The philosophy of romance: Why do humans love?

Trying to properly define love is difficult due to its complexity. (Pixabay pic)

Ah, it’s that time of the year again! Love is in the air and flowers are in bloom just for you. It’s Valentine’s Day and lovers all over the world are thinking up sweet and meaningful gestures to surprise their special someones.

But have you ever stopped and wondered about these warm and fuzzy feelings you harbour for your beloved? What exactly is love anyway?

It is something beautiful and addictive; it can break your heart and heal it at the same time.

What is it about love that draws you in?

Does it add meaning to your lives or make you forget everyday miseries?

Is love the same as lust? Is it a natural instinct encouraging people to procreate?

Do you need it to live?

Debates on the purpose of love continues to this day, but for millennia, philosophers have suggested some ideas.

As far as the ancient Greek philosopher Plato is concerned, love is what makes one whole again.

He once wrote of Aristophanes, a comedian, who told the story of humans once being creatures with four arms, four legs and two faces.

Love does not necessarily have to be romantic as familial and platonic love exist. (Pixabay pic)

During a moment of rage, Zeus, king of the gods, sliced humanity into two and ever since, humans have been trying to find their missing halves.

Love is the desire to find that one soulmate who will make us whole again, he concluded.

The German thinker, Arthur Schopenhauer, took a more cynical approach to love, saying that it is based purely on sexual desire.

To him, love is a trick by nature, urging humans to procreate and once that is achieved, humans are thrown back into the meaningless existence that is life.

For Noble Prize-winning British philosopher Bertrand Russel, love helps you to counter loneliness, a physical and psychological desire.

While humans are meant to procreate, the lack of love in a relationship will make sex unfulfilling.

The harshness of the world forces people to build emotional shells to protect themselves, and love gives them courage to step out of these shells and enjoy life for what it is.

Love is the best thing in life as it adds value to it.

The Buddha on the other hand suggested that love is a base desire, and a great source of suffering.

Love is sometimes divided into four main definitions: love through family, love through friendship, romantic love and unconditional love through self-sacrifice. (Pixabay pic)

Thankfully, to avoid this suffering, the Buddha came up with the Eight-Fold Path, a programme to suppress these desires to reach the enlightened state of Nirvana.

According to the French philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir, love is the longing to be with another person that gives life meaning.

She emphasised less on why people love and how people can love each other better. Romantic love, she said, is captivating and makes you want to exist just for your beloved.

This over-dependence however can easily cause relationships to turn boring and sour. Beauvoir suggested that to avoid this, lovers ought to love each other authentically, developing something akin to a lasting friendship.

Together, lovers help each other discover themselves and make their lives richer and more meaningful.

While you may never find the answer to why you fall in love, there is no doubt about the ups and downs that it will bring.

It will not be easy, as it can both be rewarding and devastating.

But whatever the case, love is something everyone needs and to love someone is one of the greatest gifts you can ever give.