength to do what I must for Him to think well of me and give me the opportunity to do so when I fail. I prefer even more setting aside talk of love when I turn to philosophy. Mark 12, 30-31 reminds us that we cannot set aside questions about love in Catholic Philosophy and moral theology. 

And Jesus answered him,

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

What do these statements mean? I answer first with a theoretical model. For this discussion the significant part of the theory is the thesis that love is willing the good of the other. But this thesis is embedded in my modified version of the New Natural Law .

The first commandment says that we should place nothing above willing the good of God. The good of God is what God wills. God wills that people pursue and enjoy the basic human goods. People pursuing and enjoying the basic human goods are what God gives in the commands of morality. So, the first commandment says that we should place nothing above what is commanded by morality.

What does the second commandment tell us? In effect, it commands accepting the theoretical thesis that love is willing the good of the other as also a command. In regard to ourselves, we are to think of choosing what is good for ourselves no differently than choosing what is good for others. So, what these two commandments tell us is that we should place nothing above following the laws of morality.

This theoretical model does predict why it might be said elsewhere, Mt. 22:40, that all of the law and prophets hang on these laws. But in answer to a question of what did Jesus mean by these statements, it would be inaccurate to answer that he meant nothing more than “Do what you ought to do!”

The interpretative challenge is paying attention to, how we use “love” so that we appreciate why Jesus answered the question regarding the greatest commandment as He did. I call this semantic enrichment. The goal of semantic enrichment is developing a sense the meaning of terms we already know how to use. A sign that the goal is being reached is gaining a sense that we are now saying what we want to express. It is language learning that can come late in life about terms which one has been speaking for years without fully appreciating what they mean. My post Bonding Necessary for Love is an example of semantic exploration. Plato’s Socratic Dialogues are examples of semantic exploration of various terms. The dialogues enrich understanding by revealing tht what is meant is not captured by neat definitions.

I close with the following thesis which needs defense: Semantic enrichment is primarily the discovery of the meaning of terms as opposed to invention.

Bonding Necessary for Love

In Love is More than Willing the Good of The Other , I point out that we cannot say all  we intend to say with “love” by talking only of willing and thinking of the good of the one loved. There is a need for a complex of affections, thoughts and actions forming a relationship of bonding. There is a variety of bonding relations which could be called “love-forming.” The varieties of bonding leads to a variety of ways of loving. There are personal bonds which relate two people to one another which are not love-forming., viz., hatred. I focus mainly on on what might be recognized as love-forming bonding.

 Typically bonding is a relation of one person to another. What are some basic semantic features of almost all types of bonding relations?

The relationship is not always symmetric.  For instance, consider a case of a man and a woman who mutually respect one another and will the good for each other.  However, the man, as the saying goes, falls in love with her.  For, good or ill, he had bound himself in love with her.  However, she does not have, and cannot by any act of will create that love forming bond with him. He loves her while she does not love him. Obviously, bonding relations are not transitive. A friend of your friend may not be your friend. Some might think that love-forming bonding is obviously, and maybe necessarily, reflexive. I challenge an assumption that a love-forming bonding is reflexive.Suicide suggests that some people hate themselves. Anecdotal evidence indicates that many people find their happiest times of life when they have forgotten themselves.

I write that bonding is typically a personal relationship for I want to set aside discussion of bonding with non-human animals, such as our pets. Also I do not want to get distracted on whether or not there can be bonding with non personal entities such as organizations or locations. I could easily become distracted by tryng to distinguish bonding from loyality and a sense of who one is. I do not intend to define “bonding.” I discuss bonding only by making semantical observations about how we talk of bonding. I present these semantical observations as bringing out what we mean by “bonding.” Story tellers perhaps give us a better understanding than could be given by any definition. Stories can reveal bonding from the perspective of the characters and from the omniscient author perspective. Unfortunately, I am not a creative writer.

Is bonding a thought or a feeling?

Frequently, bonding is talked about as a some type of feeling or complex of feelings. As a saying goes one might admit to starting to love by admitting “having feelings for so-and-so.” However, it is not a thoughtless raw feeling. It is a feeling for someone with certain,perhaps indefinable, features. I doubt that there is a way of identifying the feeling, as opposed to the thoughts in loving. Suppose Tom fell in love with Sue 2016 and after a break-up in 2018 falls in love with Jane in 2022. Would there be a way of deciding the truth of “The feeling of Tom for Sue is the same as the feeling of Tom for Jane” apart from any thoughts of Tom? Even the binding of an infant with his or her mother is a mixture of inexpressible thoughts and feelings. Facial recognition is cognitive. Facial recognition devices – a type of robot- provide evidence that facial recognition is cognitive. The program for a facial recognition robot mimic the thoughts of facial recognition.

More generally, bonding is to something or someone under a description.

All things considered, bonding is best classifed as the affective dimension of love. I suspect that if there were a way of investigating a brain of a bonding person, brain regions associated with feelings would be more active than regions associated with cognitive processing.

Proper control of bonding is essential in sexual morality. In my book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilihism Tulsa 2012, I specify courting, bonding, mating as the main areas of sexual morality. In the book I focus on mating, eg. coitus. A free copy of this book is available by emailing .