The four loves.

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Sarah Bernhardt.

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A 'science' of love.

By a science of love is meant the normal use of scientific method, to achieve a greater understanding of the subject, and from which practical benefits to society may be expected.

It has been assumed that the divine emotion of love is not amenable to a coldly objective analysis. But that seems to stem from a misunderstanding of scientific method's nature. For instance, it has been argued that you cannot measure whether different peoples subjective feelings are the same. Whereas, any number of people can measure, say, the motion of a body down an inclined plane, or of a planet in the heavens.
But any system of knowledge must have a starting point that can be related to experience. In classical geometry, this primitive concept is a 'point'. It is the basic undefined term, that other concepts, like line and circle are defined in terms of.

Similarly, 'love' can be taken as a basic concept, in terms of which the other emotions can be defined. For example, fear is of losing love. And anger is directed against those we fear will take love away. The so-called deadly sins, or the mental illnesses can also be considered as blocked or unbalanced loves.
In this way, one could build up an emotional 'geometry' or geometries of love.

Knowledge of the basic concepts in a subject does itself evolve. Physicists study the possibilities of yet more basic concepts than the 'mass point', such as 'strings'.
Likewise, we may think we know what love is, only to find our feelings were rather limited on the subject. Not defining love is to admit we assume nothing about it. And making love a concept universal to our system of emotions is to admit there is everything to know about it.

Geometry or earth measurement is one of the earliest kinds of measurement. But the logic of measurement has been studied, as it applies to the sciences in general. For instance, I used the four main scales of measurement to define the single transferable vote as 'Scientific method of elections'. Each successive scale brings an increasing power of measurement. In the case of electoral method, this represented greater freedom of choice resulting in 'power to the people' or democracy.

This fulfilled the prophecy: know the truth and it will make you free. The fashionable segregation of science and ethics, or knowledge and freedom, had to be challenged, first. I was at odds with 'value-neutral' or 'value-free' science from my student days.
My eventual alternative view is given as 'The moral sciences as the ethics of scientific method'. ( Both this essay and 'Scientific method of elections' are linked-to from my home page. )
Of course, my college teachers educated me to the debate and provided me with the essential clues, from which I could, quite properly, make up my own mind.

The relating of voting method to scientific method made it possible for me to contemplate a science of love. But not before I was given an essential clue. This time my teacher was from a book, 'The Four Loves' by C S Lewis. He was already one of my favorite authors.

4 loves: 4 scales of measurement.

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The publishers claimed this was the first time all four kinds of love were treated in one book. It turned out that the ancient Greeks had four names for love. As in so many other things, they were pioneers. A new science begins with classifying the kinds of thing under study. And indeed the first scale of measurement is called the classificatory scale or the nominal ( meaning the 'naming' ) scale.

Thus the Greek knowledge of love distinguished eros, which name Lewis also used; philia or friendship, in Lewis' book; storge or affection; and agape or charity.

Lewis treats these four loves as a progression thru life. One starts off with affection, in the bosom of the family, as it were. One begins to find friends, as one moves outside the family circle. Sexual growth certainly promotes eros, by which Lewis means romantic love. ( But this is not necessarily sexual love, which he calls 'Venus'. ) Finally, a sort of growth of the soul, thru life's trials and tribulations, may achieve charity.

This is a perfectly reasonable way to approach a discussion of the four loves. Lewis shows how love may gradually widen out in these four ways. He denies, tho, that one's experience of love must always follow this path in life. Nevertheless, I was struck by the fact that some progession of the four loves might correspond to the logical progression of measurement, in four scales.

We have already met the first of the four scales, the nominal or classificatory scale. The next is the ordinal ( or ordering ) scale, followed by the interval scale, and finally the ratio scale.

The ordinal scale simply means that when one has decided what boxes, individual items belong to, one can then arrange the boxes themselves into a scheme, like a frame of pigeon holes. For example, colored lights might be broadly classified according to, say, six basic colors. But these colors might also be ordered on the lines of the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet.

The choice of colors to mark out intervals on the rainbow is somewhat arbitrary. Tradition has seven colors, including indigo between blue and violet. Different cultures have different names for different ranges or intervals of color. But one could compare different cultures' different interval scales of color, by the common standard of the rainbow.
Similarly, different temperature scales, such as fahrenheit and centigrade, can be translated into each other.

