Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Love and the Will-to-Life

In his work "The Symposium" Plato declared that a man without love is like a creature with only half its limbs. If you folow Plato's reasoning you could say that I am a creature with all my limbs attached and working. As fortunate as I am, like every creature on earth I take what I have for granted. I am no romantic although I can be very silly and affectionate with the ones I love. My wife may lament my lack of romaticism but she will agree that I am not lacking in love and affection for her.

The greatest romantics are usually those who are pursuing love and have yet to find it or are in the process of wooing. During my days as a loner or rather a loser, I was able to grasp the nature and necessity of love although I didn't have it at the time. Loneliness really makes you see things in a different light.

Philosophers have not traditionally been impressed by the trivial tribulations of love but Schopenhauer, one of my favourite philosophers, had a different take on things. He believed that love is important and never accidental. He had a theory, the "will-to-life", that states that there is an inherent drive in human beings to stay alive and reproduce.

Even the most cynical career-minded individuals will be driven to be in the position to reproduce if only because of attraction to the opposite sex. The continuation of the species is seldom on our minds when we ask for a phone number because we are split into conscious and unconscious selves. The intellect and human-will are two different things. The "human-will" always wins over the intellect which explains why even the most intellectual people are capable of the stupidest things when in love.

I am sure you have wondered at one time or another why you ended up with the person that you're with. "Why him?" or "Why her?". Why weren't you attracted to someone else who may have been more attractive and perhaps more convenient to live with?

Schopenhauer's answer is that our will-to-life drives us towards people who are our opposites. The will-to-life pushes us towards people who can, on account of their imperfections, cancel out our own. For example a flat or large nosed person reproducing with a smaller sharper nosed person promises an offspring with a more attractive nose. Short women will fall in love with tall men but rarely tall men with tall women. It is the neutralisation of the two individualities so that the one-sidedness of each cancels out the other.

Unfortunately, Schopenhauer's theory of attraction also argues that a person who is highly suitable for our future child is almost never very suitable for us. Happiness and the production of healthy children are two radically contrasting projects. Love blinds us for as long as it can. The will of the species is so much more powerful than that of the individual.

Who says we are in control of the choices we make in life?

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