Kinds of Love

(I bet you never thought there were different kinds...)

Most of us think of love as something that springs from our emotions, that is more or less eternal, and that must appear the same in different times and places. If we think about different kinds of love, we likely think of "infatuation" or "love at first sight" or "true love". And, if you think of love in terms of Christian categories, you might be inclined to differentiate between eros (from which we get "erotic"; creative, often sexual yearning), philia ("Philadelphia" - city of brotherly love") and agape (love of God, as the apostle Paul discussed). However, historically people thought about what love meant differently at different times.


Analyzing love seems like a contradiction in terms, or worse. It seems like either you know it directly, or you don't. And, thinking about it may seem to undermine or negate it.


Still, it seems clear that something different is happening during the Romantic period (e.g., in Goethe's
Sorrows of Young Werther) than is happening much earlier, and perhaps also later. Some distinctions are useful to make. And, given that love is so central to human existence (some might say, the thing that makes us what we are), it seems important to make the effort.


References on love: