THE NATURE OF LOVE by Irving Singer


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The exotic design within Professor Singer's ambitious work takes much of its shape from a number of recent discussions: De Rougemont's mythanalyses of love in the Western World, Norman Brown's Life Against Death, and Nygren's Eros and Agape The Frenchman's thesis- that so-called passionate love is really love of death rather than personal involvement with the beloved- is viewed as simplistic reasoning and historically bogus. For Singer, ""the source of love is not God or the libido: it is rather ideas about love that have developed throughout the history of mankind, arising into prominence in one period and filtering down into the presuppositions of succeeding ones... Human sexuality does not exist apart from thinking, feeling, doing-and, above all, making a system of values."" These somewhat programmatic remarks are brilliantly amplified in the ensuing chapters which trace the varieties of love from antiquity through the medieval world, Principally centered in the domains of philosophy, theology, and literature as represented in the thought of Plato. Aristotle Plotinus, Ovid, Lucretius, Augustine, Aquinas, and Luther, along with certain contemporary formulations, largely restricted to Freud and Santayana. The meat of Singer's presentation lies in his grappling with pagan and Christian categories of Eros, Philia, Nomos and Agape, as well as the problem of idealization and the distinction between appraisal and bestowal as ethical claims. The book, parts of which have already appeared in the Hudson Review, suffers from a lack of stylistic and speculative clarity, but nevertheless remains an important, far-reaching, forward-looking contribution, creative scholarship of a high order.

Pub Date: June 17th, 1966
Publisher: Random House