With Valentine’s Day arriving next week, Southwestern College philosophy professor Peter Bolland breaks down the meaning of love in the philosophical sense.
To truly understand “love” in philosophy, Bolland said, it must first be understood in the ancient Greek language, since there is only a basic definition of the word love in English.
“It’s funny how in English there is just this one word ‘love’ and it has to be used in so many different ways,” he said. “Other languages (like ancient Greek) have so many different words for love.”
There are three different meanings of love in the Greek mythology, Bolland said. There is Eros, Philia and Agape.
Eros is the form of love that in English is when someone has a crush on someone else or when someone lusts for another person or if there is an attraction.
Bolland said Valentine’s Day in America has an important part of the Eros form of love. Eros is also a Greek god who shoots people with arrows and fills them with madness, just like Cupid on Valentine’s Day. Bolland said although Cupid is depicted as an innocent little baby, the god Eros is scary and fierce.
Bolland said Philia is the type of love someone feels for their home or culture or their love for friends. He describes it as having a “warm connection” with something.
Agape is the word for love in the biblical sense, Bolland said. He said this love is what Jesus means when he says to love our enemies.
“Agape is a conscious decision to be compassionate,” he said. “A willful decision to be kind. It’s an intellectual act of the will.”
Bolland said these three forms of love has different meanings, not like the English language.
“Those are three very different (forms of love) and when you’re dealing with it in English, Jesus tells you to love your enemies and you love your boyfriend and girlfriend and you love mashed potatoes. The word almost gets robbed of all specific meaning,” he said.
Bolland said Valentines Day was created in Americas for lovers, those who are loved romantically,which falls into the Eros category.
But Valentines Day has evolved to just “I love you” because people express their love not only for their romantic partner but love for their mother, daughter, friends and anyone else.
He said in the Americas the word love has been overused.
“We love love,” he said.