What is love?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Philosophers, psychologists, and theologians all bring different perspectives to the analysis of love. One of the complications is that as we do not have unmediated access to other people's minds, we do not know if the emotions they are experiencing that they describe as love are really similar to, much less the same as, the emotions we would describe as love.

The term "love" in English is rather a more blunt instrument than some other languages. For example, in theological context in ancient Greek, there are three types of love, agape (spiritual love translated as charitas in Latin), philia (intense friendship) and eros (sexual love). Another important distinction is between lust, a purely sexual impulse, and more complex emotions.

There is a tendency in contemporary popular culture to reduce all forms of love to sexual attraction, but that is, at best, reductionistic, ignoring the possibility of deep bonds of emotional affection between friends and family members or profound spiritual feelings. 

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