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Part of a series on Love
Courtly love
Religious love
Grades of Emotion
Erotic love
Platonic love
Familial love
Puppy love
Romantic love
True love
See Also
Unrequited love
Valentine's Day
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Look up love in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Love is a basic dimension of human experience that manifests itself in feelings, emotion, behavior, thoughts, perception and attitude. It influences, underlies and defines major patterns in interpersonal relationships and self-identification. Love is variously conveyed as a sense of tender affection, an intense attraction, the foundation of intimacy and good interpersonal chemistry, willing self-sacrifice on behalf of another, and as an ineffable sense of affinity or connection to nature, other living beings, or even that which is unseen.

The diverse range of meanings associated with the single word 'love' is commonly contrasted with the plurality of Greek words for Love, reflecting the depth, versatility, and complexity of the concept. This diversity of meanings is further reflected in the many distinct classifications of love including: romantic love; sexual desire; platonic love; religious love; familial love; true love; and the more casual application of the term to anything pleasurable, enjoyable, desirable, or preferred, including activities and favorite foods.



The concept of love is not amenable to a single, authoritative definition. It is the subject of considerable debate, enduring speculation, and thoughtful introspection. As an approximation, different aspects of love can be illustrated by comparing its corollaries and opposites. As a general expression of positive sentiment (a stronger form of like), love is commonly contrasted with hate (or neutral apathy); as a less self-centered and more "mutual" sign of intense desire, love is commonly contrasted with lust; and as an interpersonal relationship with romantic overtones, love is commonly contrasted with friendship, although other connotations of love may be applied to close friendships as well.

The traditional Chinese character for love (愛) consists of a heart (middle) inside of "accept," "feel" or "perceive," which shows a graceful emotion.

In ordinary use, love usually refers to interpersonal love, an experience felt by a person for another person. Love often involves caring for or identifying with a person or thing, including oneself (cf. narcissism).

The very existence of love is itself subject to debate. Some categorically reject the notion as false or meaningless. Others call it a recently-invented abstraction, sometimes dating the "invention" to courtly Europe during or after the middle ages, although this is contradicted by the sizable body of ancient love poetry.<ref>Ancient Love Poetry -</ref> Others maintain that love really exists, and is not an abstraction, but is undefinable, being an essence which is spiritual or metaphysical in nature. Some psychologists maintain that love is the action of lending one's "boundary" or "self-esteem" to another. Others attempt to define love by applying the definition to everyday life.

Cultural differences make any universal definition of love difficult to establish. Expressions of love may include the love for a soul or mind, the love of laws and organizations, love for a body, love for nature, love of food, love of money, love for learning, love of power, love of fame, love for the respect of others, etc. Different people place varying degrees of importance on the kinds of love they receive. Love is essentially an abstract concept, easier to experience than to explain. Because of the complex and abstract nature of love, discourse on love is commonly reduced to a thought-terminating cliché, and there are a number of common proverbs regarding love, from Virgil's "Love conquers all" to The Beatles' "All you need is love." Bertrand Russell describes love as a condition of "absolute value," as opposed to relative value.

Though love is considered a positive and desirable aspect of existence, love can cause a great deal of emotional harm. Consider Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Great Expectations, and other classical and popular works that enumerate how love can lead to tragedy and emotional pain. In human interactions, love becomes a peril when love is not bilateral, known as Unrequited love. A further peril for individuals that love, or can love others, is that love is not enduring and that many people have psychological defense mechanisms inhibit their ability to accept or reciprocate love.

Human bonding

Main article: Human bonding

People, throughout history, have often considered phenomena such as “love at first sight” or “instant friendships” to be the result of an uncontrollable force of attraction or affinity.<ref>Fisher, Helen (2004). Why We Love – the Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-6913-5.</ref> One of the first to theorize in this direction was the Greek philosopher Empedocles who in the fourth century BC argued for existence of two forces: love (philia) and strife (neikos), which were used to account for the causes of motion in the universe. These two forces were said to intermingle with the four elements, i.e. earth, water, air, and fire, in such a manner that love, so to say, served as the binding power linking the various parts of existence harmoniously together.

