So in thinking about the idea of love, what are the distinguishing characteristics of genuine love that separates it from various counterfeit versions of love? The word 'love' is used in many...

So in thinking about the idea of love, what are the distinguishing characteristics of genuine love that separates it from various counterfeit versions of love?

The word 'love' is used in many different contexts.  We say we love our parents, our spouse, our children, brothers and sisters, our friends , our pets, hobbies, favorite ball team, our country, our job etc, etc.  In this discussion we are limiting or confining the word 'love' to the love of other human beings only. 

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This answer will depend on how you initially define "genuine love." For example, one might say that genuine love (between people) is the genuinely unselfish interest in the well-being of another person. By definition, counterfeit love would not live up to that general standard. This is general enough that for the purposes of this example, we don't need to differentiate certain kinds of love such romantic and filial. 

It would be difficult to make the case that genuine love is unconditional. This would be like saying "I will love you no matter what. There are no conditions that would stop me loving you." But what if you (the person I love) turns out to be completely evil. There must be some conditions and those will be subjectively chosen by each lover. For example, I love person X because of such and such things (i.e., she is benevolent, caring, productive, etc.) The first definition (genuinely unselfish interest in the well-being of another person) is a condition. Only when I have a genuinely unselfish interest in the well-being of another person am I expressing genuine love. 

What does it mean to have a genuinely unselfish interest in the well-being of another person? Do I love this person because they love me back? If so, this seems at least partially selfish and therefore at least partially counterfeit. To be genuinely unselfishly interested in another, I must love this person with no expectation of personal reward. That being said, there are conditions to be met 'about' that person if I am to express or feel love for her; what I like about her. But for my love to be genuine, this love has to be one-directional; that is, I love her for her, not because I expect to get anything in return. In this sense, love is a gift, a giving with no expectation of return. 

Clearly, it would be ideal for love to be reciprocal, but sticking rigorously to the definition of genuine love framed above, reciprocity doesn't enter into the equation. Anything that tampers with the standard set forth will change that love to a counterfeit version. 

The argument gets more complex and this is why the subject has occupied philosophers for centuries. If I genuinely love someone and expect nothing in return, but I love her because she's beautiful or admired, this might feel genuine but there is something counterfeit about it. This would lead me to say that another condition might be that I have to know the person I love, or at least I must know a good bit about that person (even if we've never met). Then we get into the "aboutness" of a person. 

For example, I love Lucy because she is benevolent, caring, and because we share the same interests. She is benevolent and caring because she does benevolent and caring things. But let's say that I love Lucy primarily because we both love The Lord of the Rings. I have to be careful that I love Lucy because she loves certain qualities about those books/films and this reflects qualities 'about' Lucy; not about the books. If I love Lucy primarily because of the books, it might be that I am transferring my love of the books onto Lucy and that gets dangerously close to counterfeit. To love Lucy genuinely, my love has to be about something Lucy is/does. If I love her because she has a nice car, this is obviously counterfeit. I love Lucy genuinely if my love is based on something about her; not something about some 'thing' such as a car or other association. 

arrellbelle | Student

When it come's to talking about the idea of love. We must first think of how we all define love. There is no set definition we can all think of; however, we can all agree there is a general meaning to it right ? It's someone or something we enjoy, find pleasure in, and find happiness at. Also, what do you consider to be counterfeit love ? We have to define what counterfeit would even mean when considering love. 

arjun | Student

It is to be silly to talk about love or genuine love. It depends on love because love is itself upper than genuine. You can count this in love that is made on fraud,but sometime,fraudy love gives birth to genuine love. So don't think about it. Be genuine and faithful to love and smell rat.We can not discuss about genuine or filthy love. Love is great blessing.

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