Before You Write a Love Essay, Read This to Get Examples

The day will come when you can’t escape the fate of all students: You will have to write a what is love essay.

No worries:

Here you’ll find tons of love essay topics and examples. No time to read everything? Scroll down to get a free PDF with original samples.

Definition: Essay on Love

First, let’s define what is love essay?

The most common topics are:

  • Definition of love
  • What is love?
  • Meaning of love

Why limit yourself to these hackneyed, general themes? Below, I’ll show how to make your paper on love original yet relevant to the prompt you get from teachers.

Love Essay Topics: 20 Ideas to Choose for Your Paper

Your essay on love and relationship doesn’t have to be super official and unemotional. It’s ok to share reflections and personal opinions when writing about romance.

Often, students get a general task to write an essay on love. It means they can choose a theme and a title for their paper. If that’s your case,  feel free to try any of these love essay topics:

  • Exploring the impact of love on individuals and relationships.
  • Love in the digital age: Navigating romance in a tech world.
  • Is there any essence and significance in unconditional love?
  • Love as a universal language: Connecting hearts across cultures.
  • Biochemistry of love: Exploring the process.
  • Love vs. passion vs. obsession.
  • How love helps cope with heartbreak and grief.
  • The art of loving. How we breed intimacy and trust.
  • The science behind attraction and attachment.
  • How love and relationships shape our identity and help with self-discovery.
  • Love and vulnerability: How to embrace emotional openness.
  • Romance is more complex than most think: Passion, intimacy, and commitment explained.
  • Love as empathy: Building sympathetic connections in a cruel world.
  • Evolution of love. How people described it throughout history.
  • The role of love in mental and emotional well-being.
  • Love as a tool to look and find purpose in life.
  • Welcoming diversity in relations through love and acceptance.
  • Love vs. friendship: The intersection of platonic and romantic bonds.
  • The choices we make and challenges we overcome for those we love.
  • Love and forgiveness: How its power heals wounds and strengthens bonds.

Love Essay Examples: Choose Your Sample for Inspiration

Essays about love are usually standard, 5-paragraph papers students write in college:

  • One paragraph is for an introduction, with a hook and a thesis statement
  • Three are for a body, with arguments or descriptions
  • One last passage is for a conclusion, with a thesis restatement and final thoughts

Below are the ready-made samples to consider. They’ll help you see what an essay about love with an introduction, body, and conclusion looks like.

What is love essay: 250 words

Lao Tzu once said, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” Indeed, love can transform individuals, relationships, and our world.

A word of immense depth and countless interpretations, love has always fascinated philosophers, poets, and ordinary individuals. This  emotion breaks boundaries and has a super power to change lives. But what is love, actually?

It’s a force we feel in countless ways. It is the warm embrace of a parent, filled with care and unwavering support. It is the gentle touch of a lover, sparking a flame that ignites passion and desire. Love is the kind words of a friend, offering solace and understanding in times of need. It is the selfless acts of compassion and empathy that bind humanity together.

Love is not confined to romantic relationships alone. It is found in the family bonds, the connections we forge with friends, and even the compassion we extend to strangers. Love is a thread that weaves through the fabric of our lives, enriching and nourishing our souls.

However, love is not without its complexities. It can be both euphoric and agonizing, uplifting and devastating. Love requires vulnerability, trust, and the willingness to embrace joy and pain. It is a delicate balance between passion and compassion, independence and interdependence.

Finally, the essence of love may be elusive to define with mere words. It is an experience that surpasses language and logic, encompassing a spectrum of emotions and actions. Love is a profound connection that unites us all, reminding us of our shared humanity and the capacity for boundless compassion.

What is love essay: 500 words

essay for definition of love

A 500-word essay on why I love you

Trying to encapsulate why I love you in a mere 500 words is impossible. My love for you goes beyond the confines of language, transcending words and dwelling in the realm of emotions, connections, and shared experiences. Nevertheless, I shall endeavor to express the depth and breadth of my affection for you.

First and foremost, I love you for who you are. You possess a unique blend of qualities and characteristics that captivate my heart and mind. Your kindness and compassion touch the lives of those around you, and I am grateful to be the recipient of your unwavering care and understanding. Your intelligence and wit constantly challenge me to grow and learn, stimulating my mind and enriching our conversations. You have a beautiful spirit that radiates warmth and joy, and I am drawn to your vibrant energy.

I love the way you make me feel. When I am with you, I feel a sense of comfort and security that allows me to be my true self. Your presence envelops me in a cocoon of love and acceptance, where I can express my thoughts, fears, and dreams without fear of judgment. Your support and encouragement inspire me to pursue my passions and overcome obstacles. With you by my side, I feel empowered to face the world, knowing I have a partner who believes in me.

I love the memories we have created together. From the laughter-filled moments of shared adventures to the quiet and intimate conversations, every memory is etched in my heart. Whether exploring new places, indulging in our favorite activities, or simply enjoying each other’s company in comfortable silence, each experience reinforces our bond. Our shared memories serve as a foundation for our relationship, a testament to the depth of our connection and the love that binds us.

I love your quirks and imperfections. Your true essence shines through these unique aspects! Your little traits make me smile and remind me of the beautiful individual you are. I love how you wrinkle your nose when you laugh, become lost in thought when reading a book, and even sing off-key in the shower. These imperfections make you human, relatable, and utterly lovable.

I love the future we envision together. We support each other’s goals, cheering one another on as we navigate the path toward our dreams. The thought of building a life together, creating a home filled with love and shared experiences, fills my heart with anticipation and excitement. The future we imagine is one that I am eager to explore with you by my side.

In conclusion, the reasons why I love you are as vast and varied as the universe itself. It is a love that defies logic and surpasses the limitations of language. From the depths of my being, I love you for the person you are, the way you make me feel, the memories we cherish, your quirks and imperfections, and the future we envision together. My love for you is boundless, unconditional, and everlasting.

A 5-paragraph essay about love

essay for definition of love

I’ve gathered all the samples (and a few bonus ones) in one PDF. It’s free to download. So, you can keep it at hand when the time comes to write a love essay.

essay for definition of love

Ready to Write Your Essay About Love?

Now that you know the definition of a love essay and have many topic ideas, it’s time to write your A-worthy paper! Here go the steps:

  • Check all the examples of what is love essay from this post.
  • Choose the topic and angle that fits your prompt best.
  • Write your original and inspiring story.

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This essay focuses on personal love, or the love of particular persons as such. Part of the philosophical task in understanding personal love is to distinguish the various kinds of personal love. For example, the way in which I love my wife is seemingly very different from the way I love my mother, my child, and my friend. This task has typically proceeded hand-in-hand with philosophical analyses of these kinds of personal love, analyses that in part respond to various puzzles about love. Can love be justified? If so, how? What is the value of personal love? What impact does love have on the autonomy of both the lover and the beloved?

1. Preliminary Distinctions

2. love as union, 3. love as robust concern, 4.1 love as appraisal of value, 4.2 love as bestowal of value, 4.3 an intermediate position, 5.1 love as emotion proper, 5.2 love as emotion complex, 6. the value and justification of love, other internet resources, related entries.

In ordinary conversations, we often say things like the following:

  • I love chocolate (or skiing).
  • I love doing philosophy (or being a father).
  • I love my dog (or cat).
  • I love my wife (or mother or child or friend).

However, what is meant by ‘love’ differs from case to case. (1) may be understood as meaning merely that I like this thing or activity very much. In (2) the implication is typically that I find engaging in a certain activity or being a certain kind of person to be a part of my identity and so what makes my life worth living; I might just as well say that I value these. By contrast, (3) and (4) seem to indicate a mode of concern that cannot be neatly assimilated to anything else. Thus, we might understand the sort of love at issue in (4) to be, roughly, a matter of caring about another person as the person she is, for her own sake. (Accordingly, (3) may be understood as a kind of deficient mode of the sort of love we typically reserve for persons.) Philosophical accounts of love have focused primarily on the sort of personal love at issue in (4); such personal love will be the focus here (though see Frankfurt (1999) and Jaworska & Wonderly (2017) for attempts to provide a more general account that applies to non-persons as well).

Even within personal love, philosophers from the ancient Greeks on have traditionally distinguished three notions that can properly be called “love”: eros , agape , and philia . It will be useful to distinguish these three and say something about how contemporary discussions typically blur these distinctions (sometimes intentionally so) or use them for other purposes.

‘ Eros ’ originally meant love in the sense of a kind of passionate desire for an object, typically sexual passion (Liddell et al., 1940). Nygren (1953a,b) describes eros as the “‘love of desire,’ or acquisitive love” and therefore as egocentric (1953b, p. 89). Soble (1989b, 1990) similarly describes eros as “selfish” and as a response to the merits of the beloved—especially the beloved’s goodness or beauty. What is evident in Soble’s description of eros is a shift away from the sexual: to love something in the “erosic” sense (to use the term Soble coins) is to love it in a way that, by being responsive to its merits, is dependent on reasons. Such an understanding of eros is encouraged by Plato’s discussion in the Symposium , in which Socrates understands sexual desire to be a deficient response to physical beauty in particular, a response which ought to be developed into a response to the beauty of a person’s soul and, ultimately, into a response to the form, Beauty.

Soble’s intent in understanding eros to be a reason-dependent sort of love is to articulate a sharp contrast with agape , a sort of love that does not respond to the value of its object. ‘ Agape ’ has come, primarily through the Christian tradition, to mean the sort of love God has for us persons, as well as our love for God and, by extension, of our love for each other—a kind of brotherly love. In the paradigm case of God’s love for us, agape is “spontaneous and unmotivated,” revealing not that we merit that love but that God’s nature is love (Nygren 1953b, p. 85). Rather than responding to antecedent value in its object, agape instead is supposed to create value in its object and therefore to initiate our fellowship with God (pp. 87–88). Consequently, Badhwar (2003, p. 58) characterizes agape as “independent of the loved individual’s fundamental characteristics as the particular person she is”; and Soble (1990, p. 5) infers that agape , in contrast to eros , is therefore not reason dependent but is rationally “incomprehensible,” admitting at best of causal or historical explanations. [ 1 ]

Finally, ‘ philia ’ originally meant a kind of affectionate regard or friendly feeling towards not just one’s friends but also possibly towards family members, business partners, and one’s country at large (Liddell et al., 1940; Cooper, 1977). Like eros , philia is generally (but not universally) understood to be responsive to (good) qualities in one’s beloved. This similarity between eros and philia has led Thomas (1987) to wonder whether the only difference between romantic love and friendship is the sexual involvement of the former—and whether that is adequate to account for the real differences we experience. The distinction between eros and philia becomes harder to draw with Soble’s attempt to diminish the importance of the sexual in eros (1990).

Maintaining the distinctions among eros , agape , and philia becomes even more difficult when faced with contemporary theories of love (including romantic love) and friendship. For, as discussed below, some theories of romantic love understand it along the lines of the agape tradition as creating value in the beloved (cf. Section 4.2 ), and other accounts of romantic love treat sexual activity as merely the expression of what otherwise looks very much like friendship.

Given the focus here on personal love, Christian conceptions of God’s love for persons (and vice versa ) will be omitted, and the distinction between eros and philia will be blurred—as it typically is in contemporary accounts. Instead, the focus here will be on these contemporary understandings of love, including romantic love, understood as an attitude we take towards other persons. [ 2 ]

In providing an account of love, philosophical analyses must be careful to distinguish love from other positive attitudes we take towards persons, such as liking. Intuitively, love differs from such attitudes as liking in terms of its “depth,” and the problem is to elucidate the kind of “depth” we intuitively find love to have. Some analyses do this in part by providing thin conceptions of what liking amounts to. Thus, Singer (1991) and Brown (1987) understand liking to be a matter of desiring, an attitude that at best involves its object having only instrumental (and not intrinsic) value. Yet this seems inadequate: surely there are attitudes towards persons intermediate between having a desire with a person as its object and loving the person. I can care about a person for her own sake and not merely instrumentally, and yet such caring does not on its own amount to (non-deficiently) loving her, for it seems I can care about my dog in exactly the same way, a kind of caring which is insufficiently personal for love.

It is more common to distinguish loving from liking via the intuition that the “depth” of love is to be explained in terms of a notion of identification: to love someone is somehow to identify yourself with him, whereas no such notion of identification is involved in liking. As Nussbaum puts it, “The choice between one potential love and another can feel, and be, like a choice of a way of life, a decision to dedicate oneself to these values rather than these” (1990, p. 328); liking clearly does not have this sort of “depth” (see also Helm 2010; Bagley 2015). Whether love involves some kind of identification, and if so exactly how to understand such identification, is a central bone of contention among the various analyses of love. In particular, Whiting (2013) argues that the appeal to a notion of identification distorts our understanding of the sort of motivation love can provide, for taken literally it implies that love motivates through self -interest rather than through the beloved’s interests. Thus, Whiting argues, central to love is the possibility that love takes the lover “outside herself”, potentially forgetting herself in being moved directly by the interests of the beloved. (Of course, we need not take the notion of identification literally in this way: in identifying with one’s beloved, one might have a concern for one’s beloved that is analogous to one’s concern for oneself; see Helm 2010.)

Another common way to distinguish love from other personal attitudes is in terms of a distinctive kind of evaluation, which itself can account for love’s “depth.” Again, whether love essentially involves a distinctive kind of evaluation, and if so how to make sense of that evaluation, is hotly disputed. Closely related to questions of evaluation are questions of justification: can we justify loving or continuing to love a particular person, and if so, how? For those who think the justification of love is possible, it is common to understand such justification in terms of evaluation, and the answers here affect various accounts’ attempts to make sense of the kind of constancy or commitment love seems to involve, as well as the sense in which love is directed at particular individuals.

In what follows, theories of love are tentatively and hesitantly classified into four types: love as union, love as robust concern, love as valuing, and love as an emotion. It should be clear, however, that particular theories classified under one type sometimes also include, without contradiction, ideas central to other types. The types identified here overlap to some extent, and in some cases classifying particular theories may involve excessive pigeonholing. (Such cases are noted below.) Part of the classificatory problem is that many accounts of love are quasi-reductionistic, understanding love in terms of notions like affection, evaluation, attachment, etc., which themselves never get analyzed. Even when these accounts eschew explicitly reductionistic language, very often little attempt is made to show how one such “aspect” of love is conceptually connected to others. As a result, there is no clear and obvious way to classify particular theories, let alone identify what the relevant classes should be.

The union view claims that love consists in the formation of (or the desire to form) some significant kind of union, a “we.” A central task for union theorists, therefore, is to spell out just what such a “we” comes to—whether it is literally a new entity in the world somehow composed of the lover and the beloved, or whether it is merely metaphorical. Variants of this view perhaps go back to Aristotle (cf. Sherman 1993) and can also be found in Montaigne ([E]) and Hegel (1997); contemporary proponents include Solomon (1981, 1988), Scruton (1986), Nozick (1989), Fisher (1990), and Delaney (1996).

Scruton, writing in particular about romantic love, claims that love exists “just so soon as reciprocity becomes community: that is, just so soon as all distinction between my interests and your interests is overcome” (1986, p. 230). The idea is that the union is a union of concern, so that when I act out of that concern it is not for my sake alone or for your sake alone but for our sake. Fisher (1990) holds a similar, but somewhat more moderate view, claiming that love is a partial fusion of the lovers’ cares, concerns, emotional responses, and actions. What is striking about both Scruton and Fisher is the claim that love requires the actual union of the lovers’ concerns, for it thus becomes clear that they conceive of love not so much as an attitude we take towards another but as a relationship: the distinction between your interests and mine genuinely disappears only when we together come to have shared cares, concerns, etc., and my merely having a certain attitude towards you is not enough for love. This provides content to the notion of a “we” as the (metaphorical?) subject of these shared cares and concerns, and as that for whose sake we act.

Solomon (1988) offers a union view as well, though one that tries “to make new sense out of ‘love’ through a literal rather than metaphoric sense of the ‘fusion’ of two souls” (p. 24, cf. Solomon 1981; however, it is unclear exactly what he means by a “soul” here and so how love can be a “literal” fusion of two souls). What Solomon has in mind is the way in which, through love, the lovers redefine their identities as persons in terms of the relationship: “Love is the concentration and the intensive focus of mutual definition on a single individual, subjecting virtually every personal aspect of one’s self to this process” (1988, p. 197). The result is that lovers come to share the interests, roles, virtues, and so on that constitute what formerly was two individual identities but now has become a shared identity, and they do so in part by each allowing the other to play an important role in defining his own identity.

Nozick (1989) offers a union view that differs from those of Scruton, Fisher, and Solomon in that Nozick thinks that what is necessary for love is merely the desire to form a “we,” together with the desire that your beloved reciprocates. Nonetheless, he claims that this “we” is “a new entity in the world…created by a new web of relationships between [the lovers] which makes them no longer separate” (p. 70). In spelling out this web of relationships, Nozick appeals to the lovers “pooling” not only their well-beings, in the sense that the well-being of each is tied up with that of the other, but also their autonomy, in that “each transfers some previous rights to make certain decisions unilaterally into a joint pool” (p. 71). In addition, Nozick claims, the lovers each acquire a new identity as a part of the “we,” a new identity constituted by their (a) wanting to be perceived publicly as a couple, (b) their attending to their pooled well-being, and (c) their accepting a “certain kind of division of labor” (p. 72):

A person in a we might find himself coming across something interesting to read yet leaving it for the other person, not because he himself would not be interested in it but because the other would be more interested, and one of them reading it is sufficient for it to be registered by the wider identity now shared, the we . [ 3 ]

Opponents of the union view have seized on claims like this as excessive: union theorists, they claim, take too literally the ontological commitments of this notion of a “we.” This leads to two specific criticisms of the union view. The first is that union views do away with individual autonomy. Autonomy, it seems, involves a kind of independence on the part of the autonomous agent, such that she is in control over not only what she does but also who she is, as this is constituted by her interests, values, concerns, etc. However, union views, by doing away with a clear distinction between your interests and mine, thereby undermine this sort of independence and so undermine the autonomy of the lovers. If autonomy is a part of the individual’s good, then, on the union view, love is to this extent bad; so much the worse for the union view (Singer 1994; Soble 1997). Moreover, Singer (1994) argues that a necessary part of having your beloved be the object of your love is respect for your beloved as the particular person she is, and this requires respecting her autonomy.

Union theorists have responded to this objection in several ways. Nozick (1989) seems to think of a loss of autonomy in love as a desirable feature of the sort of union lovers can achieve. Fisher (1990), somewhat more reluctantly, claims that the loss of autonomy in love is an acceptable consequence of love. Yet without further argument these claims seem like mere bullet biting. Solomon (1988, pp. 64ff) describes this “tension” between union and autonomy as “the paradox of love.” However, this a view that Soble (1997) derides: merely to call it a paradox, as Solomon does, is not to face up to the problem.

The second criticism involves a substantive view concerning love. Part of what it is to love someone, these opponents say, is to have concern for him for his sake. However, union views make such concern unintelligible and eliminate the possibility of both selfishness and self-sacrifice, for by doing away with the distinction between my interests and your interests they have in effect turned your interests into mine and vice versa (Soble 1997; see also Blum 1980, 1993). Some advocates of union views see this as a point in their favor: we need to explain how it is I can have concern for people other than myself, and the union view apparently does this by understanding your interests to be part of my own. And Delaney, responding to an apparent tension between our desire to be loved unselfishly (for fear of otherwise being exploited) and our desire to be loved for reasons (which presumably are attractive to our lover and hence have a kind of selfish basis), says (1996, p. 346):

Given my view that the romantic ideal is primarily characterized by a desire to achieve a profound consolidation of needs and interests through the formation of a we , I do not think a little selfishness of the sort described should pose a worry to either party.

The objection, however, lies precisely in this attempt to explain my concern for my beloved egoistically. As Whiting (1991, p. 10) puts it, such an attempt “strikes me as unnecessary and potentially objectionable colonization”: in love, I ought to be concerned with my beloved for her sake, and not because I somehow get something out of it. (This can be true whether my concern with my beloved is merely instrumental to my good or whether it is partly constitutive of my good.)

Although Whiting’s and Soble’s criticisms here succeed against the more radical advocates of the union view, they in part fail to acknowledge the kernel of truth to be gleaned from the idea of union. Whiting’s way of formulating the second objection in terms of an unnecessary egoism in part points to a way out: we persons are in part social creatures, and love is one profound mode of that sociality. Indeed, part of the point of union accounts is to make sense of this social dimension: to make sense of a way in which we can sometimes identify ourselves with others not merely in becoming interdependent with them (as Singer 1994, p. 165, suggests, understanding ‘interdependence’ to be a kind of reciprocal benevolence and respect) but rather in making who we are as persons be constituted in part by those we love (cf., e.g., Rorty 1986/1993; Nussbaum 1990).

Along these lines, Friedman (1998), taking her inspiration in part from Delaney (1996), argues that we should understand the sort of union at issue in love to be a kind of federation of selves:

On the federation model, a third unified entity is constituted by the interaction of the lovers, one which involves the lovers acting in concert across a range of conditions and for a range of purposes. This concerted action, however, does not erase the existence of the two lovers as separable and separate agents with continuing possibilities for the exercise of their own respective agencies. [p. 165]

Given that on this view the lovers do not give up their individual identities, there is no principled reason why the union view cannot make sense of the lover’s concern for her beloved for his sake. [ 4 ] Moreover, Friedman argues, once we construe union as federation, we can see that autonomy is not a zero-sum game; rather, love can both directly enhance the autonomy of each and promote the growth of various skills, like realistic and critical self-evaluation, that foster autonomy.

Nonetheless, this federation model is not without its problems—problems that affect other versions of the union view as well. For if the federation (or the “we”, as on Nozick’s view) is understood as a third entity, we need a clearer account than has been given of its ontological status and how it comes to be. Relevant here is the literature on shared intention and plural subjects. Gilbert (1989, 1996, 2000) has argued that we should take quite seriously the existence of a plural subject as an entity over and above its constituent members. Others, such as Tuomela (1984, 1995), Searle (1990), and Bratman (1999) are more cautious, treating such talk of “us” having an intention as metaphorical.

As this criticism of the union view indicates, many find caring about your beloved for her sake to be a part of what it is to love her. The robust concern view of love takes this to be the central and defining feature of love (cf. Taylor 1976; Newton-Smith 1989; Soble 1990, 1997; LaFollette 1996; Frankfurt 1999; White 2001). As Taylor puts it:

To summarize: if x loves y then x wants to benefit and be with y etc., and he has these wants (or at least some of them) because he believes y has some determinate characteristics ψ in virtue of which he thinks it worth while to benefit and be with y . He regards satisfaction of these wants as an end and not as a means towards some other end. [p. 157]

In conceiving of my love for you as constituted by my concern for you for your sake, the robust concern view rejects the idea, central to the union view, that love is to be understood in terms of the (literal or metaphorical) creation of a “we”: I am the one who has this concern for you, though it is nonetheless disinterested and so not egoistic insofar as it is for your sake rather than for my own. [ 5 ]

At the heart of the robust concern view is the idea that love “is neither affective nor cognitive. It is volitional” (Frankfurt 1999, p. 129; see also Martin 2015). Frankfurt continues:

That a person cares about or that he loves something has less to do with how things make him feel, or with his opinions about them, than with the more or less stable motivational structures that shape his preferences and that guide and limit his conduct.

This account analyzes caring about someone for her sake as a matter of being motivated in certain ways, in part as a response to what happens to one’s beloved. Of course, to understand love in terms of desires is not to leave other emotional responses out in the cold, for these emotions should be understood as consequences of desires. Thus, just as I can be emotionally crushed when one of my strong desires is disappointed, so too I can be emotionally crushed when things similarly go badly for my beloved. In this way Frankfurt (1999) tacitly, and White (2001) more explicitly, acknowledge the way in which my caring for my beloved for her sake results in my identity being transformed through her influence insofar as I become vulnerable to things that happen to her.

Not all robust concern theorists seem to accept this line, however; in particular, Taylor (1976) and Soble (1990) seem to have a strongly individualistic conception of persons that prevents my identity being bound up with my beloved in this sort of way, a kind of view that may seem to undermine the intuitive “depth” that love seems to have. (For more on this point, see Rorty 1986/1993.) In the middle is Stump (2006), who follows Aquinas in understanding love to involve not only the desire for your beloved’s well-being but also a desire for a certain kind of relationship with your beloved—as a parent or spouse or sibling or priest or friend, for example—a relationship within which you share yourself with and connect yourself to your beloved. [ 6 ]

One source of worry about the robust concern view is that it involves too passive an understanding of one’s beloved (Ebels-Duggan 2008). The thought is that on the robust concern view the lover merely tries to discover what the beloved’s well-being consists in and then acts to promote that, potentially by thwarting the beloved’s own efforts when the lover thinks those efforts would harm her well-being. This, however, would be disrespectful and demeaning, not the sort of attitude that love is. What robust concern views seem to miss, Ebels-Duggan suggests, is the way love involves interacting agents, each with a capacity for autonomy the recognition and engagement with which is an essential part of love. In response, advocates of the robust concern view might point out that promoting someone’s well-being normally requires promoting her autonomy (though they may maintain that this need not always be true: that paternalism towards a beloved can sometimes be justified and appropriate as an expression of one’s love). Moreover, we might plausibly think, it is only through the exercise of one’s autonomy that one can define one’s own well-being as a person, so that a lover’s failure to respect the beloved’s autonomy would be a failure to promote her well-being and therefore not an expression of love, contrary to what Ebels-Duggan suggests. Consequently, it might seem, robust concern views can counter this objection by offering an enriched conception of what it is to be a person and so of the well-being of persons.

Another source of worry is that the robust concern view offers too thin a conception of love. By emphasizing robust concern, this view understands other features we think characteristic of love, such as one’s emotional responsiveness to one’s beloved, to be the effects of that concern rather than constituents of it. Thus Velleman (1999) argues that robust concern views, by understanding love merely as a matter of aiming at a particular end (viz., the welfare of one’s beloved), understand love to be merely conative. However, he claims, love can have nothing to do with desires, offering as a counterexample the possibility of loving a troublemaking relation whom you do not want to be with, whose well being you do not want to promote, etc. Similarly, Badhwar (2003) argues that such a “teleological” view of love makes it mysterious how “we can continue to love someone long after death has taken him beyond harm or benefit” (p. 46). Moreover Badhwar argues, if love is essentially a desire, then it implies that we lack something; yet love does not imply this and, indeed, can be felt most strongly at times when we feel our lives most complete and lacking in nothing. Consequently, Velleman and Badhwar conclude, love need not involve any desire or concern for the well-being of one’s beloved.

This conclusion, however, seems too hasty, for such examples can be accommodated within the robust concern view. Thus, the concern for your relative in Velleman’s example can be understood to be present but swamped by other, more powerful desires to avoid him. Indeed, keeping the idea that you want to some degree to benefit him, an idea Velleman rejects, seems to be essential to understanding the conceptual tension between loving someone and not wanting to help him, a tension Velleman does not fully acknowledge. Similarly, continued love for someone who has died can be understood on the robust concern view as parasitic on the former love you had for him when he was still alive: your desires to benefit him get transformed, through your subsequent understanding of the impossibility of doing so, into wishes. [ 7 ] Finally, the idea of concern for your beloved’s well-being need not imply the idea that you lack something, for such concern can be understood in terms of the disposition to be vigilant for occasions when you can come to his aid and consequently to have the relevant occurrent desires. All of this seems fully compatible with the robust concern view.

One might also question whether Velleman and Badhwar make proper use of their examples of loving your meddlesome relation or someone who has died. For although we can understand these as genuine cases of love, they are nonetheless deficient cases and ought therefore be understood as parasitic on the standard cases. Readily to accommodate such deficient cases of love into a philosophical analysis as being on a par with paradigm cases, and to do so without some special justification, is dubious.

Nonetheless, the robust concern view as it stands does not seem properly able to account for the intuitive “depth” of love and so does not seem properly to distinguish loving from liking. Although, as noted above, the robust concern view can begin to make some sense of the way in which the lover’s identity is altered by the beloved, it understands this only an effect of love, and not as a central part of what love consists in.

This vague thought is nicely developed by Wonderly (2017), who emphasizes that in addition to the sort of disinterested concern for another that is central to robust-concern accounts of love, an essential part of at least romantic love is the idea that in loving someone I must find them to be not merely important for their own sake but also important to me . Wonderly (2017) fleshes out what this “importance to me” involves in terms of the idea of attachment (developed in Wonderly 2016) that she argues can make sense of the intimacy and depth of love from within what remains fundamentally a robust-concern account. [ 8 ]

4. Love as Valuing

A third kind of view of love understands love to be a distinctive mode of valuing a person. As the distinction between eros and agape in Section 1 indicates, there are at least two ways to construe this in terms of whether the lover values the beloved because she is valuable, or whether the beloved comes to be valuable to the lover as a result of her loving him. The former view, which understands the lover as appraising the value of the beloved in loving him, is the topic of Section 4.1 , whereas the latter view, which understands her as bestowing value on him, will be discussed in Section 4.2 .

Velleman (1999, 2008) offers an appraisal view of love, understanding love to be fundamentally a matter of acknowledging and responding in a distinctive way to the value of the beloved. (For a very different appraisal view of love, see Kolodny 2003.) Understanding this more fully requires understanding both the kind of value of the beloved to which one responds and the distinctive kind of response to such value that love is. Nonetheless, it should be clear that what makes an account be an appraisal view of love is not the mere fact that love is understood to involve appraisal; many other accounts do so, and it is typical of robust concern accounts, for example (cf. the quote from Taylor above , Section 3 ). Rather, appraisal views are distinctive in understanding love to consist in that appraisal.

In articulating the kind of value love involves, Velleman, following Kant, distinguishes dignity from price. To have a price , as the economic metaphor suggests, is to have a value that can be compared to the value of other things with prices, such that it is intelligible to exchange without loss items of the same value. By contrast, to have dignity is to have a value such that comparisons of relative value become meaningless. Material goods are normally understood to have prices, but we persons have dignity: no substitution of one person for another can preserve exactly the same value, for something of incomparable worth would be lost (and gained) in such a substitution.

On this Kantian view, our dignity as persons consists in our rational nature: our capacity both to be actuated by reasons that we autonomously provide ourselves in setting our own ends and to respond appropriately to the intrinsic values we discover in the world. Consequently, one important way in which we exercise our rational natures is to respond with respect to the dignity of other persons (a dignity that consists in part in their capacity for respect): respect just is the required minimal response to the dignity of persons. What makes a response to a person be that of respect, Velleman claims, still following Kant, is that it “arrests our self-love” and thereby prevents us from treating him as a means to our ends (p. 360).

Given this, Velleman claims that love is similarly a response to the dignity of persons, and as such it is the dignity of the object of our love that justifies that love. However, love and respect are different kinds of responses to the same value. For love arrests not our self-love but rather

our tendencies toward emotional self-protection from another person, tendencies to draw ourselves in and close ourselves off from being affected by him. Love disarms our emotional defenses; it makes us vulnerable to the other. [1999, p. 361]

This means that the concern, attraction, sympathy, etc. that we normally associate with love are not constituents of love but are rather its normal effects, and love can remain without them (as in the case of the love for a meddlesome relative one cannot stand being around). Moreover, this provides Velleman with a clear account of the intuitive “depth” of love: it is essentially a response to persons as such, and to say that you love your dog is therefore to be confused.

Of course, we do not respond with love to the dignity of every person we meet, nor are we somehow required to: love, as the disarming of our emotional defenses in a way that makes us especially vulnerable to another, is the optional maximal response to others’ dignity. What, then, explains the selectivity of love—why I love some people and not others? The answer lies in the contingent fit between the way some people behaviorally express their dignity as persons and the way I happen to respond to those expressions by becoming emotionally vulnerable to them. The right sort of fit makes someone “lovable” by me (1999, p. 372), and my responding with love in these cases is a matter of my “really seeing” this person in a way that I fail to do with others who do not fit with me in this way. By ‘lovable’ here Velleman seems to mean able to be loved, not worthy of being loved, for nothing Velleman says here speaks to a question about the justification of my loving this person rather than that. Rather, what he offers is an explanation of the selectivity of my love, an explanation that as a matter of fact makes my response be that of love rather than mere respect.

This understanding of the selectivity of love as something that can be explained but not justified is potentially troubling. For we ordinarily think we can justify not only my loving you rather than someone else but also and more importantly the constancy of my love: my continuing to love you even as you change in certain fundamental ways (but not others). As Delaney (1996, p. 347) puts the worry about constancy:

while you seem to want it to be true that, were you to become a schmuck, your lover would continue to love you,…you also want it to be the case that your lover would never love a schmuck.

The issue here is not merely that we can offer explanations of the selectivity of my love, of why I do not love schmucks; rather, at issue is the discernment of love, of loving and continuing to love for good reasons as well as of ceasing to love for good reasons. To have these good reasons seems to involve attributing different values to you now rather than formerly or rather than to someone else, yet this is precisely what Velleman denies is the case in making the distinction between love and respect the way he does.

It is also questionable whether Velleman can even explain the selectivity of love in terms of the “fit” between your expressions and my sensitivities. For the relevant sensitivities on my part are emotional sensitivities: the lowering of my emotional defenses and so becoming emotionally vulnerable to you. Thus, I become vulnerable to the harms (or goods) that befall you and so sympathetically feel your pain (or joy). Such emotions are themselves assessable for warrant, and now we can ask why my disappointment that you lost the race is warranted, but my being disappointed that a mere stranger lost would not be warranted. The intuitive answer is that I love you but not him. However, this answer is unavailable to Velleman, because he thinks that what makes my response to your dignity that of love rather than respect is precisely that I feel such emotions, and to appeal to my love in explaining the emotions therefore seems viciously circular.

Although these problems are specific to Velleman’s account, the difficulty can be generalized to any appraisal account of love (such as that offered in Kolodny 2003). For if love is an appraisal, it needs to be distinguished from other forms of appraisal, including our evaluative judgments. On the one hand, to try to distinguish love as an appraisal from other appraisals in terms of love’s having certain effects on our emotional and motivational life (as on Velleman’s account) is unsatisfying because it ignores part of what needs to be explained: why the appraisal of love has these effects and yet judgments with the same evaluative content do not. Indeed, this question is crucial if we are to understand the intuitive “depth” of love, for without an answer to this question we do not understand why love should have the kind of centrality in our lives it manifestly does. [ 9 ] On the other hand, to bundle this emotional component into the appraisal itself would be to turn the view into either the robust concern view ( Section 3 ) or a variant of the emotion view ( Section 5.1 ).

In contrast to Velleman, Singer (1991, 1994, 2009) understands love to be fundamentally a matter of bestowing value on the beloved. To bestow value on another is to project a kind of intrinsic value onto him. Indeed, this fact about love is supposed to distinguish love from liking: “Love is an attitude with no clear objective,” whereas liking is inherently teleological (1991, p. 272). As such, there are no standards of correctness for bestowing such value, and this is how love differs from other personal attitudes like gratitude, generosity, and condescension: “love…confers importance no matter what the object is worth” (p. 273). Consequently, Singer thinks, love is not an attitude that can be justified in any way.

What is it, exactly, to bestow this kind of value on someone? It is, Singer says, a kind of attachment and commitment to the beloved, in which one comes to treat him as an end in himself and so to respond to his ends, interests, concerns, etc. as having value for their own sake. This means in part that the bestowal of value reveals itself “by caring about the needs and interests of the beloved, by wishing to benefit or protect her, by delighting in her achievements,” etc. (p. 270). This sounds very much like the robust concern view, yet the bestowal view differs in understanding such robust concern to be the effect of the bestowal of value that is love rather than itself what constitutes love: in bestowing value on my beloved, I make him be valuable in such a way that I ought to respond with robust concern.

For it to be intelligible that I have bestowed value on someone, I must therefore respond appropriately to him as valuable, and this requires having some sense of what his well-being is and of what affects that well-being positively or negatively. Yet having this sense requires in turn knowing what his strengths and deficiencies are, and this is a matter of appraising him in various ways. Bestowal thus presupposes a kind of appraisal, as a way of “really seeing” the beloved and attending to him. Nonetheless, Singer claims, it is the bestowal that is primary for understanding what love consists in: the appraisal is required only so that the commitment to one’s beloved and his value as thus bestowed has practical import and is not “a blind submission to some unknown being” (1991, p. 272; see also Singer 1994, pp. 139ff).

Singer is walking a tightrope in trying to make room for appraisal in his account of love. Insofar as the account is fundamentally a bestowal account, Singer claims that love cannot be justified, that we bestow the relevant kind of value “gratuitously.” This suggests that love is blind, that it does not matter what our beloved is like, which seems patently false. Singer tries to avoid this conclusion by appealing to the role of appraisal: it is only because we appraise another as having certain virtues and vices that we come to bestow value on him. Yet the “because” here, since it cannot justify the bestowal, is at best a kind of contingent causal explanation. [ 10 ] In this respect, Singer’s account of the selectivity of love is much the same as Velleman’s, and it is liable to the same criticism: it makes unintelligible the way in which our love can be discerning for better or worse reasons. Indeed, this failure to make sense of the idea that love can be justified is a problem for any bestowal view. For either (a) a bestowal itself cannot be justified (as on Singer’s account), in which case the justification of love is impossible, or (b) a bestowal can be justified, in which case it is hard to make sense of value as being bestowed rather than there antecedently in the object as the grounds of that “bestowal.”

More generally, a proponent of the bestowal view needs to be much clearer than Singer is in articulating precisely what a bestowal is. What is the value that I create in a bestowal, and how can my bestowal create it? On a crude Humean view, the answer might be that the value is something projected onto the world through my pro-attitudes, like desire. Yet such a view would be inadequate, since the projected value, being relative to a particular individual, would do no theoretical work, and the account would essentially be a variant of the robust concern view. Moreover, in providing a bestowal account of love, care is needed to distinguish love from other personal attitudes such as admiration and respect: do these other attitudes involve bestowal? If so, how does the bestowal in these cases differ from the bestowal of love? If not, why not, and what is so special about love that requires a fundamentally different evaluative attitude than admiration and respect?

Nonetheless, there is a kernel of truth in the bestowal view: there is surely something right about the idea that love is creative and not merely a response to antecedent value, and accounts of love that understand the kind of evaluation implicit in love merely in terms of appraisal seem to be missing something. Precisely what may be missed will be discussed below in Section 6 .

Perhaps there is room for an understanding of love and its relation to value that is intermediate between appraisal and bestowal accounts. After all, if we think of appraisal as something like perception, a matter of responding to what is out there in the world, and of bestowal as something like action, a matter of doing something and creating something, we should recognize that the responsiveness central to appraisal may itself depend on our active, creative choices. Thus, just as we must recognize that ordinary perception depends on our actively directing our attention and deploying concepts, interpretations, and even arguments in order to perceive things accurately, so too we might think our vision of our beloved’s valuable properties that is love also depends on our actively attending to and interpreting him. Something like this is Jollimore’s view (2011). According to Jollimore, in loving someone we actively attend to his valuable properties in a way that we take to provide us with reasons to treat him preferentially. Although we may acknowledge that others might have such properties even to a greater degree than our beloved does, we do not attend to and appreciate such properties in others in the same way we do those in our beloveds; indeed, we find our appreciation of our beloved’s valuable properties to “silence” our similar appreciation of those in others. (In this way, Jollimore thinks, we can solve the problem of fungibility, discussed below in Section 6 .) Likewise, in perceiving our beloved’s actions and character, we do so through the lens of such an appreciation, which will tend as to “silence” interpretations inconsistent with that appreciation. In this way, love involves finding one’s beloved to be valuable in a way that involves elements of both appraisal (insofar as one must thereby be responsive to valuable properties one’s beloved really has) and bestowal (insofar as through one’s attention and committed appreciation of these properties they come to have special significance for one).

One might object that this conception of love as silencing the special value of others or to negative interpretations of our beloveds is irrational in a way that love is not. For, it might seem, such “silencing” is merely a matter of our blinding ourselves to how things really are. Yet Jollimore claims that this sense in which love is blind is not objectionable, for (a) we can still intellectually recognize the things that love’s vision silences, and (b) there really is no impartial perspective we can take on the values things have, and love is one appropriate sort of partial perspective from which the value of persons can be manifest. Nonetheless, one might wonder about whether that perspective of love itself can be distorted and what the norms are in terms of which such distortions are intelligible. Furthermore, it may seem that Jollimore’s attempt to reconcile appraisal and bestowal fails to appreciate the underlying metaphysical difficulty: appraisal is a response to value that is antecedently there, whereas bestowal is the creation of value that was not antecedently there. Consequently, it might seem, appraisal and bestowal are mutually exclusive and cannot be reconciled in the way Jollimore hopes.

Whereas Jollimore tries to combine separate elements of appraisal and of bestowal in a single account, Helm (2010) and Bagley (2015) offer accounts that reject the metaphysical presupposition that values must be either prior to love (as with appraisal) or posterior to love (as with bestowal), instead understanding the love and the values to emerge simultaneously. Thus, Helm presents a detailed account of valuing in terms of the emotions, arguing that while we can understand individual emotions as appraisals , responding to values already their in their objects, these values are bestowed on those objects via broad, holistic patterns of emotions. How this amounts to an account of love will be discussed in Section 5.2 , below. Bagley (2015) instead appeals to a metaphor of improvisation, arguing that just as jazz musicians jointly make determinate the content of their musical ideas through on-going processes of their expression, so too lovers jointly engage in “deep improvisation”, thereby working out of their values and identities through the on-going process of living their lives together. These values are thus something the lovers jointly construct through the process of recognizing and responding to those very values. To love someone is thus to engage with them as partners in such “deep improvisation”. (This account is similar to Helm (2008, 2010)’s account of plural agency, which he uses to provide an account of friendship and other loving relationships; see the discussion of shared activity in the entry on friendship .)

5. Emotion Views

Given these problems with the accounts of love as valuing, perhaps we should turn to the emotions. For emotions just are responses to objects that combine evaluation, motivation, and a kind of phenomenology, all central features of the attitude of love.

Many accounts of love claim that it is an emotion; these include: Wollheim 1984, Rorty 1986/1993, Brown 1987, Hamlyn 1989, Baier 1991, and Badhwar 2003. [ 11 ] Thus, Hamlyn (1989, p. 219) says:

It would not be a plausible move to defend any theory of the emotions to which love and hate seemed exceptions by saying that love and hate are after all not emotions. I have heard this said, but it does seem to me a desperate move to make. If love and hate are not emotions what is?

The difficulty with this claim, as Rorty (1980) argues, is that the word, ‘emotion,’ does not seem to pick out a homogeneous collection of mental states, and so various theories claiming that love is an emotion mean very different things. Consequently, what are here labeled “emotion views” are divided into those that understand love to be a particular kind of evaluative-cum-motivational response to an object, whether that response is merely occurrent or dispositional (‘emotions proper,’ see Section 5.1 , below), and those that understand love to involve a collection of related and interconnected emotions proper (‘emotion complexes,’ see Section 5.2 , below).

An emotion proper is a kind of “evaluative-cum-motivational response to an object”; what does this mean? Emotions are generally understood to have several objects. The target of an emotion is that at which the emotion is directed: if I am afraid or angry at you, then you are the target. In responding to you with fear or anger, I am implicitly evaluating you in a particular way, and this evaluation—called the formal object —is the kind of evaluation of the target that is distinctive of a particular emotion type. Thus, in fearing you, I implicitly evaluate you as somehow dangerous, whereas in being angry at you I implicitly evaluate you as somehow offensive. Yet emotions are not merely evaluations of their targets; they in part motivate us to behave in certain ways, both rationally (by motivating action to avoid the danger) and arationally (via certain characteristic expressions, such as slamming a door out of anger). Moreover, emotions are generally understood to involve a phenomenological component, though just how to understand the characteristic “feel” of an emotion and its relation to the evaluation and motivation is hotly disputed. Finally, emotions are typically understood to be passions: responses that we feel imposed on us as if from the outside, rather than anything we actively do. (For more on the philosophy of emotions, see entry on emotion .)

What then are we saying when we say that love is an emotion proper? According to Brown (1987, p. 14), emotions as occurrent mental states are “abnormal bodily changes caused by the agent’s evaluation or appraisal of some object or situation that the agent believes to be of concern to him or her.” He spells this out by saying that in love, we “cherish” the person for having “a particular complex of instantiated qualities” that is “open-ended” so that we can continue to love the person even as she changes over time (pp. 106–7). These qualities, which include historical and relational qualities, are evaluated in love as worthwhile. [ 12 ] All of this seems aimed at spelling out what love’s formal object is, a task that is fundamental to understanding love as an emotion proper. Thus, Brown seems to say that love’s formal object is just being worthwhile (or, given his examples, perhaps: worthwhile as a person), and he resists being any more specific than this in order to preserve the open-endedness of love. Hamlyn (1989) offers a similar account, saying (p. 228):

With love the difficulty is to find anything of this kind [i.e., a formal object] which is uniquely appropriate to love. My thesis is that there is nothing of this kind that must be so, and that this differentiates it and hate from the other emotions.

Hamlyn goes on to suggest that love and hate might be primordial emotions, a kind of positive or negative “feeling towards,” presupposed by all other emotions. [ 13 ]

The trouble with these accounts of love as an emotion proper is that they provide too thin a conception of love. In Hamlyn’s case, love is conceived as a fairly generic pro-attitude, rather than as the specific kind of distinctively personal attitude discussed here. In Brown’s case, spelling out the formal object of love as simply being worthwhile (as a person) fails to distinguish love from other evaluative responses like admiration and respect. Part of the problem seems to be the rather simple account of what an emotion is that Brown and Hamlyn use as their starting point: if love is an emotion, then the understanding of what an emotion is must be enriched considerably to accommodate love. Yet it is not at all clear whether the idea of an “emotion proper” can be adequately enriched so as to do so. As Pismenny & Prinz (2017) point out, love seems to be too varied both in its ground and in the sort of experience it involves to be capturable by a single emotion.

The emotion complex view, which understands love to be a complex emotional attitude towards another person, may initially seem to hold out great promise to overcome the problems of alternative types of views. By articulating the emotional interconnections between persons, it could offer a satisfying account of the “depth” of love without the excesses of the union view and without the overly narrow teleological focus of the robust concern view; and because these emotional interconnections are themselves evaluations, it could offer an understanding of love as simultaneously evaluative, without needing to specify a single formal object of love. However, the devil is in the details.

Rorty (1986/1993) does not try to present a complete account of love; rather, she focuses on the idea that “relational psychological attitudes” which, like love, essentially involve emotional and desiderative responses, exhibit historicity : “they arise from, and are shaped by, dynamic interactions between a subject and an object” (p. 73). In part this means that what makes an attitude be one of love is not the presence of a state that we can point to at a particular time within the lover; rather, love is to be “identified by a characteristic narrative history” (p. 75). Moreover, Rorty argues, the historicity of love involves the lover’s being permanently transformed by loving who he does.

Baier (1991), seeming to pick up on this understanding of love as exhibiting historicity, says (p. 444):

Love is not just an emotion people feel toward other people, but also a complex tying together of the emotions that two or a few more people have; it is a special form of emotional interdependence.

To a certain extent, such emotional interdependence involves feeling sympathetic emotions, so that, for example, I feel disappointed and frustrated on behalf of my beloved when she fails, and joyful when she succeeds. However, Baier insists, love is “more than just the duplication of the emotion of each in a sympathetic echo in the other” (p. 442); the emotional interdependence of the lovers involves also appropriate follow-up responses to the emotional predicaments of your beloved. Two examples Baier gives (pp. 443–44) are a feeling of “mischievous delight” at your beloved’s temporary bafflement, and amusement at her embarrassment. The idea is that in a loving relationship your beloved gives you permission to feel such emotions when no one else is permitted to do so, and a condition of her granting you that permission is that you feel these emotions “tenderly.” Moreover, you ought to respond emotionally to your beloved’s emotional responses to you: by feeling hurt when she is indifferent to you, for example. All of these foster the sort of emotional interdependence Baier is after—a kind of intimacy you have with your beloved.

Badhwar (2003, p. 46) similarly understands love to be a matter of “one’s overall emotional orientation towards a person—the complex of perceptions, thoughts, and feelings”; as such, love is a matter of having a certain “character structure.” Central to this complex emotional orientation, Badhwar thinks, is what she calls the “look of love”: “an ongoing [emotional] affirmation of the loved object as worthy of existence…for her own sake” (p. 44), an affirmation that involves taking pleasure in your beloved’s well-being. Moreover, Badhwar claims, the look of love also provides to the beloved reliable testimony concerning the quality of the beloved’s character and actions (p. 57).

There is surely something very right about the idea that love, as an attitude central to deeply personal relationships, should not be understood as a state that can simply come and go. Rather, as the emotion complex view insists, the complexity of love is to be found in the historical patterns of one’s emotional responsiveness to one’s beloved—a pattern that also projects into the future. Indeed, as suggested above, the kind of emotional interdependence that results from this complex pattern can seem to account for the intuitive “depth” of love as fully interwoven into one’s emotional sense of oneself. And it seems to make some headway in understanding the complex phenomenology of love: love can at times be a matter of intense pleasure in the presence of one’s beloved, yet it can at other times involve frustration, exasperation, anger, and hurt as a manifestation of the complexities and depth of the relationships it fosters.

This understanding of love as constituted by a history of emotional interdependence enables emotion complex views to say something interesting about the impact love has on the lover’s identity. This is partly Rorty’s point (1986/1993) in her discussion of the historicity of love ( above ). Thus, she argues, one important feature of such historicity is that love is “ dynamically permeable ” in that the lover is continually “changed by loving” such that these changes “tend to ramify through a person’s character” (p. 77). Through such dynamic permeability, love transforms the identity of the lover in a way that can sometimes foster the continuity of the love, as each lover continually changes in response to the changes in the other. [ 14 ] Indeed, Rorty concludes, love should be understood in terms of “a characteristic narrative history” (p. 75) that results from such dynamic permeability. It should be clear, however, that the mere fact of dynamic permeability need not result in the love’s continuing: nothing about the dynamics of a relationship requires that the characteristic narrative history project into the future, and such permeability can therefore lead to the dissolution of the love. Love is therefore risky—indeed, all the more risky because of the way the identity of the lover is defined in part through the love. The loss of a love can therefore make one feel no longer oneself in ways poignantly described by Nussbaum (1990).

By focusing on such emotionally complex histories, emotion complex views differ from most alternative accounts of love. For alternative accounts tend to view love as a kind of attitude we take toward our beloveds, something we can analyze simply in terms of our mental state at the moment. [ 15 ] By ignoring this historical dimension of love in providing an account of what love is, alternative accounts have a hard time providing either satisfying accounts of the sense in which our identities as person are at stake in loving another or satisfactory solutions to problems concerning how love is to be justified (cf. Section 6 , especially the discussion of fungibility ).

Nonetheless, some questions remain. If love is to be understood as an emotion complex, we need a much more explicit account of the pattern at issue here: what ties all of these emotional responses together into a single thing, namely love? Baier and Badhwar seem content to provide interesting and insightful examples of this pattern, but that does not seem to be enough. For example, what connects my amusement at my beloved’s embarrassment to other emotions like my joy on his behalf when he succeeds? Why shouldn’t my amusement at his embarrassment be understood instead as a somewhat cruel case of schadenfreude and so as antithetical to, and disconnected from, love? Moreover, as Naar (2013) notes, we need a principled account of when such historical patterns are disrupted in such a way as to end the love and when they are not. Do I stop loving when, in the midst of clinical depression, I lose my normal pattern of emotional concern?

Presumably the answer requires returning to the historicity of love: it all depends on the historical details of the relationship my beloved and I have forged. Some loves develop so that the intimacy within the relationship is such as to allow for tender, teasing responses to each other, whereas other loves may not. The historical details, together with the lovers’ understanding of their relationship, presumably determine which emotional responses belong to the pattern constitutive of love and which do not. However, this answer so far is inadequate: not just any historical relationship involving emotional interdependence is a loving relationship, and we need a principled way of distinguishing loving relationships from other relational evaluative attitudes: precisely what is the characteristic narrative history that is characteristic of love?

Helm (2009, 2010) tries to answer some of these questions in presenting an account of love as intimate identification. To love another, Helm claims, is to care about him as the particular person he is and so, other things being equal, to value the things he values. Insofar as a person’s (structured) set of values—his sense of the kind of life worth his living—constitutes his identity as a person, such sharing of values amounts to sharing his identity, which sounds very much like union accounts of love. However, Helm is careful to understand such sharing of values as for the sake of the beloved (as robust concern accounts insist), and he spells this all out in terms of patterns of emotions. Thus, Helm claims, all emotions have not only a target and a formal object (as indicated above), but also a focus : a background object the subject cares about in terms of which the implicit evaluation of the target is made intelligible. (For example, if I am afraid of the approaching hailstorm, I thereby evaluate it as dangerous, and what explains this evaluation is the way that hailstorm bears on my vegetable garden, which I care about; my garden, therefore, is the focus of my fear.) Moreover, emotions normally come in patterns with a common focus: fearing the hailstorm is normally connected to other emotions as being relieved when it passes by harmlessly (or disappointed or sad when it does not), being angry at the rabbits for killing the spinach, delighted at the productivity of the tomato plants, etc. Helm argues that a projectible pattern of such emotions with a common focus constitute caring about that focus. Consequently, we might say along the lines of Section 4.3 , while particular emotions appraise events in the world as having certain evaluative properties, their having these properties is partly bestowed on them by the overall patterns of emotions.

