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The Concepts of Love & Life from Philosophical Point of View

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Understanding the thoughts of Bertrand Russell“To fear love is to fear life and those who fear life are already three parts dead”

Russell focuses on this line of thought to define love through his Analytic Philosophy which gives a logical and more comprehensive meaning of love. This chapter aims to give a brief overview about the philosophy of love by Bertrand Russell.

Concept of Love

The concept of love is formulated since the man was thinking. From the ancient time, Socrates, a great philosopher said that love was a perpetual possession of the good. In the notion of ‘perpetual possession’ of the Good, that in the Symposium Socrates modifies his earlier definition: to love beauty is to wish to bring forth in beauty. To possess it perpetually would be to re-create it endlessly. Consequently, love must by its very nature be the love of immortality as well as of the Beautiful. That explains why love is associated with the reproduction of the species. Love issues into a desire to procreate because procreation is our nearest approach to perpetuity. We cherish our children because through them we may partake of the future. Also the sacrifices of heroes stem from a love of fame, which is none other than the love of immortality. Yet the philosopher’s love brings him as close to immortality as possible. When we contemplate absolute beauty with an unfettered soul, we are in contact with the eternal in a way that secures perpetuity. We may never bring forth children nor create works of art or even enact a deed of great importance. Nevertheless, the philosopher’s achievement will be supreme: ‘he will have the privilege of being beloved of God, and becoming, if ever a man can, immortal himself.’ (Plato, 1951, p. 95) He is described in the Republic as follows: He contemplates a world of unchanging and harmonious order, where reason governs and nothing can do or suffer wrong; and like one who imitates an admired companion, he cannot fail to fashion himself in its likeness. So the philosopher, in constant companionship with the divine order of the world, will reproduce that order in his soul and, so far as man can, become godlike; though here, as elsewhere, there will be scope for detraction. (Plato, 1941, p. 208)

Also in Phaedrus, the search for absolute good or beauty is considered in terms of problems that the soul faces in becoming immortal. According to Plato’s dualistic view of human nature, the soul is immaterial and indestructible, therefore in itself immortal. But once it descends to the world of nature, it is enclosed with the material casing of a material body. In its original state the soul lived among the gods, enjoying the true being of the eternal Forms. As they become human beings, most souls forget their divine origin. Immersion in matter blunts the awareness of their spiritual source. Nevertheless, that past remains as a state of wholeness to which all men secretly aspire. Though it may act with confusion, the soul wishes to reunite itself with the realm of essences, particularly that absolute good or beauty which shimmers through the world of sense but can be properly enjoyed only in its own domain.

In Plato’s view the nature of the human being is double, an unstable composition of body and soul, each governed by contrary impulses. Each part struggles to move the human being in its own direction, both impelled by the dictates of love, but love for different kinds of objects. The body allows carnal temptations to drag it down to the mire of sensuality. The soul wants to move upward towards its home among the eternal Forms. The latter cares only about the achievement of excellence, through a pure, noble, spiritual relationship that enables both lover and beloved to improve in the search for virtue. Yet human nature finds it easier to follow the lure of the flesh. In the Symposium love generally appears calm and serene, like Socrates’ character and like the orderly advance towards absolute beauty. In the Phaedrus it is turbulent and overwhelming enough to deserve to be called ‘the divine madness’. Madness can be pathological, resulting from human infirmity. Or it can be, as all creative inspiration is, ‘a divine release of the soul from the yoke of custom and convention’. True love is madness of the latter sort and it is highly desirable. When the enlightened spirit finally wrenches itself from the debasing but pervasive influence of the body, it seems to lose all sense of equilibrium. Actually, it is only regaining freedom and the true sanity of man. The sight of beauty, which the soul encountered in its previous state but quickly forgot, stirs the spirit anew whenever it appears before the lover.

Plato very vividly describes the excitement of the lover who sees in another person an expression of divine beauty: At first a shudder runs through him, and again the old awe steals over him; then looking upon the face of his beloved as of a god he reverences him, and if he were not afraid of being thought a downright madman, he would sacrifice to his beloved as to the image of a god; then while he gazes on him there is a sort of reaction, and the shudder passes into an unusual heat and perspiration. (Plato, 1937, p. 225) We may interpret the reaction as a sexual response, yet this is not what Plato has in mind. He explains through the language of emotion how the soul grows wings. For Platonism, such adoration is the beginning of love. When ascending the ladder of love, the true lover possesses the good by enabling the Good to take possession of him. When this happens, the lover attains knowledge of reality.