Later, Plato interpreted Empedocles’ two agents as attraction and repulsion, stating that their operation is conceived in an alternate sequence.<ref>Jammer, Max (1956). Concepts of Force. Dover Publications, Inc.. ISBN 0-486-40689-X.</ref> From these arguments, Plato originated the concept of “likes attract”, e.g. earth is thus attracted towards earth, water toward water, and fire toward fire. In modern terms this is often phrased in terms of “birds of a feather flock together”. Later, following developments in electrical theories, such as Coulomb's law, which showed that positive and negative charges attract, analogs in human life were developed such as "opposites attract." Over the last century, researcher on the nature of human mating, such as in evolutionary psychology, agree that pairs unite or attract to each other owing to a combination of opposites attract, e.g. people with dissimilar immune systems tend to attract, and likes attract, such similarities of personality, character, views, etc.<ref>Berscheid, Ellen, Walster, Elaine, H. (1969). Interpersonal Attraction. Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.. CCCN 69-17443.</ref> In recent years, various human bonding theories have been developed described in terms of attachments, ties, bonds, and or affinities.

Religious views

Love in early religions was a mixture of ecstatic devotion and ritualised obligation to idealised natural forces (pagan polytheism). Later religions shifted emphasis towards single abstractly-oriented objects like God, law, church and state (formalised monotheism). A third view, pantheism, recognises a state or truth distinct from (and often antagonistic to) the idea that there is a difference between the worshipping subject and the worshipped object. Love is reality, of which we, moving through time, imperfectly interpret ourselves as an isolated part.

The Bible speaks of love as a set of attitudes and actions that are far broader than the concept of love as an emotional attachment. Love is seen as a set of behaviours that humankind is encouraged to act out. One is encouraged not just to love one's partner, or even one's friends but also to love one's enemies. The Bible describes this type of active love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Romantic love is also present in the Bible, particularly the Song of Songs. Traditionally, this book has been interpreted allegorically as a picture of God's love for Israel and the Church. When taken naturally, we see a picture of ideal human marriage:<ref>Bible, 8:6-7, NIV.</ref>

Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealously unyielding as the grave. It burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned.

The passage dodi li v'ani lo, i.e. "my beloved is mine and I am my beloved", from Song of Songs 2:16, is an example a biblical quote commonly engraved on wedding bands.

Cultural views

Main article: Love (cultural views)

Although there exist numerous cross-cultural unified similarities as to the nature and definition of love, as in there being a thread of commitment, tenderness, and passion common to all human existence, there are differences. For example, in India, with arranged marriages commonplace, it is believed that love is not a necessary ingredient in the initial stages of marriage – it is something that can be created during the marriage; whereas in Western culture, by comparison, love is seen as a necessary prerequisite to marriage.

Scientific views

Throughout history, philosophy and religion have done the most speculation on the phenomenon of love. In the last century, the science of psychology has written a great deal on the subject. In recent years, the sciences of evolutionary psychology, evolutionary biology, anthropology, neuroscience, and biology have added to our understanding of the nature and function of love.

Biological models of sex tend to view love as a mammalian drive, just like hunger or thirst. Psychology depicts love as a cognitive and social phenomenon. Psychologist Robert Sternberg formulated a Triangular theory of love and argued that love has three different components: Intimacy, Commitment, and Passion. Intimacy is a form by which two people can share secrets and various details of their personal lives. Intimacy is usually shown in friendships and romantic love affairs. Commitment on the other hand is the expectation that the relationship is going to last forever. The last and most common form of love is sexual attraction and passion. Passionate love is shown in infatuation as well as romantic love. This led researchers such as Yela [citation needed] to further refine the model by separating Passion into two independents components: Erotic Passion and Romantic Passion.

