Friday, February 14, 2014

Love Requires a Predicate

With Dee, Stella, Holly, Debbie, and Trevor in Detroit
Love requires a predicate. 

"S loves p." As in: "S is in love with ____" (with p = "in love with ____). "John loves Linda." A 'subject' loves a 'predicate'; in this example, a subject loves a person.

"The lover desires the beloved." Love, therefore, is other-centered. At its best, and purest, a lover loves the beloved in such a way that the belovedexperiences being-loved. Real love isfor the sake of the other, and not essentially for one's own self. Love serves the beloved. Where there is love the beloved's well-being becomes paramount.

"Love" is a relationship in which the predicate benefits at the expense of the subject. The subject spends itself on the predicate. When it's the other way around, when the subject benefits at the expense of the predicate, the predicate loses their personhood and becomes a mere object. "Sloves p" gets reduced to, simply, "S." The beloved loses their identity. This is the loopy logic of self-love, of "love" for the sake of one's self. The predicate is the subject. A strange self-reflexive loop is formed. This is the kind of "love" that is never satisfied. This is the "love" that leds to adulterous affairs and serial monogamy and non-commitment.

Thomas Merton writes: "The one love that always grows weary of its object and is never satisfied with anything and is always looking for something different and new is the love of ourselves. It is the source of all boredom and all restlessness and all unqiet and all misery and all unhappiness - ultimately, it is hell." (The Waters of Siloe) When no "predicates" satisfy the "subject" the reason is because the subject is an all-absorbing thing eats up love-objects like a dog devours a chunk of meat.

"S loves p" could be construed, not as a subject-predicate statement but as a subject-object statement. What, precisely, in "S loves p," is predicated of S? Isn't p to be understood as the "object" of S's love and not a predicate that ascribes something to the subject? No and yes. 

No: p is not best understood as an "object" of S's love. Subject-object language implies relational distance, which "love" has nothing to do with. "Love," being essentially a connected-relational thing, speaks of oneness and unity rather than two-ness and distance. Two lovers "become one flesh." "One flesh" language resists the Cartesian ontological dichotomy between a knowing subject and an object which is to be known. 

Yes: because if love were an ontological union between the lover and the beloved both would disappear. Or, perhaps, the beloved would be absorbed into the lover. In this case "S loves _____" would become, simply, S. There is always a distance between lover and beloved, but the distance is not a Cartesian metaphysical distance. 

I think subject-predicate language better explains the love-relationship than does subject-object language. In the statement "The chalk is white," "whiteness" is predicated as an attribute of "chalk," and thus tells us something about a certain piece of "chalk." Analogously, to say "S lovesp" (or "S loves ____") tells us something about the being of S, instead of simply objectifying p.

The noetic framework that best accounts for the nature of real love as predicate-centered is Christian Trinitarian theism. The Christian idea of God as  "trinity" of Persons conceptually explains the idea that God is love. God, in his being, is love. Because we have a God who is a three-personed being sharing one essence, the love of God is not self-love. In the idea of God-as-Trinity Father, Son, and Spirit love one another throughout eternity. God's love is "predicative" and relational, rather than objectifying in the sense of Descartes and the influential Cartesian tradition

In John 14-17 Jesus extends to us the invitation to enter in to Trinitarian love. The love that ultimately satisfies, the love that provides the foundation of all earthly loves, the very source of love itself as other-centered, becomes ours. Real love requires a predicate because the God who is love is, in his essence, a lover of others. God is the author of the subject-predicate love that defines his very being.