But with respect to the ratio scale, we know much more than this. Different light colors correspond to different wavelengths. Red has the longest wavelength on the visible spectrum and violet the shortest. But all light moves at the same velocity, because light velocity equals wavelength times frequency. And the shorter the wavelength, the greater the frequency.

To show how this works, suppose you see Abe Lincoln and his wife - 'the long and the short of it'. They are walking together, that is going in the same direction at the same speed ( which means moving with the same 'velocity' ). Abe's stride, that is to say his 'wavelength' is three feet. His 'frequency' or how many strides he is taking per second, is two. Therefore, Mr Lincoln's speed is wavelength times frequency, in other words, length of stride times number of strides per second. That is, his speed is three times two equals six feet per second.

Mrs Lincoln is also walking with a speed of six feet per second. But being much smaller, her stride or 'wavelength' is only two feet. To keep up with her husband, her 'frequency' or number of strides per second must be three strides per second.
She has to use more energy to keep up. Likewise, violet light with its faster frequency is more energetic than red light.

Frequency or the rate of wavelengths per time is an example of a ratio scale of measurement. You would know two cultures had a similar perception of a color, their languages had different names for, if they measured similar ratios of velocity to wavelength, that is similar frequencies, for a shade theyd differently named.
Exactly similar or equal ratios define proportion. The ability to measure proportion is characteristic of the ratio scale.


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The question is: can some progression of the four loves be matched to the progressively more powerful four scales of measurement? To answer this question, do the four loves possess an order of greatness?
The Bible gives us a clue when it says of faith, hope and charity, that the greatest of these is charity. Charity is sometimes rendered as love, in bible translations. It is perhaps not too fanciful to relate hope to courtship or romantic love and ( keeping ) faith to married or family love.

Lewis himself treats charity as the last and greatest peak of the love range to climb.
At least in one important respect, Lewis' own love life is misleading. He admits that the romantic love most people find in their twenties, did not happen to him till his sixties. Romantic love is also treated late in 'The Four Loves' - just before charity.

Lewis' late marriage has been made into a play, BBC drama and a film, which starts off by saying, this is a true story. ( True in the sense, I suppose, that 'Hollywood's version of history' is a true story. ) However, 'Shadowlands' in one version or another is still worth watching.

Lewis' sticking to the original Greek term 'eros' for romantic love is unhelpful. We think of eros as meaning erotic or sexually charged. Lewis doesnt mean that. He means when a couple have 'a romance' - a passionately exalted regard for each other.
Romance had a much wider meaning for Lewis. He lists ten differing definitions in his later introduction to his first book, The Pilgrim's Regress.

The joy he eventually found in his wife Joy Davidman was only the culmination of a lifetime's hoping to be 'Surprised By Joy'. Joy was in the soul-expanding vistas of time and space that the old northern legends and modern science fiction intimated. That includes the Wellsian and other romances that Lewis wrote to such poetic effect.

As the best English term we have, I shall use 'romance', here, as short for romantic love and what Lewis meant by eros.
In trying to match four loves to four scales of measurement, I already had help from matching the logic of electoral procedure to the logic of measurement. That is to say the progressively greater measurement of freedom of choice could be compared to that of loving relationships.

The basic principle of elections was the classification: 'one man one vote'. Mindful of womens rights, we say, one person one vote, nowadays. But the older phrase puts one in mind of 'one man one wife'. Dr Samuel Johnson said the reason for monogamy was that so there were enough marriage partners for everyone. At least nominally, monogamy is a sort of universal suffrage of marriage.

The one-to-one relationship is characteristic of the classificatory scale of measurement. At this level of measurement, it doesnt matter which man chooses which woman, or vice versa, or - bearing in mind gay rights - which person chooses which person, provided they all have one partner each, by mutual consent.

But once the choices have been made the relationships are exclusive and every partnership is equal in worth or equivalent to another. This is strictly what the classificatory scale of measurement means. It also describes the ideal of courtship between couples. Keeping faith with one partner is still widely regarded as the test of a romantic relationship or a marriage.

Even while teenagers are dating different partners, there is a tendency to 'going steady' and finding who one will 'settle down' with. Accepting a night on the town with a new date might send a signal that the current boyfriend or girlfriend is not taken seriously. He or she could respond in like manner and so wear away a tie, that there may be no way back to.

'Two's company and three's a crowd' is above all true of lovers. It is true that the loved one may regard the rest of humanity with a benevolent glow of feeling. This is from the fortress-like fastness of a secure relationship. Yet, it is a possible base for wider relationships, which can be thought of as 'loving', in a non-romantic sense.


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'Two's company and three's a crowd' can also apply to friendship. Partnership and friendship can be hard to tell apart. Two childhood friends are 'inseparable', when they have a passion for each other's company. This is perhaps a 'romance' that puberty hasnt intervened yet to give a sexual bias to.
It is a romance surely in a wider Lewisian sense of adventure at the prospect of an enchanting new world that the two strangers' amiable qualities offer each other.

There is, however, a distinct fashion in which fast friends are not really romantic couples. Tho, it is noticable that children will deride ( perhaps unfairly, out of jealousy ) friends as being too fast. A friend, however much one's latest craze, is never more than one's 'best friend'. There is room for other relationships of that sort. It is just a matter of priority, such as: my arrangements with my best friend come first, but if you dont mind meeting at some other time, that's alright.
British Telecom currently has a 'best friend' discount greater than the discount allowed for a given number of other friends.

In short, friendship, even at its most clamorous, is not essentially an exclusive relationship like romance. Friendship is a matter of degree, the liking of some people more or less than others. Our friends' company is prefered to others.
Thus, our scientific measurement of love starts with romance on the classificatory scale, as the basic exclusive relationship of our lives.
Second, comes friendship on the ordinal scale, by which we order our friends, according to whose company we most like to share.

We dont hear of second or third best friends etc. That doesnt mean to say they dont exist or that we have never made such lists up in our head about who we could best rely on. After all, a second or a third or lesser friend might become a first friend, should the others desert one. This is not uncommon in childhood, to say nothing of back-stabbing professions like politics.

The best friend is the prominent friend rather as the elected candidate is the prominent candidate, at least for a term of office. Romance is also competitive but once it elects for marriage, the term of office is the hereditary one of raising a family.

Laurel and hardy

The debt of romance to friendship.

If we said no more about romance and friendship, it would reinforce the common impression of our culture that friendship is a sort of second rate love, made up of minor time-passing meetings with people we quite like, just to make a change from being with one's mate or family.

C S Lewis thought romance and friendship about equal in value. How could this be? Firstly, the value of romance as a kind of love is the sheer worship of the partner. This is valuable, if only from a practical biological point of view. Raising a family is the process of superceding oneself. Perhaps this has to do with post-natal depression in a woman, for whom the sheer physical effort of child-rearing is burden enough.
But a wife, loved for her own sake, with a selfless service, by the husband, regardless of desire for an heir, is not evolution's drudge. If heaven is a state of mind, the true lovers already have a share of it.

The power of romantic love is such as to put heart and soul into making a relationship work. The really practical people are those who say, marry for love. That is the single most important factor. Tho, the belief 'Love conquers all' is liable to disappoint. Much of literature is about how it may not be enough, if all kinds of social circumstances are too much against it.

No wonder friendship seems pretty tame in comparison to romance. Actually, there is a progression of sorts. The focus is no longer a shared wonder at each other but a shared wonder at the world. The wonder of friendship, like the wonder of romance, is specific, only it is not specific to each other; it is specific to some interest, such as a shared hobby.

The word 'hobby' provokes scorn as the triflings of amateurs. The greater the obsession, the crazier the outsider is likely to consider those obsessed. The hobbyist, like the man in love, is a puzzle to people who do not share his feelings. What does he see in her? She's perfectly ordinary. What does he see in it? What a boring pursuit!

At this point, however, friendship has one big advantage over romance. Friendship feeds off an exchange of interests. Someone who would be a friend encourages participation in a pursuit, but not the pursuit of his intended. A mania, in common, for one woman, is not a passion the rivals would wish to share. Each suitor wants to believe that his feelings for the beloved are the most special he has. Each brings his own individual appreciation, in the hope of making a unique love match.

The enthusiasm of friendship is not for the friend but for the shared interest, they like to talk about. The greater friends tend to be made in finding they have most in common.
You notice this in John Stuart Mill's 'Autobiography'. Friends who seemed to agree about everything important suddenly find a rift of opinion open up before them. Or, in Mill's case, he finds a passage to the terra incognita of his opponents. This somewhat separates him from old friends but helps make new ones.

Nor was this the fate of a mere doctrinaire, who judges people by how much they agree with his pre-conceived notions. He was a radical liberal, who wrote with appreciation about the traditional conservatism of Coleridge; a logician who valued poetry. It was said of him as an MP that he could put his opponents' point of view better than they could, themselves.