Chemical basis

Recent studies in neuroscience have indicated that a consistent number of chemicals are present in the brain when people testify to feeling love. These chemicals include; Testosterone, Oestrogen, Dopamine, Norepinephrine, Serotonin, Oxytocin, and Vasopressin. More specifically, higher levels of Testosterone and Oestrogen are present during the lustful phase of a relationship. Dopamine, Norepinephrine, and Serotonin are more commonly found during the attraction phase of a relationship. Oxytocin, and Vasopressin seemed to be more closely linked to long term bonding and relationships characterized by strong attachments.

In 2005, Italian scientists at Pavia University found that a protein molecule known as the nerve growth factor (NGF) has high levels when people first fall in love, but these levels return to as they were after one year. Specifically, four neurotrophin levels, i.e. NGF, BDNF, NT-3, and NT-4, of 58 subjects who had recently fallen in love were compared with levels in a control group who were either single or already engaged in a long-term relationship. The results showed that NGF levels were significantly higher in the subjects in love than as compared to the either of the control groups.<ref>Emanuele, E. Polliti, P, Bianchi, M. Minoretti, P. Bertona, M., & Geroldi, D. (2005). “Raised plasma nerve growth factor levels associated with early-stage romantic love.” Abstract. Psychoneuroendocrinology, Nov. 09.</ref>

Definitional issues

Dictionaries tend to define love as deep affection or fondness.<ref>Oxford Illustrated American Dictionary (1998) + Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (2000).</ref> In colloquial use, according to polled opinion, the most favoured definitions of love include the words:<ref>'04 Poll of 250 Chicagoans – Institute of Human Thermodynamics (Chicago)</ref>

  1. life - someone to whom one would give their life.
  2. care - refers to a mental or emotional state of predisposition in which one has an interest or concern for someone or something. To care for someone, may also refer to a disquieted state of mixed uncertainty, apprehension, and responsibility; or a cause for such anxiety.
  3. friendship - favoured interpersonal associations or relationships.
  4. union - dissolution of loving subject into loved object; a hyper-real state of creative generosity.
  5. family - people related via common ancestry(ie:Platonic love)
  6. bond - the inner connection when another person is a part of your identity.

Thomas Jay Oord defines love as acting intentionally, in sympathetic response to others (including God), to promote overall well-being. Oord means for his definition to be adequate for religion, philosophy, and the sciences.

See also


<references />


  • Roger Allen, Hillar Kilpatrick, and Ed de Moor, eds. Love and Sexuality in Modern Arabic Literature. London: Saqi Books, 1995.
  • Shadi Bartsch and Thomas Bartscherer, eds. Erotikon: Essays on Eros, Ancient and Modern. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.
  • Helen Fisher. Why We Love: the Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love
  • Gabriele Froböse, Rolf Froböse, Michael Gross (Translator): Lust and Love: Is it more than Chemistry? Publisher: Royal Society of Chemistry, ISBN 0-85404-867-7, (2006).
  • Johnson, P (2005) 'Love, Heterosexuality and Society'. Routledge: London.
  • Thomas Jay Oord, Science of Love: The Wisdom of Well-Being. Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation Press, 2004.
  • R. J. Sternberg. A triangular theory of love. 1986. Psychological Review, 93, 119–135
  • R. J. Sternberg. Liking versus loving: A comparative evaluation of theories. 1987. Psychological Bulletin, 102, 331–345
  • Sternberg, Robert (1998). Cupid's Arrow - the Course of Love through Time. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-47893-6.
  • Dorothy Tennov. Love and Limerence: the Experience of Being in Love. New York: Stein and Day, 1979. ISBN 0-8128-6134-5
  • Dorothy Tennov. A Scientist Looks at Romantic Love and Calls It "Limerence": The Collected Works of Dorothy Tennov. Greenwich, CT: The Great American Publishing Society (GRAMPS), [1]
  • Wood, Wood and Boyd. The World of Psychology. 5th edition. 2005. Pearson Education, 402–403

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