Concept of Life

In Meaning in Life: An Analytic Study (Metz 2013), my overarching aims are to articulate a novel theory of what would make a human person’s life meaningful and to argue that it is more justified than competitors to be found in the analytic philosophical literature from the past 100 or so years. This project inherently brings with it certain limitations. In focusing on the meaning of an individual’s life, I set aside the issue of what, if anything, might confer meaning on the human race in general. In evaluating theories of meaning in a person’s life, I address fundamental principles that purportedly capture what all meaningful conditions have in common, and so do not explore particularist, phenomenological, strictly first-personal or other philosophical approaches that one might adopt. In considering principally analytic texts, i.e., those in the English-speaking, Anglo-American philosophical tradition, I do not thoroughly discuss those in other traditions such as the Continental or East Asian. Finally, in reflecting mainly on philosophical works, I bracket considerations of how research in other fields such as psychology or religion might be revealing.

Given such a focus, I found more than enough authors, works and ideas with which to grapple in Meaning in Life. About half of the contributions to this special issue of the Journal of Philosophy of Life have elected to stay within the parameters of my project; they use the same sort of lens that I employ, but see something different from what I do. Here I am thinking of the articles by Peter Baumann, David Matheson, Jason Poettcker, Yu Urata, Hasko von Kriegstein, Nicholas Waghorn, Mark Wells and Fumitake Yoshizawa. However, one major rationale for this special issue of the Journal of Philosophy of Life was to encourage the reflective exploration of issues of meaning through a different lens altogether. Such an approach characterizes the contributions of Christopher Ketcham, Minao Kukita, Masahiro Morioka, James Tartaglia and Sho Yamaguchi, all of whom, except for Tartaglia, work within the East Asian philosophical tradition. iii Usually these latter critics maintain not merely that their lens is different and merits use alongside mine, but also that it is better and should be used instead of it. In my reply to these contributors, I argue that this stronger view is implausible, and that, at best, they offer a lens that would usefully supplement, but that should not supplant, the one that I employ. I do not defend the claim that would be the mirror image of the one these critics make, viz., that only my, theoretical-analytic way of approaching issues of meaning is appropriate. At this stage of my thought, I am pluralist about methodology, maintaining that it would be useful to view meaning through a variety of lenses.

In the rest of this overview, I provide a sketch of the three major parts of Meaning in Life, reviewing just enough to make sense of the rich debates that follow. This special issue of the Journal has advanced reflection about meaning, and done so in some truly deep and interesting ways. I am honoured and heartened that my book was the occasion for such additions to the stock of knowledge. In the first major part of Meaning in Life I analyze the category of meaningfulness in a way that is intended to be largely neutral amongst competing theories of what meaningfulness essentially is insofar as it is exhibited to a certain degree in a human person’s life. Specifically, I define what most in Anglo-American philosophy mean by the phrase “meaning in life” and cognate terms, indicate what the bearer of this value is, and differentiate meaningfulness from happiness, subjectively construed. With regard to definitional matters, I ultimately maintain that a pluralist, family resemblance model is most defensible at this point.

According to this view, talk of “meaning in life” is about ideas such as purposiveness, transcendence, aptness of emotions such as admiration and esteem, and narrative properties. While each of these ideas captures a large array of theoretical work in the relevant literature, no one of them captures everything on its own. I next consider what the bearer of life’s meaning is, i.e., what it is about a life that can be meaningful or meaningless. Is it only the life as a patterned whole, merely the parts of a life considered in themselves, or iv both? I conclude in favour of the latter, mixed view; I maintain that there are two independent dimensions of meaning in life, namely, certain parts of a person’s life at a certain time, such as a particular action, project or stage (e.g., adolescence) and then also the person’s life considered in its entirety. A complete judgment of the degree of meaning in a person’s life, which would ground a comparison with the lives of others, must weigh up both dimensions and add them together in some way. In the rest of part one, I compare and contrast the goods of pleasure and meaning, focusing most on highlighting important differences between them. I contrast pleasure and meaning with respect to six value-theoretic factors, amongst them: what the logical sources of these values are in contrast to their bearers, how luck can play a role in their realization of the values, and which attitudes are appropriate in response to them.

I conclude by suggesting that a pleasant life is plausibly to be identified with a happy one, which means that happiness and meaningfulness are two distinct goods that can each contribute independently to making a life choice-worthy. In the next two major parts of the book, I focus on spelling out and evaluating a wide array of theories of life’s meaning, basic accounts of what all the meaningful conditions of a life have in common. I assess theories largely in terms of the extent to which they entail and plausibly explain intuitions salient in the Anglo-American philosophical literature, particularly as they concern the meaningfulness of the good (morality, beneficence), the true (knowledge, wisdom) and the beautiful (art, creativity). Specifically, in the second part, I criticize supernaturalist theories of meaning in life, according to which either God or a soul (or both), as typically conceived in the monotheist tradition, is necessary for life to be at all meaningful. I spend considerable time focusing on the most influential version of supernaturalism, according to which meaning in a person’s life consists of her fulfilling God’s purpose. I provide reasons to doubt arguments in favour of purpose theory, and also claim to offer a novel reason to doubt the view itself.

According to this latter argument, in order for God to be necessary to confer meaning on our lives, God would have to be qualitatively different from, and higher than, anything that could exist in the natural wor v would have to be a person who has properties such as simplicity and atemporality, properties that are difficult to reconcile with purposive agency, which appears to be essentially complex and temporal. I also proffer arguments against any supernaturalism, not just the purposive version of it. The most original objection is that many of those who adopt supernaturalism hold views that are in tension with each other. On the one hand, they claim to know that some lives have meaning in them, but, on the other, they do not claim to know that anything supernatural, such as God or a soul, actually exists. Supernaturalists might have faith in the latter, but that is of course not conclusive evidence of their existence, which most implicitly maintain they have about the presence of meaning in people’s lives.

In the third part of Meaning in Life, I present a new naturalist theory that I contend improves upon extant versions of naturalism, the broad view that a life in a purely physical world could be meaningful. I first provide counterexamples to a wide range of existing naturalist views, including the theories that a life is meaningful just insofar as it is creative, promotes welfarist or perfectionist consequences in the long run, or connects with organic unities beyond itself. I then advance my favoured view at this stage, the fundamentality theory, which is roughly the idea that a life is (particularly) meaningful insofar as exercises reason in a robust, sophisticated way and orients it towards basic conditions of human existence, ones that are largely responsible for or explain much else about it. Just as H2O is fundamental to water, and being a CEO is fundamental to the operations of a firm (on which see Metz 2015), so there are certain properties of human life that are fundamental to (i.e., roughly, account for much of) various dimensions of it. For example, space-time, gravity and light are fundamental to the environment in which human beings live; communication, socialization and labour are fundamental to the development of the human species; practical reasoning and community are fundamental to the course of a human society; and character is fundamental to the way a particular one of us lives (an additional dimension that I did not discuss in the book, but see Metz 2014).

By my theory, great meaning in a life comes from using rationality to positively engage with these kinds of “deep” facets of human life. vi Sometimes that is a matter of discovering or learning what they are; other times it is a matter of protecting them; and still other times it is a matter of expressing respect for or appreciation of them. I do not claim that the fundamentality theory is perfect, as it stands. However, I continue to be inclined to think that it is the best springboard for future reflection. It is better than existing rivals in the literature, captures intuitions about the good, the true and the beautiful as central to meaning, intuitions that are salient in the Anglo-American philosophical literature, which I have principally addressed so far.2.3.) Concept of Love as part of LifeLove is something far more than desire for sexual intercourse; it is the principal means of escape from the loneliness which afflicts most men and women throughout the greater part of their lives. There is a deep-seated fear, in most people, of the cold world and the possible cruelty of the herd; there is a longing for affection, which is often concealed by roughness, boorishness or a bullying manner in men, and by nagging and scolding in women. Passionate mutual love while it lasts puts an end to this feeling; it breaks down the hard walls of the ego, producing a new being composed of two in one.

This view of Russell gives support to his view about love which was: To fear love is to fear life and those who fear life are already three parts dead. By three parts dead, he meant the three passions in our life. These three passions were simple but overwhelmingly strong. First is the longing for love which simply explains our devotion to find someone to love. This passion also incorporates our soul, which was said to be responsible for human’s feelings and emotion. The next passion was our search for knowledge or love for knowledge and incorporates our mind which was responsible for the decisions we made and lastly, our unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. This passion incorporates our soul, mind and our body which is responsible for every action we make.

Arthur Schopenhauer was once a well known philosopher on his times. His philosophical view on love helps support the view of Bertrand Russell on love through his thought: The final aim of all love intrigues be they comic or tragic, is really of more importance than all other ends in human life. This thought says that no matter how hard love hits your life, either it affects you in a good way or bad way, love is still the way to see the essence of your life on the world.While despite his praise for the life of asceticism, Schopenhauer tried his hardest to have a decent social and love life. While his connections allowed for some success in the former case, he was rather luckless in the later. He viewed love itself positively, seeing it as one of the key motivations for human activity. His writings on the “will to life” foreshadowed Freudian notions of the id. While on the ancient philosophy, Aristotle was one of the philosopher who intended that love is always part of our lives through his thought:Love is a single soul inhabiting two bodies.

According to Aristotle, soul is perfect that it can reach anything and it doesn’t have limitations while the body is the prison of the soul which limits the ability of a perfect soul. Our soul is also the very reason of our existence and the reason for we are living. Which simply shows that in order to found love, one must live and had the wits to take the risk of entering other’s life and be part of it while leaving his own life.

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