Superphysics Superphysics
Articles 79-

Love and Hatred

by Rene Descartes Icon
6 minutes  • 1100 words
Table of contents

79. The definitions of Love and Hatred

Both love and hatred are emotions of the soul caused by the movement of spirits.

  • Love impels the soul to unite its will with objects that appear suitable to it.
  • Hatred incites the soul to desire separation from objects that present themselves as harmful.

80. What it means to unite or separate with will.

Desire is a separate passion and pertains to the future.

Will does not mean here desire.

It is the consent by which one considers oneself as presently united with what one loves: so that one imagines a whole, of which one believes oneself to be only a part, and that the beloved thing is another.

Conversely, in hatred, one considers oneself alone as a whole, entirely separated from the thing for which one feels aversion.

81. The distinction commonly made between Love of benevolence and concupiscence.

There are 2 kinds of Love based on the effects of Love, not its essence:

  1. Love of benevolence

This incites a desire for good towards what one loves

  1. Love of concupiscence

It desires the thing one loves.

For as soon as one unites one’s will with some object, of whatever nature it may be, one has benevolence towards it, meaning one also unites one’s will with the things one believes to be suitable for it: which is one of the principal effects of Love.

And if one judges it a good to possess it, or to be associated with it in some other way than merely by will, one desires it: which is also one of the most common effects of Love.

82. How very different passions participate in Love.

There are many species of Love as there are diverse objects one can love.

For example:

  1. The love of an ambitious person for glory
  2. The love of a miser for money
  3. The love of a drunkard for wine
  4. The love of a brute for a woman he wishes to violate
  5. The love of a person of honor for his friend or for his mistress
  6. The love of a good father for his children

These are different from each other yet they are similar insofar as they participate in Love.

But the first four have Love only for the possession of the objects to which their passion refers.

They do not love the objects themselves, for which they have only desire mixed with other particular passions.

Whereas the Love that a good father has for his children is so pure. He desires nothing from them.

He does not want to possess them in any other way than he already does, nor to be more closely united with them than he already is.

But considering them as other selves, he seeks their good as his own, often preferring their interests to his own, and does not hesitate to sacrifice himself to save them.

The affection that people of honor have for their friends is of the same nature, although it is rarely so perfect.

The affection that they have for their mistress shares much in this, but it also shares a little in the other.

88. The Difference between Simple Affection, Friendship, and Devotion.

One can better distinguish Love by the esteem one holds for what one loves in comparison to oneself.

When one esteems the object of one’s Love less than oneself, one has only a simple Affection for it; when one esteems it equal to oneself, that is called Friendship; and when one esteems it more, the passion one has for it may be called Devotion.

Thus, one can have affection for a flower, a bird, or a horse, but unless one’s mind is very disordered, one can only have Friendship for humans.

They are so much the object of this passion that there is no person so imperfect that one cannot have a very perfect friendship for them, provided one believes oneself loved by them, and has a truly noble and generous soul: as will be explained later, in Articles 154 and 156.

The principal object of Devotion is the sovereign divinity. We cannot fail to be devoted to Him when we know Him.

But one can also have Devotion for:

  • one’s Prince
  • one’s country
  • one’s city
  • even for a person, when one esteems them much more than oneself.

The difference between these 3 kinds of Love is in their effects:

In all of them, we consider ourselves as united with, and part of, the beloved thing.

  • In simple affection, we always prefer ourselves to what we love.
  • In devotion, we greatly prefer the beloved thing that we do not fear to die to preserve it.

84. There are not as many species of Hatred as there are of Love.

Hatred is directly opposed to Love. But it is has less kinds because we do not notice as much difference between the evils that we want to avoid, as we do between the goods that we want to unite with.

85. Pleasure and Horror

The objects of both Love and Hatred can be represented to the soul by the external senses or by the internal senses and its own reason.

We commonly call good or evil what our internal senses or our reason judge to be suitable or contrary to our nature; but we call beautiful or ugly what is represented to us by our external senses, primarily by that of sight, which alone is more considered than all the others.

Hence arise two kinds of Love:

  1. Pleasure

This is our love for good things

  1. Desire

Our love for beautiful things

Similarly, 2 kinds of Hatred arise:

  1. Horror

This is our hatred for bad things.

  1. Aversion

This is our hatred for ugly things.

Pleasure and Horror commonly tend to be more violent than the other species of Love or Hatred.

This is because what comes to the soul through the senses affects it more strongly than what is represented to it by its reason; and yet they usually have less truth.

Thus, of all the passions, these are the ones that deceive the most, and against which one must be most carefully on guard.

86. The Definition of Desire

Desire is an agitation of the Soul caused by the spirits. It disposes the Soul to wish for things in the future that it represents to itself as suitable.

Thus, one desires not only the presence of absent good, but also the preservation of what is present; and furthermore, the absence of evil, both of that which one already has and of that which one believes one could receive in the future time.

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