LOVE: Emotion, Myth and Metaphor by Robert Solomon

LOVE: Emotion, Myth and Metaphor

Email this review


Popular philosopher Solomon, who likes to paint bright intellectual murals with a very broad brush (see his The Passions and the near-preposterous History and Human Nature), here shows us his portfolio of phenomenological sketches of love--and they're not bad at all. Solomon was evidently inspired to write by the flourishing state of his own erotic fortunes or ""loveworld,"" as he unfortunately calls it. This gives the book an agreeable ebullience so that even when he's not quite talking sense, the reader doesn't mind listening. Romantic love, Solomon argues, is ""sexual, reciprocal, personal, and shared."" It's also a highly specific cultural artifact, a product of Western individualism, not a universal need, but an ""always tentative, tenuous, never certain"" emotion. Again, love is not a commitment (it follows only its own ""selfish"" imperative), not a state (but a process), not friendship with sexual favors (more exalted and ecstatic). Love is part of the modern search for selfhood; it helps create the identity one offers but should not abandon to one's lover. None of this, obviously, lays any major claims to novelty, but Solomon presents it with clarity and force. He's not a great stylist. He has a regrettable habit of quoting Marilyn French rather than, say, Madame de La Fayette. He indulges in a sophomoric roasting of Plato. His irresistible yen for the sweeping statement hurries him into errors of fact, both minor (making Jane Austen a Victorian) and gross (misplacing Ficino in the 12th century). But his scholarly sloppiness is at least partially redeemed by Solomon's popularizing skills and his awareness of the contemporary scene (for example, he treats feminist attacks on romance with perceptive sympathy). An erratic but spirited performance.

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, 1981
ISBN: 0879755695
Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday