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.