Romance may start by seeing a world of interest in the partner. Then may find that world rather impoverished. This is especially the case where women have not had equal rights and opportunities. They have been left with the narrowest of horizons. The husband may leave her lonely in her domestic confines.

It has also led to a low opinion of woman, like the lower classes, deprived of education. One of the characters in Dickens' 'Bleak House' doubts but the squalor of a family is too mean a condition to be worthy of generosity. The effect of denying equal rights is to make the deprived seem unworthy of them.

According to Lewis, married love, in ancient Greece where women had no rights, was the exception, to be laughed at. In 'The Allegory Of Love', C S Lewis says courtly love originated in medieval France. Certainly, it was directed at the woman of position. Modern courtship in romantic fiction, including science fiction, is still of some 'princess' - someone who comes first in our loyalties and devotion.

But beyond that, the court lady was educated in the social graces. Her accomplishments were to be admired. The peasant girl was regarded with no chivalry and sexually exploited without scruple. Even today, the word peasant is used as a term of dismissive contempt for an honorable, not to say essential, occupation.

The point is that romance, from the start, owed much to a lady's training in the arts. She'd been to medieval charm school. Courtship was not merely snobbery. The lady could interest and entertain. She was not merely an uncultured object of sexual desire. The fact that she was educated enough to be the friend of any man made her seem worthy of courtship's special considerations.

How self-sufficient couples seem in the fullness of their love! This may promise the unworldly power of love. Yet it is evident that romance, by itself, is not enough even for our short life-times. Romance is desired as much as ever. And some folk never grow beyond wanting to repeat the experience, as soon as they get tired of their old partner.

Perhaps we had better distinguish between romance sustained by having different partners, to refresh a jaded sexual appetite, and romance sustained by friendship's common interest in staying together. In the latter case, couples are not only partners but allies. They dont forsake each other, because they also value each other's support, in the way they see the world and relate to it.

The trust, expected of a romance, is strengthened, if it also has the qualities of friendship to sustain it.


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Friendship is a vital adjunct to romance. Yet, that may not be enough to secure a loving relationship. For that, you need affection, the third of the four loves. Affection seems a mere sentiment of good will. That is its strength.
Romance starts so strong because of what it does for the lover. The loved may not return the passion and even hate the lover for being on an emotional high that the loved does not share. All someone's passion may inspire in one idolised is to make the idol go away and idolise someone else, if only for how good it feels to worship.

Friendship escapes an exclusive passion between two people for each other. Friendships are passions for anything that can be shared by anyone. But people are still particular about who they are friends with. They must share the same interest or hobby, much as religious people may keep to a sect. Someone talking about a hobby one doesnt share is liable to bore and drive away from his company.

Affection has the power to transform a bore into a pleasing eccentric. You arent interested in their obsession. You just like them anyway, for their own sake. They have grown on you.

Affection can also grow out of romance. A girl, who has always enchanted you, one day loses her glamor for you. You dont know why. But to your disbelief, she looks just like any other girl. One observes, humbly, that she is happily secure in your complete attention.

You realise that, of course, everyone is just anyone. But she is the one, who made you believe that everyone isnt just anyone. She deserves your gratitude and loyalty. You have come out of the trance her mere presence put you in. And you find that you love her, for once, not because she is magical but because she is ordinary. Before, you loved the individual, now you also love her as the universal girl.

Affection is a mature love. That makes it sound unexciting, tho, in truth, people get excited enough about it. Romance says 'to know you is to love you', meaning that just meeting you was enough. Romance is often love at first sight. And you dont have to know much about anything. Cupid's arrow can strike in kindergarten. An infant with a pious look, picking flowers, can be enough to make a classmate fall in love, without ever knowing there was such a fate.

Friendship comes later than romance because it takes time to learn what one can do and who one can get on with. Friendship comes before affection, because in earning a living, one has to play to ones strengths or natural aptitudes and that puts one in the company of kindred spirits, to compete or work with.
Admittedly, this assumes a society that takes advantage of its members natural bents and allows them to do work, fairly close to heart.

Romance is the most intensely personal love. The personal element of friendship is incidental to something about the world at large, that the friends see with like mind. Affection doesnt require an enthralling personality or matching mentality. All affection requires is the experience in which understanding can create sympathy for another human being.

Affection is first and foremost family love, if only because that is where familiarity is most likely. With any luck, family love is already built on both romance and friendship between the parents.
Small children will find sufficient romantic interest in their peers, if the society is not repressive about 'puppy love'. Likewise, friendship is natural between those at the same stage of development. Families are likely to share aptitudes and provided this is so, it is a tremendous advantage for a child who is an able and willing apprentice to a parent. Tho, for some children, the family business ( getting rarer ) was a dead-end.

