First aired on Fresh Air (28/08/11)
What is love? Since the dawn of time, this daunting question has preoccupied history's greatest thinkers and artists, from the Chinese philosopher Confucius to William Shakespeare to '90s dance-pop sensation Haddaway.
However, University of Toronto philosophy professor and author Tom Hurka has his own take on the subject.
"The best things in life are the things that make life worth living: pleasure, happiness, achievement, knowledge and understanding," Hurka told Fresh Air guest host Karen Gordon in a recent interview.
"Love is one of them, though I think what makes love such a wonderful addition to your life, when it goes well, is that contains so many of the other good things wrapped up in one package. It's a source of happiness, abiding satisfaction, you come to understand a person in a way that you don't understand strangers, and it's really the part of our life when we're morally at our best and when we're most caring and generous and least caught up in our own selves."
Hurka explores the idea of love, and some of the philosophy written about it, in his new book, The Best Things in Life: A Guide to What Really Matters. While some may feel that love is far too complex or subjective to ever be properly defined, Hurka offers a pragmatic, working interpretation of the L word.
"I hope this isn't too plonking [to throw or place down heavily], as the British would say, but I think of love as being friendship plus. The main elements that are present in friendship are present in love to a higher degree with more intensity and with a slightly different spin when it's romantic love."
Hurka sees friendship and love as part of a continuum. "I think when you care for somebody, either a friend or someone you love, you want to be with them, you want to spend time with them, you're sad when you're apart," he explained. "Now, if it's a friend, that's something you feel with some degree of intensity. When it's somebody that you love deeply it's something you feel much more strongly...you feel pained when you're apart."
What do you think of Hurka's ideas about love? Let us know in the comments section below.
The Best Things in Life: A Guide to What Really Matters
by Thomas HurkaBuy this book at:
"In The Best Things in Life
, distinguished philosopher Thomas
Hurka takes a fresh look at these perennial questions as they arise for
us now in the 21st
century. Should we value family over career? How do we balance
self-interest and serving others? What activities bring us the most joy?
While religion, literature, popular psychology, and everyday wisdom all
grapple with these questions, philosophy more than anything else uses
the tools of reason
to make important distinctions, cut away irrelevancies, and distill
these issues down to their essentials."
Read more at Oxford University Press Canada