Love’s confusions are legion. We promise to love, but we cannot love at will. Love God, we’re commanded, but we cannot love on command. And given the vicissitudes of self-love, even if we could love our neighbors as we love ourselves, would it be a good thing to do so? These are a few of the paradoxes that typically lead philosophers to oversimplify love—and that draw C. D. C. Reeve to explore it in all its complexity, searching for the lessons to be found within love’s confusions.
Ranging from Plato, who wrote so eloquently on the subject, to writers as diverse as Shakespeare, Proust, Forster, Beckett, Huxley, Lawrence, and Larkin, Reeve brings the vast resources of Western literature and philosophy to bear on the question of love. As he explores the origins of Western thought on the subject, he also turns to the origins of individual experience—the relationship of mother and child, the template of all possible permutations of love—and to the views of such theorists as Freud, Melanie Klein, and Carol Gilligan. At the same time, he uses the story of the prototypical absent father, Odysseus, to demonstrate the importance of reconciling a desire for tenderness with a desire for strength if we are to make the most of love’s potentials.
Looking at love in light of the classical world and Christianity, and in its complex relationship with pornography, violence, sadomasochism, fantasy, sentimentality, and jealousy, Reeve invites us to think more broadly about love, and to find the confusions that inevitably result to be creative rather than disturbing.