The following is a comment left by a friend much smarter than I. I needed more space than what the comments allow in order to respond, and besides, no one is reading this anyway.

So for you, Alan, my response point by point in conjunction with what you commented:

1. Love is something that people experience.

Yes, love is something that people experince. What I want to explore is how we put that experience (if we can) into language. How do we share that experience? How do we talk about love? If love is something that people experience then it is subjective and will be different for everyone. What concerns me the most here is langauge. I believe that there is no consciousness without language; that we cannot know we are experiencing love unless we can put it into some kind of sign system. And once we put love into language, once we go to share that experience with others, it is ruined.

I keep thinking of  T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”:

The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin

Once you go to put any experience you have into language, you become formulated, sprawling on a pin. Not only does language pin you down, but putting anything in language (because language is social) gives you how you are going to experience the event. If I call something love, then I am going to be influenced by everything that i associate with love. If I do not feel butterflies in my stomach, then I will think it is not love, etc…

2. For any given instance of love, there is someone who feels or experiences it — the lover — and there are individuals with whom these feelings or experiences are associated in the lover’s mind: the beloved.

I agree with you here, but I think that these feelings of desire are problamatic. For one, it is what the youtube Zizek clip I have up is talking about. The someone who feels– the lover– “experiences” love… But what does that mean? Love, it seems to me, has been concieved of a possesion. Think of Valentine’s day, “Be MINE.” I came across this quote the other day by Robert Frost, which I think sums up “love” in a traditional sense:

Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.

Lacan talks about desire in this way too. Desire is not that I desire something or someone, but that I want to fullfill what the other desires. The thought is a little more complicated here, and it is what I am reading now. Basically that deisre is really the other’s desire. This is where we get this sense of “completeness” in love. That I can fullfill what the other wants or vice versa. This leads nicely into the next point:

All of the individuals involved are constantly changing, so it is a given that the love must also change. We tend to distinguish between requited and unrequited love.

I agree that all the individuals are changing, but how many people contemplate this and know it? Identity itself is a “self-sameness.” This concept we have of identity (a concept we have because of language) means that people do not change. How many times do you hear a couple break up because one or the other person “changed” or is not the same person “I knew” etc…

Furthermore, by saying that the “love must change”, while I agree– what does that mean? How does love change? By putting it in those terms, it implies that love is a thing that is capable of change.

The only difference between requited and unrequited is that in one the other desires you as you desire them… But how does that help us understand love?

3. Love is a phenomenon of thought patterns that take place in the brain. It involves memory, higher-level thinking, but also the endocrine and autonomic nervous systems, and by extension the entire body.


Humans are almost universally-capable of experiencing this, and tend to do so regardless of culture or upbringing, making a strong case that there are aspects of love but are not cultural, but instinctive, hard-wired into the brain. Both requited and unrequited love are powerful experiences, but they are substantially different, even in biologically measurable ways.

I do not understand the actual science behind this, but I wonder if love were purely biological– then how do we still have all the abberant qualities you find in society (have you been to the DMV?). Wouldn’t ugly people and bad genes die off through evolution?

Science can tell us many things about our existence, but science does not have all the answers. We have come to think of science as infalliblem, but history has taught us that that is not the case. This is not to attack science the way some people do, but just to say that we cannot rely on science in such absolute, dogmatic ways. Science, is like any text, interrpretted by subjective opinions.

This is where I completely disagree with you when you say: “Humans are almost universally-capable of experiencing this, and tend to do so regardless of culture or upbringing”

Science could certainly distinguish between biological circumstances in the body when the body goes through certain things, but this does not tell me anything about how I experience love. And the way I experience love is completely influenced through culture and upbringing. I’m sure you can see this in grad school… How many people have put “love” on the back burner? Whereas others (especially here in Miami) are culturally indoctronated into thinking they have to “find love” (as if it is a tangible thing I can look under a rock and love), and get married.

When a girl who goes to college doesn’t find love, her experience of love will be different than a girl who is going off to grad school and doesn’t care about love as much.

I do not think that there is a single, pure experience that is not tainted by language, culture, upbringing, etc…

But I do believe in love… And I do believe in identity and some of these other things. I just don’t believe that these things have to be out under such restrictive categorizations where they are left “wringling on the wall.” Rather, as my professor says, I am working off a groundless ground.

I have some other thoughts in my head, so we’ll have to continue this.