The Philosophy of Love

by on January 25, 2015

A philosopher charts the progress of a relationship and analyses love, from the first kiss to the last argument

Alain de Botton, the Swiss-British philosopher and writer behind the modern philosophy classics such as How Proust Can Change Your Life, and The Architecture of Happiness, as well as the founder of the School Of Life, examines love in this intriguing blend of philosophy and fiction, Essays In Love.

Charting out a relationship from its beginning, through its growth, and finally its end, Alain de Botton examines the nature of love in the philosophical context. The world’s most powerful emotion is put through the philosophic lens and subject to intense reflections on questions such as:

  • romantic fatalism (Was it ‘meant to be’, do we ultimately fall in love with ‘the one who was meant for us’?)
  • idealisation (how lovers see each other, and the exaggeration of their qualities they are often prone to)
  • the subtext of seduction (the intense physical and emotional desire lovers feel for each other, and what goes on in the brain when we want someone and feel wanted)
  • sex (love and how it relates to the experience of the ‘humour and bizarreness of having ended up in bed together’)
  • Groucho-Marxism (‘If s/he really is so wonderful, how could s/he could love someone like me?’)

de Botton traces the path of a relationship, both emotionally and intellectually. He also mulls over the nuances of falling in love – the little details that colour our perception of love – the first date, how and when to say ‘I love you’, romantic subjectivity (Do I love her because she is beautiful, or is she beautiful because I love her?).

We fall in love because we long to escape from ourselves with someone as beautiful, intelligent, and witty as we are ugly, stupid, and dull. But what if such a perfect being should one day turn around and decide they will love us back? We can only be somewhat shocked-how can they be as wonderful as we had hoped when they have the bad taste to approve of someone like us?

Perhaps the easiest people to fall in love with are those about whom we know nothing. Romances are never as pure as those we imagine during long train journeys, as we secretly contemplate a beautiful person who is gazing out of the window – a perfect love story interrupted only when the beloved looks back into the carriage and starts up a dull conversation about the excessive price of the on-board sandwiches with a neighbour or blows her nose aggressively into a handkerchief.

Essays In Love is an engaging reflection on the world’s most powerful emotion – and the raw experience of falling in – and falling out – of love.

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