My answer to What is love?
Answer by Vijayendra Mohanty:
The answer to a question such as this can’t be a plain old pile of text. It has to be a conversation. So here goes:
What is love?
Love is a word.
That’s it? You mean love is nothing more than a word?
No. What I was trying to say was that we use words to imply meaning. Words often mean different things to different people. The word “love” is no different. It has no meaning, but it has usages.
So the word “love” has no universal meaning?
Yes. That is correct.
So we can’t have an objective answer to this question?
There is essentially no way for us to have an objective definition of love in terms of feelings. This is because I don’t know what you feel when you say you feel something. In fact, the only way we can put feelings into words is by using descriptions of other feelings. So when asked what love feels like, we say it makes us happy and that it feels good etc. These are not universal answers of course — I have a friend who says it feels like an upset stomach (I am sure he means that in a good way).
Okay fine! What, in your opinion is the usage to which the word “love” might be applied to?
I am sorry to disappoint, but I still don’t know the answer. There are agreed-upon definitions of the word that are not universal. Would you like me to randomly choose one?
Sigh! Yes. Please go ahead and do so.
I am not comfortable with ambiguous definitions. But I will give it a try. I might say that among humans, love is the biological impulse that we experience when fulfilling our evolutionary imperative — finding a mate or when joining one of the many socially cooperative structures such as family, friend circles, and cultural groups.
Well done Spock! Are you saying love is nothing more than a “biological impulse”?
What’s wrong with it being a biological impulse?
It’s just so sterile. There is no warmth in that definition.
Did you want accuracy or did you want warmth?
Do you have an answer that involves warmth? I would love to hear it.
Okay. How about this? Love is truth. Love is companionship. Love is lifelong friendship. Love is devotion to your parents. Love is when you sacrifice your own well-being for the betterment of someone you care about.
See? That wasn’t so hard, was it?
No it wasn’t. All I had to do to arrive at that set of answers was ignore the question altogether.
What? How do you mean?
These are the results of love. They are not what love is. What I told you were popular expressions of love as we observe it in human society and they often suffice to answer the question about what love is. Much in the same way that the question “What is death?” can be answered by pointing to a corpse. It is a non-answer, but most people are okay with it.
Is it possible to have a definition of love without pointing to the results of the phenomenon?
Sure. It is sometimes. Like when you ask “What is a tomato?” and answer it by pointing to a tomato. What we are essentially doing is establishing a direct link between the usage of a word and the object we have agreed to represent with that word. Love, unfortunately, is not a tomato.
What? What’s brilliant?
That answer you just gave. I like it. I will take it.
I don’t understand…
You said “Love is not a tomato.” I think it is the perfect answer.
You’re just tired of the conversation aren’t you?
Yes. Also, I love you.