This is a difficult topic for me, as I'm sure it is for most guys. But if I'm going to have an open and honest philosophy that reflects who I am and who I should be, then I need to be open and honest when creating it.
I see a number of types of love. I don't care for breaking up love into categories, but maybe exploring them will give me a better way of looking at it.
We'll begin by looking the love of material objects. This should be a very low level caegory of love. I could say that I love a painting, or of a favorite chair. We care for them, going as far as fixing the chair as it falls apart in out thirtieth year of ownership. But is this really love? I have a cousin who had a stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh while growing up. At the age of 15, she still has it. Does she love it? I'd say yes. Does our actual love of objects go deeper? Maybe I love the painting because of the amazing landscape it shows. Or I love the chair because of the comfort it gives me to sit and read a book in its warm embrace. Do I love the object or the feeling? Does my cousin love the Pooh or the comfort and safety she feels from it?
This leads us to our second category: love of the universe and everything in it. I can sit and enjoy images of the cosmos for hours. I can enjoy the view from a mountain top overlooking a broad valley. I feel a desire to do my part for all of humanity. I also love watching documentaries about all forms of life. Is this love? Or do we have the same issues as before, where we love the effect something has on us? Could we even tell the difference?
Moving on, we come to our third category: the love of friends and family. I admit it: I love my family. I would go far out of my way to help them if they needed me. I admire my friends and love them in a platonic way. I would also go out of my way to help them, but likely not quite as much as I would do for family. Going back to family, I know I love the closer members of my family, currently my mother, brother, and sister, more than my extended family. If I had a wife, sons, or daughters, my love for them would be even more so. I hate to say it, but do we have the same problem here? Do we love the people, a collection of atoms, or do we love the effects they have on us? Since love is a 'two way street', do we love the effect we have on them? I'm almost afraid to look into this in any detail for fear of what I might find. After all, love is a chemical/psychological reaction we have to certain stimuli.
Fourth is romantic love. I touched upon it in the previous paragraph. This is the form of love I have the least experience with; I don't think I have ever been in a true romantic relationship with anybody. If/When I do, will it be love, or will I be in love with the effect she has on me? Maybe I'll be in love with that as well as the effect I have on her. Does it even matter? Is this what love if supposed to be? Maybe I won't know until I feel it.
Finally, we have the love for one's Self. I capitalize Self as it is who we truly are, beneath the masks we wear for society, or even in front of ourselves. The Self is the 'I', what some people call the soul. It is our personal identity, our memories, and our past, present, and future. I'm not going to define the Self anymore here, as that's not the point of this post. The point, rather, is the love we feel for our Self. Can we have the same issue here? Is our love for our Self just the love of the effect we have on our Self? Is that even possible? Aren't they one and the same?
We still have the issue of love of an Else (anything not the Self) versus for the effect the Else has on the Self. Is it love or is it feedback? We know it can't be feedback for love of the Self.
We started with the question of what love is. We ended up with a question on the existance of love for the Else. What compounds this question is that I cannot prove that the Else even exists (see philosophical zombies and Descarte's philosophy of doubting everything but one's existance). I'll pick this back up in a later post.