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The Four Loves

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The Four Loves

The Four Loves

The Four Loves is a 1960 book by C. S. Lewis in which he explores the nature of love from a Christian perspective. He introduces the book by confessing his misunderstanding of St. John's words--"God is Love"--as being able to provide a simple inroads to his topic. By distinguishing Need-love (such as the love of a child for its mother) from Gift-love (epitomized by God's love for humanity), Lewis happens upon the contemplative that the natures of even these basic catagorizations of love are more complicated than they, at first, seem. As a result, he formulates the foundation of his topic ("the highest does not stand without the lowest") by exploring the nature of pleasure, and then divides love into four categories, based (in part) on the four Greek words for love: affection, friendship, eros, and charity. It must be noted, states Lewis, that just as Lucifer--a former archangel--perverted himself by pride and fell into depravity, so too can love--commonly held to be the arch-emotion--become corrupt by prusuming itself to be what it is not ("[love] begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god").

Affection

Affection (storge, στοργη) is fondness through familiarity, especially between family members or people who have otherwise found themselves together by chance. It is described as the most natural, emotive, and widely disfused of loves: natural in that it is present without coercion; emovtive because it is the result of fondness due to familiarity; and most widely disfused because it pays the least attention to those characteristics deemed "valuable" or worthy of love and, as a result, is able to transcend most discriminating factors. Ironically, it's strength, however, is what makes it vulnerable. Affection has the appearance of being "built-in" or "ready made", says Lewis, and as a result people come to expect, even to demand, its presence--irrespective of their behavior and its natural consequences.

Friendship

Friendship (philia, φιλια) is a strong bond existing between people who share a common interest or activity. Lewis explicitly says that his definition of Friendship is narrower than mere Companionship: Friendship in his sense only exists if there is something for the Friendship to be "about". It is the lease natural of loves, states Lewis; i.e., it is not biologically necessary to progeny like either affection (e.g., rearing a child), eros (e.g., creating a child), or charity (e.g., providing for a child). It has the least assosiation with impuse or emotion. In spite of these characteristics, it was the belief of the ancients (Lewis himself, too) that it was the most admirable of loves because it looked not at the beloved (like eros), but it looked towards that "about"--that thing because of which the relationship was formed. This freed the participants in this friendship from self-conciousness. Because they were looking towards something beyond or above themselves, the more who were looking towards that thing with them were welcomed with the same sincerity, which freed the relationship from jealousy. And although the love may not be biolgically necessary, it has, argue Lewis, civilization value. The thing beyond or above themselves may be of monumental importance to society. But without the benefit of friendship to blunt the loneliness of "being the only person who sees this", or the idea that two heads are better than one, many advances in society my never have been embarked upon. The relationship is by its nature selective, and therefore, exclusive. This characteristic is not detremental per se, but the idea or goal towards which friends strive need not be altruistic. The innocuous ideas may simply be the cause of psuedo-aristocracies that ignore the legitimate cries of those outside their group; the malefic ones may be quite worse.

Eros

Eros (ερος) is love in the sense of 'being in love'. This is distinct from sexuality, which Lewis calls Venus, although he does spend time discussing sexual activity and its spiritual significance in both a pagan and a Christian sense. He warns against the danger of elevating Eros to the status of a god, but he also praises it as an indifferent appreciation of the beloved as opposed to any pleasure that can be obtained from them.

Charity

Charity (agape, αγαπη) is a love towards one's neighbour which does not depend on any loveable qualities that the object of love possesses. Lewis sees charity as a specifically Christian virtue, and the chapter on the subject focuses on the need of subordinating the natural loves to the love of God.

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