Churches, nations, parties, and suchlike social in-groups depend on affection for familiar language, ritual symbols and custom. Less personal again than family love, they draw on a pride in belonging, and a ( perhaps misplaced ) feeling of mutual support.
However, persecuted groups may be drawn together into real communities.

Affection, then, is perhaps the leading love in world affairs. But it was the purpose of the founders of the world religions to bring all people together in a brotherhood of mankind, under one god, that comes before all the more or less personal loyalties of the lesser loves.


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The fourth love, charity does not supercede the other loves. Rather, they are part of a progression, that the planet must realise, if disaster is to be avoided. The affections for the old tribal and super-tribal loyalties will and should remain. Beyond that lies a loyalty to God and God's creatures.

There is a distinction between God or the creator and the creation, perhaps like that between a work of art, as a creation, and what the artist meant to express by it. God's myriad creatures may more or less freely express their more or less exhalted passions but they are not themselves those passions. Rather, they are the evolutionary works of 'art' that have gone into expressing their passions.
So, it is the love of the creator ( if you like, 'God' ) we should worship, and the creation for the love it is meant to convey, in so far as it does so. We appreciate those of God's free creations, who are good rather than bad 'artists', in living as the art of loving.

In the Christian gospels, the two greatest commandments are the love of God and the love of others as oneself, that follows from it.
In 'The Four Loves', Lewis says

It is probably impossible to love any human being simply 'too much'. We may love him too much in proportion to our love for God; but it is the smallness of our love for God, not the greatness of our love for the man, that constitutes the inordinacy.

In this passage, Lewis, who had no pretensions to 'science', is taking the measure of human love, in terms of the controlling two of its four scales: the ordinal scale, which measures priority, and the ratio scale, which measures proportion.

Just as they are a measure of love, the ordinal and ratio scales also measure freedom. To be precise, electoral freedom is defined by a preference vote and a quota count, the ordinal scale voting and ratio scale count in proportion, that defines the so-called single transferable vote.

One can see why a measure of freedom should also be a measure of love. After all, freedom is to follow what one truly wishes. A true knowledge of measurement makes this possible. One's wishes are the heart's desire, not merely in the narrow sense of voting. An 'election' is not just the institution that registers opinions. To elect means to choose out. This includes everyday decisions that affect what we do now or our whole lives.

Nevertheless, the scientific method of electoral freedom can serve as a formal model to help distinguish the difference between affection and charity. The typical expression of affection in voting is to vote for candidates on group lines. That is to say for a given party, or the body that is behind it, whether economic, ethnic, religious, ideological or some other social factor.

It is perfectly natural to vote in this way, to start at one's point of origin, as it were, and work one's way outward towards those we have less in common with. The main obstacle electorally to the growth of love in the world is the restriction to kinds of voting method that only allow the expression of affection and not charity.

In fact, only the scientific method of elections ( the transferable voting system ) gives the freedom to vote an order of candidates across party lines, that measures ( proportionately ) a society's degree of unity, or the charity towards those who dont belong to one's own group.

Yet more remote than affection, charity seems to mean helping faraway folk about whom we know little. Love, concentrated on one person, usually as romance, teaches us the numinous. We graduate thru loves less related to ourselves, ultimately perhaps to a universal love.

The overwhelming power of sex dominates the first half of life. Tho, that is not to reduce romance to sex any more than a flower can be reduced to its seed.
Freudian psychology covers the youthful concerns with survival in this life. Jungian psychology covers older folks concerns with survival in another life.

Carl Jung found that many patients, by the second half of life, were already becoming pre-occupied with death, and the religious meaning of a life so short. For Jung, psychology had to come to the aid of an age in which it had been observed that 'God is dead'.

He held that this was because the old religious forms were losing their potency. And new beliefs had to be justified in accord with a scientific age. Technology had given men a sense of coming mastery over nature. But it was all too evident from the twentieth century that man lacked mastery of himself.

Man had evolved an idea of God. But that did not mean man had 'created' God. Jung held that we do not have the power to make the gods. Rather, all we can do is choose our god. In our little lives we run the gamut of emotions that everybody else has and will. We dont have emotions, they have us. But we can choose, to some extent, between these emotional masters. Hence, the great world religions of a god of love.

Levels of love

Richard Lung

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