Helm identifies some emotions as person-focused emotions : emotions like pride and shame that essentially take persons as their focuses, for these emotions implicitly evaluate in terms of the target’s bearing on the quality of life of the person that is their focus. To exhibit a pattern of such emotions focused on oneself and subfocused on being a mother, for example, is to care about the place being a mother has in the kind of life you find worth living—in your identity as a person; to care in this way is to value being a mother as a part of your concern for your own identity. Likewise, to exhibit a projectible pattern of such emotions focused on someone else and subfocused on his being a father is to value this as a part of your concern for his identity—to value it for his sake. Such sharing of another’s values for his sake, which, Helm argues, essentially involves trust, respect, and affection, amounts to intimate identification with him, and such intimate identification just is love. Thus, Helm tries to provide an account of love that is grounded in an explicit account of caring (and caring about something for the sake of someone else) that makes room for the intuitive “depth” of love through intimate identification.

Jaworska & Wonderly (2017) argue that Helm’s construal of intimacy as intimate identification is too demanding. Rather, they argue, the sort of intimacy that distinguishes love from mere caring is one that involves a kind of emotional vulnerability in which things going well or poorly for one’s beloved are directly connected not merely to one’s well-being, but to one’s ability to flourish. This connection, they argue, runs through the lover’s self-understanding and the place the beloved has in the lover’s sense of a meaningful life.

Why do we love? It has been suggested above that any account of love needs to be able to answer some such justificatory question. Although the issue of the justification of love is important on its own, it is also important for the implications it has for understanding more clearly the precise object of love: how can we make sense of the intuitions not only that we love the individuals themselves rather than their properties, but also that my beloved is not fungible—that no one could simply take her place without loss. Different theories approach these questions in different ways, but, as will become clear below, the question of justification is primary.

One way to understand the question of why we love is as asking for what the value of love is: what do we get out of it? One kind of answer, which has its roots in Aristotle, is that having loving relationships promotes self-knowledge insofar as your beloved acts as a kind of mirror, reflecting your character back to you (Badhwar, 2003, p. 58). Of course, this answer presupposes that we cannot accurately know ourselves in other ways: that left alone, our sense of ourselves will be too imperfect, too biased, to help us grow and mature as persons. The metaphor of a mirror also suggests that our beloveds will be in the relevant respects similar to us, so that merely by observing them, we can come to know ourselves better in a way that is, if not free from bias, at least more objective than otherwise.

Brink (1999, pp. 264–65) argues that there are serious limits to the value of such mirroring of one’s self in a beloved. For if the aim is not just to know yourself better but to improve yourself, you ought also to interact with others who are not just like yourself: interacting with such diverse others can help you recognize alternative possibilities for how to live and so better assess the relative merits of these possibilities. Whiting (2013) also emphasizes the importance of our beloveds’ having an independent voice capable of reflecting not who one now is but an ideal for who one is to be. Nonetheless, we need not take the metaphor of the mirror quite so literally; rather, our beloveds can reflect our selves not through their inherent similarity to us but rather through the interpretations they offer of us, both explicitly and implicitly in their responses to us. This is what Badhwar calls the “epistemic significance” of love. [ 16 ]

In addition to this epistemic significance of love, LaFollette (1996, Chapter 5) offers several other reasons why it is good to love, reasons derived in part from the psychological literature on love: love increases our sense of well-being, it elevates our sense of self-worth, and it serves to develop our character. It also, we might add, tends to lower stress and blood pressure and to increase health and longevity. Friedman (1993) argues that the kind of partiality towards our beloveds that love involves is itself morally valuable because it supports relationships—loving relationships—that contribute “to human well-being, integrity, and fulfillment in life” (p. 61). And Solomon (1988, p. 155) claims:

Ultimately, there is only one reason for love. That one grand reason…is “because we bring out the best in each other.” What counts as “the best,” of course, is subject to much individual variation.

This is because, Solomon suggests, in loving someone, I want myself to be better so as to be worthy of his love for me.

Each of these answers to the question of why we love understands it to be asking about love quite generally, abstracted away from details of particular relationships. It is also possible to understand the question as asking about particular loves. Here, there are several questions that are relevant:

  • What, if anything, justifies my loving rather than not loving this particular person?
  • What, if anything, justifies my coming to love this particular person rather than someone else?
  • What, if anything, justifies my continuing to love this particular person given the changes—both in him and me and in the overall circumstances—that have occurred since I began loving him?

These are importantly different questions. Velleman (1999), for example, thinks we can answer (1) by appealing to the fact that my beloved is a person and so has a rational nature, yet he thinks (2) and (3) have no answers: the best we can do is offer causal explanations for our loving particular people, a position echoed by Han (2021). Setiya (2014) similarly thinks (1) has an answer, but points not to the rational nature of persons but rather to the other’s humanity , where such humanity differs from personhood in that not all humans need have the requisite rational nature for personhood, and not all persons need be humans. And, as will become clear below , the distinction between (2) and (3) will become important in resolving puzzles concerning whether our beloveds are fungible, though it should be clear that (3) potentially raises questions concerning personal identity (which will not be addressed here).

It is important not to misconstrue these justificatory questions. Thomas (1991) , for example, rejects the idea that love can be justified: “there are no rational considerations whereby anyone can lay claim to another’s love or insist that an individual’s love for another is irrational” (p. 474). This is because, Thomas claims (p. 471):

no matter how wonderful and lovely an individual might be, on any and all accounts, it is simply false that a romantically unencumbered person must love that individual on pain of being irrational. Or, there is no irrationality involved in ceasing to love a person whom one once loved immensely, although the person has not changed.

However, as LaFollette (1996, p. 63) correctly points out,

reason is not some external power which dictates how we should behave, but an internal power, integral to who we are.… Reason does not command that we love anyone. Nonetheless, reason is vital in determining whom we love and why we love them.

That is, reasons for love are pro tanto : they are a part of the overall reasons we have for acting, and it is up to us in exercising our capacity for agency to decide what on balance we have reason to do or even whether we shall act contrary to our reasons. To construe the notion of a reason for love as compelling us to love, as Thomas does, is to misconstrue the place such reasons have within our agency. [ 17 ]

Most philosophical discussions of the justification of love focus on question (1) , thinking that answering this question will also, to the extent that we can, answer question (2) , which is typically not distinguished from (3) . The answers given to these questions vary in a way that turns on how the kind of evaluation implicit in love is construed. On the one hand, those who understand the evaluation implicit in love to be a matter of the bestowal of value (such as Telfer 1970–71; Friedman 1993; Singer 1994) typically claim that no justification can be given (cf. Section 4.2 ). As indicated above, this seems problematic, especially given the importance love can have both in our lives and, especially, in shaping our identities as persons. To reject the idea that we can love for reasons may reduce the impact our agency can have in defining who we are.

On the other hand, those who understand the evaluation implicit in love to be a matter of appraisal tend to answer the justificatory question by appeal to these valuable properties of the beloved. This acceptance of the idea that love can be justified leads to two further, related worries about the object of love.

The first worry is raised by Vlastos (1981) in a discussion Plato’s and Aristotle’s accounts of love. Vlastos notes that these accounts focus on the properties of our beloveds: we are to love people, they say, only because and insofar as they are objectifications of the excellences. Consequently, he argues, in doing so they fail to distinguish “ disinterested affection for the person we love” from “ appreciation of the excellences instantiated by that person ” (p. 33). That is, Vlastos thinks that Plato and Aristotle provide an account of love that is really a love of properties rather than a love of persons—love of a type of person, rather than love of a particular person—thereby losing what is distinctive about love as an essentially personal attitude. This worry about Plato and Aristotle might seem to apply just as well to other accounts that justify love in terms of the properties of the person: insofar as we love the person for the sake of her properties, it might seem that what we love is those properties and not the person. Here it is surely insufficient to say, as Solomon (1988, p. 154) does, “if love has its reasons, then it is not the whole person that one loves but certain aspects of that person—though the rest of the person comes along too, of course”: that final tagline fails to address the central difficulty about what the object of love is and so about love as a distinctly personal attitude. (Clausen 2019 might seem to address this worry by arguing that we love people not as having certain properties but rather as having “ organic unities ”: a holistic set of properties the value of each of which must be understood in essential part in terms of its place within that whole. Nonetheless, while this is an interesting and plausible way to think about the value of the properties of persons, that organic unity itself will be a (holistic) property held by the person, and it seems that the fundamental problem reemerges at the level of this holistic property: do we love the holistic unity rather than the person?)

The second worry concerns the fungibility of the object of love. To be fungible is to be replaceable by another relevantly similar object without any loss of value. Thus, money is fungible: I can give you two $5 bills in exchange for a $10 bill, and neither of us has lost anything. Is the object of love fungible? That is, can I simply switch from loving one person to loving another relevantly similar person without any loss? The worry about fungibility is commonly put this way: if we accept that love can be justified by appealing to properties of the beloved, then it may seem that in loving someone for certain reasons, I love him not simply as the individual he is, but as instantiating those properties. And this may imply that any other person instantiating those same properties would do just as well: my beloved would be fungible. Indeed, it may be that another person exhibits the properties that ground my love to a greater degree than my current beloved does, and so it may seem that in such a case I have reason to “trade up”—to switch my love to the new, better person. However, it seems clear that the objects of our loves are not fungible: love seems to involve a deeply personal commitment to a particular person, a commitment that is antithetical to the idea that our beloveds are fungible or to the idea that we ought to be willing to trade up when possible. [ 18 ]

In responding to these worries, Nozick (1989) appeals to the union view of love he endorses (see the section on Love as Union ):

The intention in love is to form a we and to identify with it as an extended self, to identify one’s fortunes in large part with its fortunes. A willingness to trade up, to destroy the very we you largely identify with, would then be a willingness to destroy your self in the form of your own extended self. [p. 78]

So it is because love involves forming a “we” that we must understand other persons and not properties to be the objects of love, and it is because my very identity as a person depends essentially on that “we” that it is not possible to substitute without loss one object of my love for another. However, Badhwar (2003) criticizes Nozick, saying that his response implies that once I love someone, I cannot abandon that love no matter who that person becomes; this, she says, “cannot be understood as love at all rather than addiction” (p. 61). [ 19 ]

Instead, Badhwar (1987) turns to her robust-concern account of love as a concern for the beloved for his sake rather than one’s own. Insofar as my love is disinterested — not a means to antecedent ends of my own—it would be senseless to think that my beloved could be replaced by someone who is able to satisfy my ends equally well or better. Consequently, my beloved is in this way irreplaceable. However, this is only a partial response to the worry about fungibility, as Badhwar herself seems to acknowledge. For the concern over fungibility arises not merely for those cases in which we think of love as justified instrumentally, but also for those cases in which the love is justified by the intrinsic value of the properties of my beloved. Confronted with cases like this, Badhwar (2003) concludes that the object of love is fungible after all (though she insists that it is very unlikely in practice). (Soble (1990, Chapter 13) draws similar conclusions.)

Nonetheless, Badhwar thinks that the object of love is “phenomenologically non-fungible” (2003, p. 63; see also 1987, p. 14). By this she means that we experience our beloveds to be irreplaceable: “loving and delighting in [one person] are not completely commensurate with loving and delighting in another” (1987, p. 14). Love can be such that we sometimes desire to be with this particular person whom we love, not another whom we also love, for our loves are qualitatively different. But why is this? It seems as though the typical reason I now want to spend time with Amy rather than Bob is, for example, that Amy is funny but Bob is not. I love Amy in part for her humor, and I love Bob for other reasons, and these qualitative differences between them is what makes them not fungible. However, this reply does not address the worry about the possibility of trading up: if Bob were to be at least as funny (charming, kind, etc.) as Amy, why shouldn’t I dump her and spend all my time with him?

A somewhat different approach is taken by Whiting (1991). In response to the first worry concerning the object of love, Whiting argues that Vlastos offers a false dichotomy: having affection for someone that is disinterested —for her sake rather than my own—essentially involves an appreciation of her excellences as such. Indeed, Whiting says, my appreciation of these as excellences, and so the underlying commitment I have to their value, just is a disinterested commitment to her because these excellences constitute her identity as the person she is. The person, therefore, really is the object of love. Delaney (1996) takes the complementary tack of distinguishing between the object of one’s love, which of course is the person, and the grounds of the love, which are her properties: to say, as Solomon does, that we love someone for reasons is not at all to say that we only love certain aspects of the person. In these terms, we might say that Whiting’s rejection of Vlastos’ dichotomy can be read as saying that what makes my attitude be one of disinterested affection—one of love—for the person is precisely that I am thereby responding to her excellences as the reasons for that affection. [ 20 ]

Of course, more needs to be said about what it is that makes a particular person be the object of love. Implicit in Whiting’s account is an understanding of the way in which the object of my love is determined in part by the history of interactions I have with her: it is she, and not merely her properties (which might be instantiated in many different people), that I want to be with; it is she, and not merely her properties, on whose behalf I am concerned when she suffers and whom I seek to comfort; etc. This addresses the first worry, but not the second worry about fungibility, for the question still remains whether she is the object of my love only as instantiating certain properties, and so whether or not I have reason to “trade up.”

To respond to the fungibility worry, Whiting and Delaney appeal explicitly to the historical relationship. [ 21 ] Thus, Whiting claims, although there may be a relatively large pool of people who have the kind of excellences of character that would justify my loving them, and so although there can be no answer to question (2) about why I come to love this rather than that person within this pool, once I have come to love this person and so have developed a historical relation with her, this history of concern justifies my continuing to love this person rather than someone else (1991, p. 7). Similarly, Delaney claims that love is grounded in “historical-relational properties” (1996, p. 346), so that I have reasons for continuing to love this person rather than switching allegiances and loving someone else. In each case, the appeal to both such historical relations and the excellences of character of my beloved is intended to provide an answer to question (3) , and this explains why the objects of love are not fungible.

There seems to be something very much right with this response. Relationships grounded in love are essentially personal, and it would be odd to think of what justifies that love to be merely non-relational properties of the beloved. Nonetheless, it is still unclear how the historical-relational propreties can provide any additional justification for subsequent concern beyond that which is already provided (as an answer to question (1) ) by appeal to the excellences of the beloved’s character (cf. Brink 1999). The mere fact that I have loved someone in the past does not seem to justify my continuing to love him in the future. When we imagine that he is going through a rough time and begins to lose the virtues justifying my initial love for him, why shouldn’t I dump him and instead come to love someone new having all of those virtues more fully? Intuitively (unless the change she undergoes makes her in some important sense no longer the same person he was), we think I should not dump him, but the appeal to the mere fact that I loved him in the past is surely not enough. Yet what historical-relational properties could do the trick? (For an interesting attempt at an answer, see Kolodny 2003 and also Howard 2019.)

If we think that love can be justified, then it may seem that the appeal to particular historical facts about a loving relationship to justify that love is inadequate, for such idiosyncratic and subjective properties might explain but cannot justify love. Rather, it may seem, justification in general requires appealing to universal, objective properties. But such properties are ones that others might share, which leads to the problem of fungibility. Consequently it may seem that love cannot be justified. In the face of this predicament, accounts of love that understand love to be an attitude towards value that is intermediate between appraisal and bestowal, between recognizing already existing value and creating that value (see Section 4.3 ) might seem to offer a way out. For once we reject the thought that the value of our beloveds must be either the precondition or the consequence of our love, we have room to acknowledge that the deeply personal, historically grounded, creative nature of love (central to bestowal accounts) and the understanding of love as responsive to valuable properties of the beloved that can justify that love (central to appraisal accounts) are not mutually exclusive (Helm 2010; Bagley 2015).

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character, moral | emotion | friendship | impartiality | obligations: special | personal identity | Plato: ethics | Plato: rhetoric and poetry | respect | value: intrinsic vs. extrinsic

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Definition Essay: Love

Love is something that means very different things to different people. For some, love can be purely romantic, or even purely sexual. For others, real love is utterly unconditional and only truly exists between family members, or between people and a deity. And for some people, love is fluid, ever changing, and everywhere, and is felt for family, friends, partners, pets, and even inanimate objects, dead artists, and fictional characters. None of these people would be right or wrong, but one thing is certain: love is the most powerful force in the entire universe.

Between partners of any description, be they married or cohabiting, boyfriend and girlfriend, straight or gay, young or old, love is a relationship of mutual understanding and respect. Marriages and partnerships are often built on common ground that people find when they first meet; this can be as deep as sharing religious, philosophical or religious beliefs, or as simple as finding that you love the same film, book, or band.

This kind of love is often reliant on some kind of ‘chemistry’: that strange feeling that they give you in the pit of your stomach, and the feeling that nothing in the world is more important to you than enjoying the moment you’re in together. Some people feel that they experience love at first sight, where they know from the minute they set eyes on each other that they want to to be with that person, but something built on common interests and understanding must be stronger.

A parent’s love for a child can also often be described as love at first sight, but this is very strong because it comes from a natural instinct to protect our offspring. This love can often start before the baby is even born: you only have to look at the pride and excitement of many parents-to-be when they have their scans and feel their baby kick for the very first time. This kind of love is also felt by a child for its mother; it is unconditional for at least the first few years of life, and can also be felt between siblings.

It is the strength of this feeling that makes love the most powerful emotion that most of us will ever experience. People can do some dreadful things out of hate and fear, but love can push us to do much, much worse. And it is often love that can cause us to hate, whether it’s out of jealousy, or anger because our loved one has been hurt. Love, ultimately, is a sacrifice, whatever the relationship, and it must be the most powerful force in the universe because as human beings, we make true sacrifices for nothing less.

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How to Know When You Love Someone

Baby don't hurt me

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

essay for definition of love

Emily is a board-certified science editor who has worked with top digital publishing brands like Voices for Biodiversity, Study.com, GoodTherapy, Vox, and Verywell.

essay for definition of love

Verywell / Laura Porter

  • How Do You Know You're Feeling Love for Someone?

Is Love Influenced By Biology or Culture?

How to show love to another person.

  • Tips for Cultivating

Negative Emotions Associated With Love

Take the love quiz.

When it comes to love, some people would say it is one of the most important human emotions . Love is a set of emotions and behaviors characterized by intimacy, passion, and commitment. It involves care, closeness, protectiveness, attraction, affection, and trust.

Many say it's not an emotion in the way we typically understand them, but an essential physiological drive. 

Love is a physiological motivation such as hunger, thirst, sleep, and sex drive.

There are countless songs, books, poems, and other works of art about love (you probably have one in mind as we speak!). Yet despite being one of the most studied behaviors, it is still the least understood. For example, researchers debate whether love is a biological or cultural phenomenon.

How Do You Know You're Feeling Love for Someone?

What are some of the signs of love? Researchers have made distinctions between feelings of liking and loving another person.

Zick Rubin's Scales of Liking and Loving

According to psychologist Zick Rubin, romantic love is made up of three elements:

  • Attachment : Needing to be with another person and desiring physical contact and approval
  • Caring : Valuing the other person's happiness and needs as much as your own
  • Intimacy : Sharing private thoughts, feelings, and desires with the other person

Based on this view of romantic love, Rubin developed two questionnaires to measure these variables, known as Rubin's Scales of Liking and Loving . While people tend to view people they like as pleasant, love is marked by being devoted, possessive, and confiding in one another. 

Are There Different Types of Love?

Yup—not all forms of love are the same, and psychologists have identified a number of different types of love that people may experience.

These types of love include:

  • Friendship : This type of love involves liking someone and sharing a certain degree of intimacy.
  • Infatuation : This form of love often involves intense feelings of attraction without a sense of commitment; it often takes place early in a relationship and may deepen into a more lasting love.
  • Passionate love : This type of love is marked by intense feelings of longing and attraction; it often involves an idealization of the other person and a need to maintain constant physical closeness.
  • Compassionate/companionate love : This form of love is marked by trust, affection, intimacy, and commitment.
  • Unrequited love : This form of love happens when one person loves another who does not return those feelings.

Robert Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love

Specifically, psychologist Robert Sternberg developed his well-regarded triangular theory of love in the early 1980s. Much research has built upon his work and demonstrated its universality across cultures.

Sternberg broke love into three components—intimacy, passion, and commitment—that interact to produce seven types of love .

Love is most likely influenced by both biology and culture. Although hormones and biology are important, the way we express and experience love is also influenced by our own conceptions of love.

Some researchers suggest that love is a basic human emotion just like happiness or anger, while others believe that it is a cultural phenomenon that arises partly due to social pressures and expectations. 

Research has found that romantic love exists in all cultures, which suggests that love has a strong biological component. It is a part of human nature to seek out and find love. However, culture can significantly affect how individuals think about, experience, and display romantic love.

Is Love an Emotion?

Psychologists, sociologists, and researchers disagree somewhat on the characterization of love. Many say it's not an emotion in the way we typically understand them, but an essential physiological drive. On the other hand, the American Psychological Association defines it as "a complex emotion." Still, others draw a distinction between primary and secondary emotions and put love in the latter category, maintaining that it derives from a mix of primary emotions.

There is no single way to practice love. Every relationship is unique, and each person brings their own history and needs. Some things that you can do to show love to the people you care about include:

  • Be willing to be vulnerable.
  • Be willing to forgive.
  • Do your best, and be willing to apologize when you make mistakes.
  • Let them know that you care.
  • Listen to what they have to say.
  • Prioritize spending time with the other person.
  • Reciprocate loving gestures and acts of kindness.
  • Recognize and acknowledge their good qualities.
  • Share things about yourself.
  • Show affection.
  • Make it unconditional.

How Love Impacts Your Mental Health

Love, attachment, and affection have an important impact on well-being and quality of life. Loving relationships have been linked to:

  • Lower risk of heart disease
  • Decreased risk of dying after a heart attack
  • Better health habits
  • Increased longevity
  • Lower stress levels
  • Less depression
  • Lower risk of diabetes

Tips for Cultivating Love

Lasting relationships are marked by deep levels of trust, commitment, and intimacy. Some things that you can do to help cultivate loving relationships include:

  • Try loving-kindness meditation. Loving-kindness meditation (LKM) is a technique often used to promote self-acceptance and reduce stress, but it has also been shown to promote a variety of positive emotions and improve interpersonal relationships. LKM involves meditating while thinking about a person you love or care about, concentrating on warm feelings and your desire for their well-being and happiness.
  • Communicate. Everyone's needs are different. The best way to ensure that your needs and your loved one's needs are met is to talk about them. Helping another person feel loved involves communicating that love to them through words and deeds. Some ways to do this include showing that you care, making them feel special, telling them they are loved , and doing things for them.
  • Tackle conflict in a healthy way . Never arguing is not necessarily a sign of a healthy relationship—more often than not, it means that people are avoiding an issue rather than discussing it. Rather than avoid conflict, focus on hashing out issues in ways that are healthy in order to move a relationship forward in a positive way. 

As Shakespeare said, the course of love never did run smooth. Love can vary in intensity and can change over time. It is associated with a range of positive emotions, including happiness, excitement, life satisfaction, and euphoria, but it can also result in negative emotions such as jealousy and stress.

No relationship is perfect, so there will always be problems, conflicts, misunderstandings, and disappointments that can lead to distress or heartbreak.

Some of the potential pitfalls of experiencing love include:

  • Increased stress
  • Obsessiveness
  • Possessiveness

While people are bound to experience some negative emotions associated with love, it can become problematic if those negative feelings outweigh the positive or if they start to interfere with either person's ability to function normally. Relationship counseling can be helpful in situations where couples need help coping with miscommunication, stress, or emotional issues.

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What is love essay sample, example.

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The word “love” has gone through various dictionary definitions throughout the eons. According to the Harvard Crimson, “The roots of the word “love” can be traced back to the Indo-European root leubh, meaning “to care” or “to desire,” approximated from words including the Latin lubet, “it pleases” and the Sanskrit lubhyati, “he desires.” Along with “love,” related English words like “libido” and “belief” also descend from *lebuh. According to The Bloomsbury Dictionary of Words, while the word “love” initially meant “find pleasing,” it later took on associations with “praise,” “trust” and “belief”’ (Cocola, Jim). This follows a common pattern in romantic relationships that begins with pleasure, progresses to admiration, and finally becomes about trust. We can look at history to see that humanity has considered love to be, in essence, a variety of virtues and feelings. To say one sentence about love is seemingly impossible. That is why is important to differentiate between the types of love we humans experience.

What constitutes “pure love” is highly debatable. Religious or spiritual people will say “pure love” is that love which is divinely inspired or related to the divine. Other people will say friendship is the truest love of all. While others will say unconditional love is the only pure form of love. There is no consensus on what constitutes “pure love,” however there are similarities between the definitions. Most ideas about what “pure love” is circles around the concept of something transcendent. This variety of love is commonly above attachment, hate, codependency, and other forms of limitations.

Perhaps the most famous depictions of love in the western world are discussed by Plato, Aristotle, and other historical sources. We can say there are seven flavors of love: romantic love, friendship, familial love, universal love, uncommitted love, practical love, and self-love. Romantic love is marked by passion and sometimes lust between people to create a bond. Love based on friendship, on the other hand, can be said to be shared goodwill, companionship, trust, and more. In a similar vein, familial love is carved out of dependency and familiarity, and is almost automatic. Another type of love that is commonly inbuilt is universal love. This slice of love is based on feeling care for God, strangers, nature, and other encompassing factors. It can also relate to altruism, where we want to help others in need, even if we do not know them well, or do not expect something in return. A more baser type of love is uncommitted love, which involves teasing, flirting, seducing, and sex without attachments. The opposite comes in the form of shared interests and duties with practical love. Often, people are drawn towards each other based on activities, hobbies, professions, and other factors. This can form a strong bond between two or more people at a time. Lastly, self-love is controversial. It can be said to be healthy with self-affirmation and self-confidence, but unhealthy with narcissism and vanity (“These Are the 7 Types of Love”).

All of these types of loves intermix in our lives. It is difficult to find someone who does not have all these flavors of love present in his or her experience of reality. However, it is up to us to determine the most significant type of love and to search for it. Commonly, figuring out what this most important flavor of love is will indicate what we need to do with our lives, how we need to act, and how we want to construct our family and work lives. Therefore, knowing what love is to you is not only a philosophical pursuit but also a practical one.

A definition essay sometimes can get confused with a description writing. That’s why it’s essential to check out some samples before starting your work. Some best assignment writer sites can provide you with a whole collection of similar examples.

Works Cited

Cocola, Jim. “Redefining Love.” The Harvard Crimson, www.thecrimson.com/article/1998/2/9/redefining-love-pi-adore-you-i/.

“These Are the 7 Types of Love.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201606/these-are-the-7-types-love.

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Essay on Love for Students and Children

500+ words essay on love.

Love is the most significant thing in human’s life. Each science and every single literature masterwork will tell you about it. Humans are also social animals. We lived for centuries with this way of life, we were depended on one another to tell us how our clothes fit us, how our body is whether healthy or emaciated. All these we get the honest opinions of those who love us, those who care for us and makes our happiness paramount.

essay on love

What is Love?

Love is a set of emotions, behaviors, and beliefs with strong feelings of affection. So, for example, a person might say he or she loves his or her dog, loves freedom, or loves God. The concept of love may become an unimaginable thing and also it may happen to each person in a particular way.

Love has a variety of feelings, emotions, and attitude. For someone love is more than just being interested physically in another one, rather it is an emotional attachment. We can say love is more of a feeling that a person feels for another person. Therefore, the basic meaning of love is to feel more than liking towards someone.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

Need of Love

We know that the desire to love and care for others is a hard-wired and deep-hearted because the fulfillment of this wish increases the happiness level. Expressing love for others benefits not just the recipient of affection, but also the person who delivers it. The need to be loved can be considered as one of our most basic and fundamental needs.

One of the forms that this need can take is contact comfort. It is the desire to be held and touched. So there are many experiments showing that babies who are not having contact comfort, especially during the first six months, grow up to be psychologically damaged.

Significance of Love

Love is as critical for the mind and body of a human being as oxygen. Therefore, the more connected you are, the healthier you will be physically as well as emotionally. It is also true that the less love you have, the level of depression will be more in your life. So, we can say that love is probably the best antidepressant.

It is also a fact that the most depressed people don’t love themselves and they do not feel loved by others. They also become self-focused and hence making themselves less attractive to others.

Society and Love

It is a scientific fact that society functions better when there is a certain sense of community. Compassion and love are the glue for society. Hence without it, there is no feeling of togetherness for further evolution and progress. Love , compassion, trust and caring we can say that these are the building blocks of relationships and society.

Relationship and Love

A relationship is comprised of many things such as friendship , sexual attraction , intellectual compatibility, and finally love. Love is the binding element that keeps a relationship strong and solid. But how do you know if you are in love in true sense? Here are some symptoms that the emotion you are feeling is healthy, life-enhancing love.

Love is the Greatest Wealth in Life

Love is the greatest wealth in life because we buy things we love for our happiness. For example, we build our dream house and purchase a favorite car to attract love. Being loved in a remote environment is a better experience than been hated even in the most advanced environment.

Love or Money

Love should be given more importance than money as love is always everlasting. Money is important to live, but having a true companion you can always trust should come before that. If you love each other, you will both work hard to help each other live an amazing life together.

Love has been a vital reason we do most things in our life. Before we could know ourselves, we got showered by it from our close relatives like mothers , fathers , siblings, etc. Thus love is a unique gift for shaping us and our life. Therefore, we can say that love is a basic need of life. It plays a vital role in our life, society, and relation. It gives us energy and motivation in a difficult time. Finally, we can say that it is greater than any other thing in life.

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What is love? Stanford researchers and scholars examine matters of the heart

From the fields of science to sociology, politics and philosophy, here is what Stanford research says about love and romance, in the past and present day.  

For centuries, people have tried to understand the behaviors and beliefs associated with falling in love. What explains the wide range of emotions people experience? How have notions of romance evolved over time? As digital media becomes a permanent fixture in people’s lives, how have these technologies changed how people meet?

Examining some of these questions are Stanford scholars.

From the historians who traced today’s ideas of romance to ancient Greek philosophy and Arab lyric poetry, to the social scientists who have examined the consequences of finding love through an algorithm, to the scientists who study the love hormone oxytocin, here is what their research reveals about matters of the heart.

The evolution of romance

How romantic love is understood today has several historical origins, says Robert Pogue Harrison , the Rosina Pierotti Professor in Italian Literature and a scholar of romance studies.

For example, the idea of finding one’s other half dates back to ancient Greek mythology, Harrison said. According to Aristophanes in Plato’s Symposium , humans were once complete, “sphere-like creatures” until the Greek gods cut them in half. Ever since, individuals have sought after their other half.

Here are some of those origin stories, as well as other historical perspectives on love and romance, including what courtship looked like in medieval Germany and in Victorian England, where humor and innuendo broke through the politics of the times.

essay for definition of love

Stanford scholar examines origins of romance

Professor of Italian literature Robert Pogue Harrison talks about the foundations of romantic love and chivalry in Western civilization.

Codex Manesse

Medieval songs reflect humor in amorous courtships

Through a new translation of medieval songs, Stanford German studies Professor Kathryn Starkey reveals an unconventional take on romance.  

Sketch of Victorian couple

The aesthetics of sexuality in Victorian novels

In Queen Victoria’s England, novelists lodged erotic innuendo in descriptive passages for characters to express sexual desire.

essay for definition of love

Getting to the ‘heart’ of the matter

Stanford Professor Haiyan Lee chronicles the Chinese “love revolution” through a study of cultural changes influenced by Western ideals.

Love in the digital age

Where do people find love today? According to recent research by sociologist Michael Rosenfeld , meeting online is now the most popular way to meet a partner. 

“The rise of the smartphone took internet dating off the desktop and put it in everyone’s pocket, all the time,” said Rosenfeld. He found that 39 percent of heterosexual couples met their significant other online, compared to 22 percent in 2009. 

As people increasingly find connections online, their digital interactions can provide insight into people’s preferences in a partner. 

For example, Neil Malhotra , the Edith M. Cornell Professor of Political Economy, analyzed thousands of interactions from an online dating website and found that people seek partners from their own political party and with similar political interests and ideologies. Here is some of that research. 

essay for definition of love

Online dating is the most popular way couples meet

Matchmaking is now done primarily by algorithms, according to new research from Stanford sociologist Michael Rosenfeld. His new study shows that most heterosexual couples today meet online.

essay for definition of love

Cupid’s code: Tweaking an algorithm can alter the course of finding love online

A few strategic changes to dating apps could lead to more and better matches, finds Stanford GSB’s Daniela Saban.

essay for definition of love

Political polarization even extends to romance

New research reveals that political affiliation rivals education level as one of the most important factors in identifying a potential mate.

essay for definition of love

Turns out that opposites don’t attract after all

A study of “digital footprints” suggests that you’re probably drawn to personalities a lot like yours.

woman at home absorbed in her cell phone

Stanford scholars examine the lies people tell on mobile dating apps

Lies to appear more interesting and dateable are the most common deception among mobile dating app users, a new Stanford study finds.

The science of love

It turns out there might be some scientific proof to the claim that love is blind. According to one Stanford study , love can mask feelings of pain in a similar way to painkillers. Research by scientist Sean Mackey found intense love stimulates the same area of the brain that drugs target to reduce pain. 

“When people are in this passionate, all-consuming phase of love, there are significant alterations in their mood that are impacting their experience of pain,” said Mackey , chief of the Division of Pain Medicine. “We’re beginning to tease apart some of these reward systems in the brain and how they influence pain. These are very deep, old systems in our brain that involve dopamine – a primary neurotransmitter that influences mood, reward and motivation.”  

While love can dull some experiences, it can also heighten other feelings such as sociability. Another Stanford study found that oxytocin, also known as the love hormone because of its association with nurturing behavior, can also make people more sociable. Here is some of that research. 

essay for definition of love

Looking for love in all the wrong hormones

A study involving prairie vole families challenges previous assumptions about the role of oxytocin in prosocial behavior.

essay for definition of love

Give your sweetheart mushrooms this Valentine’s Day, says Stanford scientist

A romantic evening of chocolate and wine would not be possible without an assist from fungi, says Stanford biology professor Kabir Peay. In fact, truffles might be the ultimate romantic gift, as they exude pheromones that can attract female mammals.

essay for definition of love

Love takes up where pain leaves off, brain study shows

Love-induced pain relief was associated with the activation of primitive brain structures that control rewarding experiences.

essay for definition of love

Come together: How social support aids physical health

A growing body of research suggests that healthy relationships with spouses, peers and friends are vital for not just mental but also physical health.

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essay for definition of love

What is Love? Love is a Verb – bell hooks

To love well , we need to understand what we mean when we talk about love, and what love means to us all individually on the deepest, subconscious level, in the part of ourselves that began to be constructed in our earliest lives. This is the premise feminist scholar and cultural critic bell hooks establishes at the beginning of her book of essays on the subject of love, ‘all about love’. She goes on to argue that we must look at love not as an abstract concept, but as a concrete manifestation of actions. “We would all love better,” she writes, “if we used it as a verb.”

Imagine how much easier it would be for us to learn how to love if we began with a shared definition. The word “love” is most often defined as a noun, yet all the more astute theorists of love acknowledge that we would all love better if we used it as a verb. I spent years searching for a meaningful definition of the word “love,” and was deeply relieved when I found One in psychiatrist   Scott Peck’s classic self-help book The Road Less Traveled, first published in 1978. Echoing the work of Erich Fromm, he defines love as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” Explaining further, he continues: “Love is as love does. Love is an act of will—namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.” Since the choice must be made to nurture growth, this definition counters the more widely accepted assumption that we love instinctually.

The lack of an ongoing public discussion and public policy about the practice of love in our culture and in our lives means that we still look to books as a primary source of guidance and direction. Large numbers of readers embrace Peck’s definition of love and are applying it to their lives in ways that are helpful and transformative. We can spread the word by evoking this definition in day-to-day   conversations, not just when we talk to other adults but in our conversations with children and teenagers. When we intervene on mystifying assumptions that love cannot be defined by offering workable, useful definitions, we are already creating a context where love can begin to flourish.  

Some folks have difficulty with Peck’s definition of love because he uses the word “spiritual.” He is referring to that dimension of our core reality where mind, body, and spirit are one. An individual does not need to be a believer in a religion to embrace the idea that there is an animating principle in the self—a life force (some of us call it soul) that when nurtured enhances our capacity to be more fully self-actualized and able to engage in communion with the world around us.  

To begin by always thinking of love as an action rather than a feeling is one way in which anyone using the word in this manner automatically assumes accountability and responsibility. We are often taught we have no control over our “feelings.” Yet most of us accept that we choose our actions, that intention and will inform what we do. We also accept that our actions have consequences. To think of actions shaping feelings is one way we rid ourselves of conventionally accepted assumptions such as that parents love their children, or that one simply “falls” in love without exercising will or choice, that there are such things as “crimes of passion,” i.e., he killed her because  he loved her so much. If we were constantly remembering that love is as love does, we would not use the word in a manner that devalues and degrades its meaning, When we are loving we openly and honestly express care, affection, responsibility, respect, commitment, and trust.  

Definitions are vital starting points for the imagination. What we cannot imagine cannot come into being. A good definition marks our starting point and lets us know where we want to end up. As we move toward our desired destination we chart the journey, creating a map. We need a map to guide us on our journey to love—starting with the place where we know what we mean when we speak of love.  

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Truly fascinated by ‘bell hooks’ and intend to purchase her books and delve into them. Hope others will do the same. She and Dr. Cornel West, are two fabulous African American scholars! Listen to them on Youtube.com

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Essays on Love: Exploring the Depths of Human Connection

Essays on Love: Exploring the Depths of Human Connection

Love is a complex and multifaceted emotion that has been explored and celebrated in various forms of art throughout history. From Shakespeare’s famous sonnets to the latest blockbuster movie, love’s impact can be seen and felt in all corners of the world. But what exactly is love? Is it a feeling, an experience, or something deeper? How do we define it, and what prompts us to seek and nurture connections with others?

These are just a few of the questions that have fascinated philosophers, poets, and scientists for centuries. Love, in its essence, is a fundamental aspect of human existence that goes beyond simple attraction or affection. It encompasses a wide range of emotions, from the joy and fulfillment of finding a life partner to the vulnerability and pain that can come with a broken heart.

In academic papers and essays on love, there are various topics one can choose to write about. From exploring the different types of love, such as romantic love, platonic love, and familial love, to delving into the impact of love on mental and physical health, the possibilities are endless. The choice of topic will depend on your own interests and the purpose of your essay.

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101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think

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When writing a 500-word essay, a 5-paragraph structure works perfectly. Start with a strong hook or a thought-provoking quotation to grab the reader’s attention. Then, in the body paragraphs, you can use examples, anecdotes, or research to support your thesis statement and explore your ideas further. Finally, conclude by summarizing your main points and leaving the reader with a final thought or call to action.

One of the great benefits of writing essays on love is that it allows you to touch upon topics that are frequently left unexplored in everyday conversations. Love is a universal experience, yet it is often talked about in vague terms without delving into its complexities. By writing about love, you have the opportunity to bring these nuanced discussions to the forefront and deepen your understanding of this powerful emotion.

So, whether you wish to write a personal reflection on a past love, analyze the cultural and societal influences on our perception of love, or explore the future of love in an increasingly digital world, there is a wealth of material to draw from. The important thing is to choose a topic that you are passionate about and that will allow you to showcase your unique perspective.

In the following essays, we will delve into various aspects of love, including the role of vulnerability in creating fulfilling connections, the ways in which love can be a force for personal growth and change, and the impact of love in different cultures and time periods. Each essay will present a different lens through which to view and understand love, providing you with new insights and perspectives to consider.

So get ready to dive into the depths of human connection, as we explore the many ways in which love shapes and defines our lives. Whether you are a seasoned writer or just starting out, these essays on love will provide you with the tools and inspiration to write thought-provoking and impactful papers that will be sure to leave a lasting impression.

Download this collection of essays on love now and see for yourself the power of words and the art of writing in capturing the essence of love.

Bonus tip: If you are struggling to find the perfect topic for your love essay, try writing a 250-words essay on “What Love Means to Me.” This exercise will help you reflect on your own experiences and perceptions of love and can serve as a great starting point for further exploration.

The Power of Love Essays

When writing love essays, it is important to choose a topic that resonates with you personally. Whether you are exploring the love within a family, the love shared between friends, or the romantic love between partners, selecting a topic that you have a deep connection with will allow you to write with extra attention and authenticity.

The thesis statement is an essential part of your essay, as it states the main argument or focus of your paper. In love essays, the thesis statement often explores the definition of love, how it affects individuals and society, and its role in fulfilling human needs for connection and vulnerability.

In order to support your thesis statement, it is crucial to do thorough research on the topic. You can choose to include scientific studies, cultural examples, or personal experiences that add depth and credibility to your essay. By including a variety of sources, your love essay will be well-rounded and comprehensive.

When crafting your essay, consider using prompts or writing exercises to inspire your writing. Such prompts may ask you to define what love means to you, discuss a time when you felt loved, or explore the role of love in a specific context or culture. These prompts can provide a framework for your essay and help you stay focused on your main points.

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As you write your love essay, keep in mind the impact that love has on both individuals and society as a whole. Love can inspire, heal, and bring people together, but it can also be a source of pain and vulnerability. By delving into the complexities of love, your essay will paint a picture of its power and significance in our lives.

Finally, to give your readers a bonus, you can include examples of famous love essays or provide a sample love essay of your own. This will allow your readers to see how others have approached the topic and give them inspiration for their own writing.

Examples of Love Essays That Explore the Depths of Human Connection

One way to hook the reader’s attention is by starting with an anecdotal or personal story about love. For example, you could write about a time when you felt a deep connection with someone, whether it was a romantic partner, a friend, or a family member. By sharing your own experience, you give the reader a glimpse into the world of love and human connection.

In academic writing, it is important to have a clear thesis statement that outlines the main argument of your essay. When writing about love, you could choose a thesis statement that explores the idea that love is a necessary and fulfilling human experience. This statement can be supported by research on the health benefits of love and the importance of social connections for overall well-being.

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One way to support your thesis is by using examples from famous movies or literature that depict love and its impact on relationships. For example, you could write about how the movie “The Notebook” portrays a deep and enduring love between the two main characters, and how their love transforms both of their lives.

In addition to using examples from popular culture, you can also draw inspiration from your own life and relationships. Think about the people you love and the ways in which they have enriched your life. Consider writing about a specific moment or experience that encapsulates the depth and power of love.

When writing about love, it is important to consider the different dimensions of human connection. Love can be romantic, platonic, familial, or even self-directed. By exploring these different types of love, you can paint a more comprehensive picture of the complexities of human relationships.

For those who wish to delve deeper into the topic of love, it is also possible to write a longer essay, such as a 500-word essay. This length allows for a more in-depth exploration of the topic and can provide more room for personal reflection and analysis.

Understanding the Different Types of Love Essays

Defining love: academic essays on love.

If you’re looking to delve into the academic aspects of love, you might choose to write an essay that explores the definition of love. In this type of essay, you can examine the various theories and philosophical perspectives on love, such as the different types of love according to the ancient Greeks or the psychological aspects of falling in love. This type of essay typically requires research and the inclusion of credible sources to support your arguments.

The Power of Love: Anecdotal Essays

Anecdotal essays on love provide a more personal and experiential perspective. In this type of essay, you have the freedom to share your own experiences and explore the power of love in your life. You can recount personal stories of love and its impact, discussing how it has shaped your relationships, changed your worldview, or enriched your life. Anecdotal essays allow you to connect with readers on an emotional level and provide a glimpse into the essence of love.

Exploring Love in Literature and Art

Love has been a recurring theme in literature and art for centuries. Writing an essay on love in literature or art allows you to explore how this universal human emotion has been portrayed throughout history. You can analyze famous works of literature, such as Shakespeare’s plays or Jane Austen’s novels, and examine how love is depicted and its significance in those works. Alternatively, you can delve into the world of art and discuss how artists have captured the essence of love through various mediums, such as painting, sculpture, or film.

Love in the Modern World: Essays on Modern Relationships

In the modern world, love and relationships have taken on new complexities and challenges. Essays on modern relationships can explore topics such as the impact of technology on love, online dating, or the changing dynamics of long-term partnerships. You can discuss the role of vulnerability, communication, and compromise in modern relationships, offering insights and reflections on what makes them fulfilling and how they differ from relationships in the past.

Whether you wish to write a 500-word essay or a 25-page thesis on love, there is a type of love essay that will capture your attention and inspire you. Love is a vast and boundless subject, and the ideas and topics you can explore are endless. Choose a type of love essay that resonates with you, and dive into this fascinating world that touches us all.

As a bonus, we’ve created a free download of 20 inspiring love essay topics that can serve as a starting point for your writing. These topics cover a wide range of love-related themes, from unconditional love and the pain of love to the ideal partner and the role of love in a shared future. Download this resource for instant inspiration and choose the topic that speaks to you the most.

Exploring Romantic Love, Familial Love, and Platonic Love in Essays

1. romantic love.

One of the most commonly explored forms of love in essays is romantic love. Romantic love is often depicted as passionate, intense, and all-consuming. Writers use their words to paint a picture of love’s essence, often touching on the vulnerability, joy, pain, and deep connection that comes with romantic relationships. They may analyze the science behind love’s attraction or share personal experiences and insights into the complexities of love.

For example, in the famous essay “On Love” by Alain de Botton, he explores the idea of an ideal partner and questions the societal expectations and pressures that shape our perception of love. He argues that true love requires a deep understanding of oneself and the ability to accept and love another person for who they truly are.

2. Familial Love

Another form of love frequently explored in essays is familial love. Familial love refers to the deep and unconditional bond between family members, such as between parents and children or among siblings. Writers may reflect on their own experiences with familial love, examining the unique dynamics, unconditional support, and selflessness that often characterize these relationships.

In her essay “This I Believe,” Maya Angelou writes about the love she received from her grandmother, who taught her the importance of love and taught her how to be a strong and confident woman. Through this touching personal story, Angelou highlights the transformative power of familial love.

3. Platonic Love

Essays on love also frequently explore platonic love, which is characterized by deep affection and connection without any romantic or sexual components. Platonic love often exists between close friends and can be just as profound and meaningful as romantic or familial love.

In the essay “The Four Loves,” C.S. Lewis discusses the concept of true friendship and the value of platonic love. He argues that platonic love is a higher form of love that transcends the physical and material aspects of a relationship, focusing instead on the deep emotional and intellectual connection between individuals.

Exploring different forms of love in essays provides readers with a broader understanding of the complexities of human connection and the many ways in which love manifests in our lives. Whether it’s through personal stories, philosophical musings, or academic research, essays on love offer a blueprint for understanding and navigating the intricate world of relationships.

Love Essay Topics That Will Spark Inspiration

  • What is the essence of love?
  • The impact of love on relationships
  • Love in the world of science
  • The art of love: How does it work?
  • The definition of love: A philosophical perspective
  • Exploring the depth of human connection through love
  • The role of love in fulfilling relationships
  • Love and family: The importance of shared experiences
  • Why do people fall in love?
  • The feeling of love: A 500-word picture
  • Love in literature: Analysis of famous love stories
  • The impact of technology on modern-day relationships
  • Is love a choice or a feeling?
  • Love at first sight: A myth or reality?
  • The different ways people express their love
  • Love in the digital age: Can it be genuine?
  • The role of love in personal growth and development
  • The connection between love and happiness
  • Unrequited love: The pain and longing
  • The evolution of love through the ages
  • Love and forgiveness: Can they coexist?
  • The role of love in shaping our individual identities
  • Love in times of crisis: How does it sustain us?
  • The importance of self-love in forming healthy relationships
  • Love in different cultures and societies
  • The future of love: What will it look like?

These topics provide a blueprint for writing an engaging and thought-provoking love essay. Choose a topic that resonates with you and allows you to explore the depths of human connection. Remember to use examples and real-life experiences to support your points. Whether you’re writing an academic paper or a personal essay, these topics will help you create a powerful piece that will leave a lasting impression on your reader’s mind.

As a bonus, here are 3 sample topic hooks to get you started:

  • “Love is a powerful force that can transcend boundaries and bring people together. In this essay, we will explore the impact of love on relationships and how it shapes our lives.”
  • “Have you ever wondered what love really means? In this essay, we will delve into the essence of love and try to answer this age-old question.”
  • “Love is like a touch of magic that can transform lives. In this essay, we will examine the role of love in personal growth and development.”

Feel free to use these hooks as inspiration for your own love essay. Remember to stay true to your own voice and ideas, and have fun exploring the wonderful world of love!

Download here to get a ready-made 25 love essay topics guide written by our experienced writers. Without any tools or academic papers, it’s an easy and free way to find your next topic!

From Love and Relationships to the Power of Self-Love

When we think of love, the first thing that often comes to mind is the romantic love between partners. This type of love is often characterized by attraction, passion, and deep emotional connection. It is the kind of love that makes your heart race and gives you butterflies in your stomach. Many essays have been written about the essence of romantic love and how it can shape our lives.

But love is not just limited to romantic relationships. There are many different types of love that we experience in our lives. For example, the love we feel for our family and friends is equally important and meaningful. These types of love are often characterized by a deep sense of care and concern for the well-being of others.

Another important aspect of love is self-love, which is the idea of having a positive regard for oneself. It is about accepting and valuing who you are as a person and taking care of your own needs. Self-love is crucial for personal growth and happiness. It allows us to set healthy boundaries, prioritize our own well-being, and cultivate a positive self-image.

The Power of Self-Love

Self-love is not selfish; it is a necessary component of a healthy and fulfilling life. When we love ourselves, we are better equipped to love others and build strong, meaningful relationships. It allows us to bring our best selves to our interactions with others and to form deep connections based on mutual respect and understanding.

Self-love is also important for overcoming challenges and setbacks in life. It gives us the strength and resilience to bounce back from difficult situations and to keep moving forward. When we love and believe in ourselves, we have the power to achieve our goals and create the life we desire.

Choosing to prioritize self-love is not always easy, especially in a world that often tells us we need to be perfect. But it is a choice that we must consciously make if we want to live a life filled with love and happiness.

Tips for Practicing Self-Love

Practicing self-love is a lifelong journey that requires effort and commitment. Here are a few tips to help you on your path to self-love:

  • Take care of your physical and mental health. Prioritize self-care activities that nourish your body and mind.
  • Set boundaries and learn to say no. It is important to prioritize your own needs and not overextend yourself.
  • Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small. Acknowledge your strengths and achievements on a regular basis.
  • Surround yourself with positive and supportive people who uplift and encourage you.
  • Practice self-compassion. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a loved one.

What is the main theme of the article?

The main theme of the article is the exploration of the depths of human connection through essays on love.

Are there any examples of love essays provided in the article?

Yes, the article provides examples of love essays that readers can choose from for inspiration.

Why should I read essays on love?

Reading essays on love can provide a deeper understanding of human connection and the various emotions and experiences associated with love.

What are some possible topics for love essays?

Some possible topics for love essays can include the different types of love, the challenges of love, the impact of love on personal growth, and the role of love in relationships.

How can reading love essays inspire me?

Reading love essays can inspire you by offering new perspectives, insights, and experiences that can help you reflect on your own emotions and relationships.

What is the main focus of the essay?

The main focus of the essay is exploring the depths of human connection through the lens of love. The essay delves into different aspects of love, including its definition, various types of love, and its impact on human relationships.

What are some examples of love mentioned in the essay?

The essay gives examples of different types of love, such as romantic love, familial love, and platonic love. It discusses the love between a couple in a romantic relationship, the love between family members, and the love between friends.

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California , and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.

The Marginalian

What Is Love? Great Definitions from 400 Years of Great Literature

By maria popova.

After those collections of notable definitions of art , science , and philosophy , here comes a selection of poetic definitions of a peculiar phenomenon that is at once more amorphous than art, more single-minded than science, and more philosophical than philosophy itself. Gathered here are some of the most memorable and timeless insights on love , culled from several hundred years of literary history — enjoy.

essay for definition of love

Kurt Vonnegut , who was in some ways an extremist about love but also had a healthy dose of irreverence about it , in The Sirens of Titan :

A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.

Anaïs Nin , whose wisdom on love knew no bounds, in A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin & Henry Miller, 1932-1953 :

What is love but acceptance of the other, whatever he is.

Stendhal in his fantastic 1822 treatise on love :

Love is like a fever which comes and goes quite independently of the will. … there are no age limits for love.

essay for definition of love

C. S. Lewis , who was a very wise man , in The Four Loves :

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

Lemony Snicket in Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid :

Love can change a person the way a parent can change a baby — awkwardly, and often with a great deal of mess.

Susan Sontag , whose illustrated insights on love were among last year’s most read and shared articles , in As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980 :

Nothing is mysterious, no human relation. Except love.

essay for definition of love

Charles Bukowski , who also famously deemed love “a dog from hell,” in this archival video interview :

Love is kind of like when you see a fog in the morning, when you wake up before the sun comes out. It’s just a little while, and then it burns away… Love is a fog that burns with the first daylight of reality.

Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream :

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.

essay for definition of love

Ambrose Bierce , with the characteristic wryness of The Devil’s Dictionary :

Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage.

Katharine Hepburn in Me : Stories of My Life :

Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get — only with what you are expecting to give — which is everything.

Philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell , he of great wisdom , in The Conquest of Happiness :

Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky puts it even more forcefully in The Brothers Karamazov :

What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.

essay for definition of love

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in a letter to his ten-year-old daughter explaining the importance of evidence in science and in life:

People sometimes say that you must believe in feelings deep inside, otherwise you’d never be confident of things like ‘My wife loves me’. But this is a bad argument. There can be plenty of evidence that somebody loves you. All through the day when you are with somebody who loves you, you see and hear lots of little tidbits of evidence, and they all add up. It isn’t purely inside feeling, like the feeling that priests call revelation. There are outside things to back up the inside feeling: looks in the eye, tender notes in the voice, little favors and kindnesses; this is all real evidence.

Paulo Coelho in The Zahir: A Novel of Obsession :

Love is an untamed force. When we try to control it, it destroys us. When we try to imprison it, it enslaves us. When we try to understand it, it leaves us feeling lost and confused.

James Baldwin in The Price of the Ticket: Collected Non-fiction, 1948-1985 :

Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.

Haruki Murakami in Kafka on the Shore :

Anyone who falls in love is searching for the missing pieces of themselves. So anyone who’s in love gets sad when they think of their lover. It’s like stepping back inside a room you have fond memories of, one you haven’t seen in a long time.

essay for definition of love

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in Airman’s Odyssey: Night Flight / Wind Sand & Stars / Flight to Arras :

Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.

Honoré de Balzac , who knew a thing or two about all-consuming love , in Physiologie Du Mariage :

The more one judges, the less one loves.

Louis de Bernières in Corelli’s Mandolin :

Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.

essay for definition of love

E. M. Forster in A Room with a View :

You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.

English novelist Iris Murdoch , in Existentialists and Mystics :

Love is the extremely difficult realisation that something other than oneself is real.

essay for definition of love

But perhaps the truest, if humblest, of them all comes from Agatha Christie , who echoes Anaïs Nin above in her autobiography :

It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.

Archival postcards courtesy the New York Public Library

— Published January 1, 2013 — https://www.themarginalian.org/2013/01/01/what-is-love/ —

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What Is The Meaning Of Love? Essay

Love for some people is an endless dream and hope; for others is a temporary feeling that will disappear in time. For some people, it is a fairy-tale, and for others, it is a dream come true. Some might say that love happens only once in a lifetime, and others believe that after one loves comes another. Love is a simple word with a universal definition. The more you tend to know it, the more you get confused with another meaning from different people around you.

The more you think about what love is, the more you ask yourselves about love, and the more you get closer to the true meaning of this feeling, the more you realize that the definition of love comes from only your own feeling. Many films and movies are including with love dramas from the authors. A lot of producers also understand the meaning of love in their way. However, they also suggest the audience understand the same way.

In my opinion, love is to forgive, to take care, and to help in every necessary way. Love is also a tepid feeling that one has with another. Love is an eternal feeling that you desire and want to give to your lover. It is a strong emotion that occurs when you like something or someone, and it is also a deep feeling of Lustful desire and attraction. Love might come in a much different way. It depends on our relationship and what we adore the most.

Lust is the next thing that follows love. Lust for humans is nature. Many love stories and dramas also indicated love and Lust in the same category. However, Lust is not always possibly happening because of love. Love dramas are one of the examples that will definitely influence love in this modern world. It could change the definition of love and also change people who are beloved. Love scenes in the films also indicated a mix of emotions. One of the films that I have watched is one of the examples. The film was called “The Unlovable” that was unofficially published in Thailand. The film consists of one female character and another three male characters.

Basically, the film denotes about how the leading actress has devotionally seeking for Lust more than love. The leading actress play as the unfaithful girl who simply does not know what love is. Nonetheless, the leading actress performance coincidentally reflected the world of love, especially for teenagers. However, the actress role needs to assert the audience in her own way that her Lustful intercourse is exactly what love is. In fact, the plot of the film summarize that love is Lust.

Although Lust will naturally happen with humans, but it does not mean that Lust is love. Even though everything that happens in the story line has already been set up, it is still an incorrect way to identify love. In the matter of fact, all of the love scenes in the film could possibly influence people to change their love definition. Love does not need to end up with Lust. However, I think that Lust is one part of love. In my opinion, Lust will exist in the long term relationship. When people learn what love is, then Lust would come after.

Ultimately, love might be everything for some people. However, not every people have success in their love life. Once when love has fulfilled a person, everything is unstoppable. On the other hand, love can also destroy or even kill someone. Again, it is naturally happen with human and it is impossible to stop it. In fact, people should be able to define the exact meaning of love. Definition of love would be slightly different, so people should understand what the aspect of love is before expressing it.

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IvyPanda. (2021, November 11). What Is The Meaning Of Love? https://ivypanda.com/essays/what-is-the-meaning-of-love/

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IvyPanda . "What Is The Meaning Of Love?" November 11, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/what-is-the-meaning-of-love/.

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Best Definition Essay Examples

What is love definition essay.

1132 words | 4 page(s)

Love is a subject that always interests people more than any other. Men and women talk about it, try to find it, and often think of it as the most important thing in life. This is true of all cultures. Love is the one emotion that everybody wants to feel and experts even say that life is impossible without it. However, there is never any definition that works for everybody. Then there are many different kinds of love. People feel strongly about their children in ways that they do not feel about their romantic partners or even friends. Others struggle to learn if they are in love or are being fooled by other emotions. It is likely that no one can answer the basic question of what love is. At the same time, the need for an answer is only a human impulse and not very important because we know it when we feel it. As the following explores, any kind of love is real when we believe it is real. Love exists because we feel it as existing and that may be all that can be finally known about love.

Discussion In a general sense and for most people, love means that there is a powerful emotional bond between two people. Many would say that it is in fact the strongest bond that can be, when two people have the same and intense feeling for one another. History certainly shows that people are willing to do almost anything to feel this and be that connected to another. The same is true today. All over the world, people go to great lengths to find the partner who will be their true love. They do this because love is a feeling that creates other feelings. When someone is in love in the romantic sense, they usually see everything in different ways. Life itself is much better and the world becomes a “beautiful place.” This happens because of those feelings that are a part of love. Being loved, a person believes that they are special because someone else has chosen them to love. Feeling special, they are more confident and generally much happier. Then, loving someone else goes to the satisfying feeling of giving. This also adds the feeling of appreciating the other, which is very pleasing in itself. All of this comes together to make love’s meaning a certain thing: the ultimate in personal satisfaction. In plain terms, loving and being loved combine to create the best ways that a human being is able to feel.

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This being the case it is impossible to say when we love. That is, we love whenever we can. People are always ready to find love and will do almost anything to keep the love they have in place. However, what is important here is that love can never be planned. Because it is based only on feelings, it can never be known when this will happen. People often say that they are “ready for love” in terms of finding the perfect person. Unfortunately being ready or not ready has nothing to do with when the feeling of love, or loving, will come to us. We can be ready, another person can be ready, but that does not create love. At the same time, it can be said there are times when we can be sure of loving. We usually love our children, parents, and other family members in a constant way, even if it is very different from romantic love. It is a kind of automatic love created by the family tie and the emotional bonds that come from it. Along these lines, we can usually be sure of loving our close friends in the same way. That is, we believe that the love will always be in place, so the timing of it is not a question. It should also be said that these kinds of love, while they are unlike romantic love, may be just as intense. They are often not as joyful as romantic love but they are marked by feelings of the strongest commitment and caring. Then, and like romantic love, these kinds of love usually stay in place even when there is serious conflict.

When the question of whom we love comes up, the same factors as with when are in place. On one level, family members and friends are loved because the feelings of support and affection are powerful. We love these people because feeling combines with reason to a degree. Because they care for us, we return the care and love is generated. At its best it is deeply satisfying. Still, it lacks the passion and excitement we find in romantic love. With that form, the person we love may literally be anyone. Emotional connection, physical attraction, and other forces can combine in endless ways to make us fall I love. There are problems with all of this, of course. Many people feel intense love for another but it is not returned. For whatever reason, the other is not able to feel that way, and the one in love suffers great pain. This goes to that reality of there being no way to create love by will or action. People can make others do many things, both good and bad, but no one is able to make another feel love when they simply do not. Then there is the problem of love existing in harmful ways. Sometimes people believe they are in love with someone who hurts them, when they are in fact “in love” with the need to be hurt. Love itself is so complex that real love can also exist in such situations, too, as when the one in love feels they know the true nature of the one hurting them.

Conclusion It is very possible that no subject known to humanity has been as discussed and written about as love. From the beginnings of civilization, it is the main interest of virtually all human beings. Psychologists analyze it, poets write about it, and ordinary people live to find it. It is then all the more interesting how mysterious this state of being is. There are ways of describing love but there is no real way of defining it. The best anyone can do is turn to the feelings it creates. However, this in itself is a kind of definition. It is not a new one but it is the most logical anyone has ever offered. What is goes to is that love is known for what it is only when it exists, and it is then only known to the individual person feeling it. Love is real because we feel that it is real and that may be all that can be finally known about love.

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Definition of love

 (Entry 1 of 2)

Definition of love  (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

intransitive verb

coco gauff word icons love

  • devotedness

Examples of love in a Sentence

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'love.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Noun and Verb

Middle English, from Old English lufu ; akin to Old High German luba love, Old English lēof dear, Latin lubēre, libēre to please

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Phrases Containing love

  • calf - love
  • fall in love
  • fall out of love
  • for love or money
  • for love nor money
  • love affair
  • light - of - love
  • love - hate
  • love is blind
  • love - in - a - mist
  • love language
  • lucky in love
  • self - love
  • all's fair in love and war
  • for the love of Mike / Pete
  • light - o' - love
  • courtly love
  • for the love of God
  • love - hate relationship
  • I must love you and leave you
  • tug - of - love
  • to know someone is to love him / her
  • no love lost
  • platonic love
  • love handles
  • unlucky in love
  • very little love lost
  • the love of someone's life

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Cite this Entry

“Love.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/love. Accessed 19 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

Kids definition of love.

Kids Definition of love  (Entry 2 of 2)

More from Merriam-Webster on love

Nglish: Translation of love for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of love for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about love

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250-500 Word Example Essays About Love and Romance

Got an Essay assignment about Love and Romance? Let us help you out with these inspiring Examples!

Love, an emotion that has captivated the hearts and minds of poets, authors, and artists throughout history, remains a profound and multi-faceted subject. While the depth and complexity of this emotion can make it a daunting topic to explore in an essay, the right resources can turn this challenge into a rewarding endeavor. For those looking to capture the essence of love and romance in their writing, our essay writer can be a beacon of inspiration and assistance. This tool, powered by Jenni.ai, offers a seamless journey through the essay-writing process, from brainstorming ideas to refining the final draft. 

Whether you're delving into argumentative, persuasive , or reflective essays about love, Jenni.ai ensures clarity, coherence, and a touch of elegance in your prose. It's a trusted companion for students, educators, and seasoned writers alike, simplifying the writing journey every step of the way.

1. The Evolution of Love: A Study of the Changing Nature of Romance throughout History

Introduction.

Love is one of humanity's most complicated and mysterious emotions. People have strived to comprehend and define Love throughout history, resulting in many works of literature, art, and music dedicated to the subject. Despite its universal appeal, the nature of Love has evolved significantly throughout time, reflecting evolving cultural, social, and economic situations. In this essay, we will look at the evolution of Love, from ancient times to the present.

Ancient Love

A. Greek and Roman Love

Love was viewed as a complex and varied feeling in ancient Greece and Rome, comprising characteristics of desire, friendship, and awe. Love was frequently represented as a tremendous force in ancient civilizations, capable of both propelling individuals to high heights of success and bringing them down into the depths of sorrow. This was especially true of romantic Love, which was glorified in epic poems like the Iliad and Odyssey, as well as works of art and literature depicting the hardships and sufferings of star-crossed lovers.

B. Medieval Love

A chivalric code known as courtly Love emerged in medieval Europe. Its core tenants were the importance of Love, honour, and devotion. During this time, romantic Love was typically portrayed as an unrequited emotion, with the lover pining for the affections of a faraway and unreachable beloved. Medieval poets and troubadours mirrored this romanticised picture of Love in their works by singing and writing about the highs and lows of passionate Love.

Modern Love

A. The Renaissance

The idealized picture of Love that had ruled for centuries was called into question by artists and intellectuals during the Renaissance, marking a turning point in the development of romantic relationships. During this time, romantic Love was portrayed as more tactile and visceral. Shakespeare, for instance, reflected the shifting beliefs of his day by exploring the nuanced and often tragic nature of Love in his works.

B. The Enlightenment

The concepts of reason and individuality began to gain root during the Enlightenment, and with that came a shift in how people saw Love. Political marriages and alliances were often formed based on Love, which was now considered a more sensible and practical feeling. Thinkers from the Enlightenment period, including Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, shared this perspective on Love as a tool for bettering society and the individual.

C. The Modern Era

Today, the word "love" is most often used to describe a feeling one has when they are in a committed relationship or when one has achieved their own goals. Love has become a consumable good thanks to the spread of consumerism and the worship of the individual. The media and arts reflect this conception of Love by depicting it as a means to one's fulfillment and contentment.

The changing cultural, social, and economic conditions of each historical epoch are reflected in the history of Love. The essence of Love has changed dramatically throughout the years, from its idealised image in ancient Greece and Rome to its depiction as a spiritual tie in mediaeval Europe to its current identification with romantic relationships and personal fulfilment. Despite these changes, Love remains a strong and enduring force in human existence, inspiring numerous works of art, literature, and music and affecting how we live and interact with one another.

2. The Power of Love: Examining the Impact of Love on Our Lives and Relationships

Love is a strong feeling that may dramatically alter our life and the bonds we form with others. love, whether romantic, familial, or platonic, can unite us and improve our lives in countless ways., the benefits of love.

A. Improved Physical Health

Love has been demonstrated to improve physical health by decreasing stress, lowering blood pressure, and increasing immunity. The hormone oxytocin, which is released in response to social bonding and has been demonstrated to reduce physiological responses to stress, is thought to be at play here.

B. Enhanced Mental Health

In addition to its physical benefits, Love has been shown to have a beneficial effect on our mental health, lowering stress and anxiety levels and boosting our general sense of happiness. The protective powers of Love against the negative consequences of stress and other difficulties in life are well accepted.

C. Strengthened Relationships

A stronger tie may be formed between two people via the power of Love. Relationships of all kinds, whether romantic, familial, or platonic, may benefit from the strengthening effects of Love by increasing their levels of closeness, trust, and mutual understanding.

The Challenges of Love

A. Love can be painful

Sometimes Love hurts, as when a relationship ends or when we can't find the one we're looking for. One of life's most trying events is losing someone we care about, which may leave us feeling isolated, discouraged, and empty.

The Power of Love to Overcome Challenges

Despite these difficulties, Love may help us overcome them and grow closer to one another. The strength of Love is that it may help us learn and grow, both as people and as a community, via its many forms, such as forgiveness, compromise, and the willingness to persevere through adversity.

Finally, Love is a strong and transformational force that may profoundly influence our lives and relationships. Love may provide us joy, comfort, and a feeling of purpose, whether between friends, family, or romantic partners. Despite its numerous advantages, Love may also bring with it difficulties such as heartbreak and strife. Nonetheless, never underestimate the power of Love. 

It has the potential to draw people together and form deep, long-lasting bonds. Love has the power to make the world a better place, whether through acts of kindness, selflessness, or simply being there for one another. So, let us embrace Love in all of its manifestations and harness its potential to improve our lives and the lives of those around us.

3. The Science of Love: Understanding the Biology and Psychology Behind Love and Attraction

For millennia, people have been drawn and intrigued by the intricate and intriguing feeling of Love. Despite its enormous global significance, the science of Love is now being thoroughly investigated. This paper will investigate the biology and psychology of Love and attraction, delving into the different elements that impact these powerful emotions and how they form our relationships.

The Biology of Love

A. Hormone Function

Love is a biological process controlled by chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. These hormones influence our sensations of attraction, enthusiasm, and enjoyment and boost sentiments of trust and closeness.

B. The Influence of Genetics

Genetics also has an impact on Love and attraction, with some personality qualities and physical characteristics that are considered to be appealing to potential spouses being handed down from generation to generation. This suggests that particular preferences for specific sorts of people are hardwired into our genetics, influencing our romantic and sexual attraction patterns.

The Psychology of Love

A. The Role of Attachment Styles

Our attachment types, which we acquire from our early connections with our caretakers, also affect our Love. These attachment types can significantly influence our later relationships, influencing how we build and keep deep attachments with others.

B. The Impact of Social Norms and Values

Cultural Values

Social conventions and cultural ideas also impact Love and attraction, with societal expectations and values impacting our romantic and sexual impulses. These social conventions and cultural ideas influence everything from who we are attracted to and how we approach and pursue relationships.

The Meeting of Biology and

Love Psychology

The biology and psychology of Love are inextricably linked and interdependent, with one having a complicated and subtle impact on the other. This suggests that, while biology influences our sentiments of attraction and Love, our psychological experiences and beliefs may equally shape these emotions.

To summarise, love science is a complicated and intriguing discipline that encompasses the biology and psychology of this strong and transformational emotion. By investigating the elements that impact Love and attraction, we may gain a deeper understanding of the systems that underpin these feelings and how they shape our lives and relationships. The study of Love is a vital and beneficial effort, whether we seek Love, attempt to preserve Love, or wonder about the science underlying this feeling.

4. The Fine Line Between Love and Obsession: Exploring the Dark Side of Love

Love is a powerful and transformative emotion that can bring immense joy and fulfilment to our lives. But Love can also turn dark and dangerous when it crosses the line into obsession. This essay will examine the fine line between Love and obsession, exploring how Love can become unhealthy and dangerous.

The Characteristics of Obsessive Love

A. Unhealthy Attachment

Obsessive Love is characterized by an unhealthy attachment to another person, with the obsessed person becoming overly dependent on their partner for emotional fulfilment. This can lead to feelings of possessiveness and jealousy, as well as a need for constant attention and validation.

B. Control and Manipulation

Obsessive Love can also involve control and manipulation, with the obsessed person trying to control every aspect of their partner's life and behaviour. This can range from minor acts of manipulation, such as trying to dictate what their partner wears or who they spend time with, to more serious forms of control, such as physical abuse or stalking.

The Dark Side of Love

A. Stalking and Harassment

The dark side of Love can take many forms, with stalking and harassment being among the most extreme and dangerous forms of obsessive behaviour. Stalking and harassment can have serious and long-lasting consequences for the victim, causing fear, stress, and trauma that can impact their mental and physical well-being.

B. Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is another form of the dark side of Love, with physical, sexual, and psychological abuse being used as a means of control and domination. Domestic violence can have devastating consequences for the victim, often leading to serious injury or even death.

The Roots of Obsessive Love

A. Psychological Issues

Obsessive Love can have its roots in psychological issues, including depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder. These conditions can lead to feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem, making it difficult for individuals to form healthy relationships.

B. Cultural and Social Factors

Cultural and social factors can also play a role in the development of obsessive Love, with certain societal beliefs and norms promoting possessiveness and control in relationships. This can include gender roles, expectations, and cultural beliefs about Love and relationships.

In conclusion, the fine line between Love and obsession is delicate and dangerous, with Love crossing over into unhealthy and dangerous territory when it becomes obsessive. By understanding the characteristics of obsessive Love and how it can take dark and dangerous forms, we can better protect ourselves and our loved ones from the negative consequences of this powerful emotion.

5. The Concept of Unconditional Love: An Analysis of the Ideal of Selfless Love

All kinds of different things count as Love since it's such a complicated and diverse feeling. Unconditional Love is frequently depicted as altruistic, all-encompassing, and unshakable, making it one of the most romanticized types. In this essay, I'd discuss the idea of unconditional Love, defining it and contrasting it with other types of affection.

An Explanation of Selfless Love

A. Selfless Love

The term "unconditional love" is commonly used to describe a type of Love that puts the other person's needs before its own. In this kind of Love, one person cares for another without any thought of return or compensation.

B. Love that encompasses everything

Many people use the term "all-encompassing" to express how unconditional Love embraces a person regardless of who they are or what they've done in their lives. A love like this doesn't depend on the other person changing or improving in any way; rather, it's an unconditional embrace of the person as they are.

The Ideal of Unconditional Love

A. Love Without Conditions

Unconditional Love is a romantic ideal in which the lover places no restrictions on the object of his affection. Since it involves so much giving of oneself, this kind of Love is typically held up as the pinnacle of romantic relationships.

B. Putting the Feeling into Action

However, since we are all flawed human beings, practising unconditional Love can be challenging in daily life. Although this may be the case, the ideal of unconditional Love is still significant since it motivates us to improve our Love and compassion towards others.

The Advantages of Unconditional Love

A. Stronger Connections

Unconditional Love has the potential to improve our connections with others, leading to deeper and more meaningful bonds. This kind of Love creates a non-judgmental and welcoming attitude towards people, which can assist to lessen conflict and improve understanding.

B. More Joy and Satisfaction

As a result of the more profound relationships it fosters, unconditional Love may also increase a person's sense of well-being and contentment. Finding Love like this may give our life new meaning and make us feel whole.

In conclusion, many of us hold unconditional Love as a relationship goal. Even if it's not always possible, the ideal of unconditional Love is worthwhile since it motivates us to increase our Love and compassion. The concept of unconditional Love may lead us to a more meaningful and happy lifestyle, whether our goal is to better our relationships or to find more pleasure and contentment in general.

6. The Importance of Communication in Love Relationships: A Study of the Role of Communication in Maintaining Love

Love relationships, like all others, benefit greatly from open lines of communication between partners. Connecting with one another on a regular basis, whether it's to chat about the day, express emotions, or problem-solve, is crucial to keeping the Love alive between you. This essay will discuss the significance of communication in romantic relationships, specifically how it helps couples stay together and grow closer over time.

Advantages of good communication

Increased Compatibility and Mutual Understanding

Love partnerships benefit significantly from open lines of communication that facilitate mutual understanding and closeness. Sharing our innermost ideas, emotions, and experiences with our partners via direct and honest communication strengthens our bonds with them.

Reduced Conflict

As we can better address difficulties and find positive solutions to differences when communicating effectively, we experience less conflict in our relationships. Relationships may be stronger and more loving by talking through differences and finding common ground.

The Difficulties in Expressing Your Feelings in a Romantic Relationship

A. Confusing Messages and Confused Intents

Good communication can sometimes be difficult, especially in romantic partnerships, despite its many advantages. Conflict, anger and a lack of trust may all result from poor communication and misunderstandings in relationships.

B. Vulnerability and Emotional Safety

Likewise, it takes courage and trust to open up and talk about your feelings with the person you love. It may be nerve-wracking to communicate our innermost thoughts and feelings with a partner because of the risk of being judged harshly or rejected.

The Importance of Active Listening

What is Active Listening?

Maintaining positive connections with others requires not just good talkers but also good listeners. Paying close attention to the other person as they speak and making an effort to get their viewpoint and requirements is an essential component of active listening.

The Benefits of Active Listening

The ability to listen attentively and process information can have a significant influence on interpersonal bonds. You may show your spouse how much you value their opinion and the commitment you have to the relationship by listening attentively to what they have to say.

Finally, it's important to note that communication is a cornerstone of successful, loving partnerships. Communication is crucial for developing and maintaining healthy relationships, whether it is via problem-solving, venting, or just listening. Your relationship may grow stronger and become more rewarding and loving if you put an emphasis on communicating well with one another.

Final Words

Love is a complicated and varied theme that has inspired numerous works of art, literature, and music. Whether it is the science of Love, the power of Love, or the development of Love, there is a great deal to learn and comprehend about this universal feeling. 

Students now have access to a potent tool that may assist them in writing essays about Love with ease and assurance thanks to Jenni.ai. From giving ideas and recommendations to leading you through the writing process, Jenni.ai is the ideal option for anyone who wants to write about Love and relationships. Why then wait? Sign up for a free trial of Jenni.ai today and explore its numerous writing perks!

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Are you really in love? How expanding your love lexicon can change your relationships and how you see yourself

essay for definition of love

Associate Professor of Philosophy and Fellow of the University of Tennessee Humanities Center (UTHC), University of Tennessee

Disclosure statement

Georgi Gardiner receives funding from the University of Tennessee. She has previously received funding from the American Council for Learned Societies (ACLS) and the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS).

University of Tennessee provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

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Illustration of heart composed of multicolored, overlapping speech bubbles

What is love? Could those feelings you label as love be something else?

What about infatuation? Obsession? A passing fancy? Being smitten? Enthrallment? Beguilement? Lust? A crush? A squish ? Platonic admiration? Why do people categorize some attachments as romantic love but not others?

Suppose Holly meets someone on vacation. They quickly become romantically and sexually intimate and seem deeply compatible. Holly is from the U.K., where the term “ holiday romance ” is commonly used and part of her vocabulary. Because she knows this term, she can apply its social scaffolding to this relationship. She understands that the rapid emotional intimacy and apparent compatibility she experienced likely sprang from fleeting circumstances that aren’t meant to last.

Someone from the U.S., however, where this term is rarely used , might more easily interpret this rapid intimacy as a sign of deep, significant lifelong compatibility.

Judging that you are in love can be powerful . It can affect your feelings, relationships and even your sexuality. But how do people judge whether they are in love?

This, I argue, depends on your linguistic community . That is, how the people around you talk about romance, relationships and attraction.

I am a philosopher who studies categorization schemas – how, when and why people label things such as emotions, sexuality and health. I examine the effects of those labels on how people understand themselves and on their well-being, and how alternative taxonomies and labels can make people understand and shape the world differently.

What happens when a culture instills a broader, more encompassing definition of love, or a narrower, more restrictive definition? How does having a richer vocabulary of words in the neighborhood of love change how we understand it?

The social scaffolding of words

Self-ascriptions of love depend on two things . The first are introspective judgments about your feelings: Are you attracted to the person? Energized by them? Nervous around them? And the second is what you think love is: Does love require caring about the person? Thinking about them a lot? Sexual attraction? When how you feel about a person and what you think love is match up, you self-ascribe love. That is, you judge that you are in love.

Words provide social scaffolding. That is, they create expectations and norms that steer how you behave and react to other people. And vocabularies vary by culture and era.

Categorizing an attachment as a “holiday romance” doesn’t just describe it but can also change its course. The label affects what Holly notices and values about the time she spends together with another person and whether she is inclined to pursue a long-term relationship.

Silhouette of two people sitting on a swing in the mouth of a heart-shaped cave, watching the sun set over the ocean

Vocabulary is empowering . Having an even more expansive vocabulary would allow Holly to experiment with different labels, and these could shape her relationships in different ways.

For example, the term “ eintagsliebe ,” based on the German word for “mayfly” and translating to “one day’s love,” refers to an intense and brief relationship. “ Comet lovers ” have a deep romantic bond but see each other only intermittently, living far apart the rest of the time without much contact. A “ holibae ” is a perennial date that happens only when you’re visiting home for the holidays. See also “ zipcoding ” – dating someone only when you’re both in the same ZIP code.

The dictionary of polyamory

Words create possibilities, and the recent surge of interest in polyamory , or having more than one romantic relationship at a time, has introduced substantial amounts of new vocabulary .

An “anchor partner” is a central figure in your romantic life. A “nesting partner” is a partner you live with. And a “satellite partner” has emotional and physical distance from your home. Vocabularies sculpted by traditional monogamous relationships might not distinguish between these types of attachments because they see non-cohabitating partnerships only as temporary transition phases that end by breaking up or become serious by moving in.

By rejecting the mainstream social scaffolding about relationships, polyamory creates the need for more terms to describe innovative relationship structures. And those words in turn create more possibilities for how polyamorous people interpret and structure their attachments.

Backs of group of people with their arms links around each other, backlit by the sun

“ New relationship energy ” is the buzzing excitement of a new relationship. “ Established relationship energy ” is the comfort of a stable, long-term relationship. These emotions are especially salient within polyamorous relationships, where the excitement of a new relationship can arise alongside the comfort of preexisting relationships.

But monogamous relationships also benefit from these linguistic innovations. Monogamous relationships might also involve new relationship energy, established relationship energy, and nesting, anchor and satellite partnerships, even if they aren’t labeled as such. Such self-understandings affect the values, emotions, commitments and beliefs people use to forge relationships.

Conceptual tourism

Conceptual schemas, or the words and concepts we have for understanding ourselves and the world around us, have permissive flexibility : People can disagree about what words like “love,” “crush” and “bi-curious” mean. Disagreement doesn’t mean that someone is wrong. Rather, flexibility allows us to explore different ways to understand the world and ourselves. We can be conceptual tourists.

Suppose Nell develops an ambiguous attachment to a new classmate. She finds her charming, witty and pretty, but it isn’t a clear-cut case of romantic attraction. Nell can adopt a broad or narrow definition of the word “crush,” depending on whether her feelings meet how she defines a “crush.” Altering what she means by a “crush” would change whether she labels herself as having a crush. This, in turn, could affect whether Nell sees herself as queer or straight.

If she knows other terms to describe her feelings, Nell might interpret them as “ alterous attraction ,” which is the desire for emotional intimacy in a way that is neither platonic nor romantic. She might seek a “ queerplatonic relationship ,” which resembles a conventional romantic relationship but without sex or conventional romance. Or, if her feelings are intense, Nell might self-ascribe “ limerence ,” which is obsessive infatuation.

Two people sitting back to back on grass, hands loosely intertwined

Self-ascribing labels affects what people notice about themselves, how they interpret their feelings and what they appreciate about their attachments. What she pays attention to fuels particular emotions and can bolster certain attitudes, like profound gratitude, that might distinguish love from crushes.

For example, if Nell interprets herself as having a crush, she may become more attuned to the excitement she feels around her classmate, which can fuel those emotions in a feedback loop. If she labels her feelings as platonic admiration, she might instead interpret herself as being nervous about impressing her new classmate.

Nell can experimentally adopt different labels – alterous attraction, queer, crush, limerence, straight and more – to see which fit best. Some labels might better match her emotions. And those labels might also change her emotions and become self-fulfilling prophecies .

Conceptual tourism can be a valuable cognitive skill. It requires the mental dexterity to inhabit rival conceptual schemas and try on new interpretative terms. Doing so can increase your self-understanding, cultivate self-determination and even help steer your heart.

Culture unavoidably provides a lexicon of attachment that shapes how you relate to other people. A culture that is more deliberate about the words it uses for different kinds of attraction can help people bond in new and more open-minded ways.

It’s also a great motivator for education: Learning new words can help you improve your love life.

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OpenAI teases an amazing new generative video model called Sora

The firm is sharing Sora with a small group of safety testers but the rest of us will have to wait to learn more.

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OpenAI has built a striking new generative video model called Sora that can take a short text description and turn it into a detailed, high-definition film clip up to a minute long.

Based on four sample videos that OpenAI shared with MIT Technology Review ahead of today’s announcement, the San Francisco–based firm has pushed the envelope of what’s possible with text-to-video generation (a hot new research direction that we flagged as a trend to watch in 2024 ).

“We think building models that can understand video, and understand all these very complex interactions of our world, is an important step for all future AI systems,” says Tim Brooks, a scientist at OpenAI.

But there’s a disclaimer. OpenAI gave us a preview of Sora (which means sky in Japanese) under conditions of strict secrecy. In an unusual move, the firm would only share information about Sora if we agreed to wait until after news of the model was made public to seek the opinions of outside experts. [Editor’s note: We’ve updated this story with outside comment below.] OpenAI has not yet released a technical report or demonstrated the model actually working. And it says it won’t be releasing Sora anytime soon. [ Update: OpenAI has now shared more technical details on its website.]

The first generative models that could produce video from snippets of text appeared in late 2022. But early examples from Meta , Google, and a startup called Runway were glitchy and grainy. Since then, the tech has been getting better fast. Runway’s gen-2 model, released last year, can produce short clips that come close to matching big-studio animation in their quality. But most of these examples are still only a few seconds long.  

The sample videos from OpenAI’s Sora are high-definition and full of detail. OpenAI also says it can generate videos up to a minute long. One video of a Tokyo street scene shows that Sora has learned how objects fit together in 3D: the camera swoops into the scene to follow a couple as they walk past a row of shops.

OpenAI also claims that Sora handles occlusion well. One problem with existing models is that they can fail to keep track of objects when they drop out of view. For example, if a truck passes in front of a street sign, the sign might not reappear afterward.  

In a video of a papercraft underwater scene, Sora has added what look like cuts between different pieces of footage, and the model has maintained a consistent style between them.

It’s not perfect. In the Tokyo video, cars to the left look smaller than the people walking beside them. They also pop in and out between the tree branches. “There’s definitely some work to be done in terms of long-term coherence,” says Brooks. “For example, if someone goes out of view for a long time, they won’t come back. The model kind of forgets that they were supposed to be there.”

Impressive as they are, the sample videos shown here were no doubt cherry-picked to show Sora at its best. Without more information, it is hard to know how representative they are of the model’s typical output.   

It may be some time before we find out. OpenAI’s announcement of Sora today is a tech tease, and the company says it has no current plans to release it to the public. Instead, OpenAI will today begin sharing the model with third-party safety testers for the first time.

In particular, the firm is worried about the potential misuses of fake but photorealistic video . “We’re being careful about deployment here and making sure we have all our bases covered before we put this in the hands of the general public,” says Aditya Ramesh, a scientist at OpenAI, who created the firm’s text-to-image model DALL-E .

But OpenAI is eyeing a product launch sometime in the future. As well as safety testers, the company is also sharing the model with a select group of video makers and artists to get feedback on how to make Sora as useful as possible to creative professionals. “The other goal is to show everyone what is on the horizon, to give a preview of what these models will be capable of,” says Ramesh.

To build Sora, the team adapted the tech behind DALL-E 3, the latest version of OpenAI’s flagship text-to-image model. Like most text-to-image models, DALL-E 3 uses what’s known as a diffusion model. These are trained to turn a fuzz of random pixels into a picture.

Sora takes this approach and applies it to videos rather than still images. But the researchers also added another technique to the mix. Unlike DALL-E or most other generative video models, Sora combines its diffusion model with a type of neural network called a transformer.

Transformers are great at processing long sequences of data, like words. That has made them the special sauce inside large language models like OpenAI’s GPT-4 and Google DeepMind’s Gemini . But videos are not made of words. Instead, the researchers had to find a way to cut videos into chunks that could be treated as if they were. The approach they came up with was to dice videos up across both space and time. “It’s like if you were to have a stack of all the video frames and you cut little cubes from it,” says Brooks.

The transformer inside Sora can then process these chunks of video data in much the same way that the transformer inside a large language model processes words in a block of text. The researchers say that this let them train Sora on many more types of video than other text-to-video models, varied in terms of resolution, duration, aspect ratio, and orientation. “It really helps the model,” says Brooks. “That is something that we’re not aware of any existing work on.”

“From a technical perspective it seems like a very significant leap forward,” says Sam Gregory, executive director at Witness, a human rights organization that specializes in the use and misuse of video technology. “But there are two sides to the coin,” he says. “The expressive capabilities offer the potential for many more people to be storytellers using video. And there are also real potential avenues for misuse.” 

OpenAI is well aware of the risks that come with a generative video model. We are already seeing the large-scale misuse of deepfake images . Photorealistic video takes this to another level.

Gregory notes that you could use technology like this to misinform people about conflict zones or protests. The range of styles is also interesting, he says. If you could generate shaky footage that looked like something shot with a phone, it would come across as more authentic.

The tech is not there yet, but generative video has gone from zero to Sora in just 18 months. “We’re going to be entering a universe where there will be fully synthetic content, human-generated content and a mix of the two,” says Gregory.

The OpenAI team plans to draw on the safety testing it did last year for DALL-E 3. Sora already includes a filter that runs on all prompts sent to the model that will block requests for violent, sexual, or hateful images, as well as images of known people. Another filter will look at frames of generated videos and block material that violates OpenAI’s safety policies.

OpenAI says it is also adapting a fake-image detector developed for DALL-E 3 to use with Sora. And the company will embed industry-standard C2PA tags , metadata that states how an image was generated, into all of Sora’s output. But these steps are far from foolproof. Fake-image detectors are hit-or-miss. Metadata is easy to remove, and most social media sites strip it from uploaded images by default.  

“We’ll definitely need to get more feedback and learn more about the types of risks that need to be addressed with video before it would make sense for us to release this,” says Ramesh.

Brooks agrees. “Part of the reason that we’re talking about this research now is so that we can start getting the input that we need to do the work necessary to figure out how it could be safely deployed,” he says.

Update 2/15: Comments from Sam Gregory were added .

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A Legal Showdown on the Border Between the U.S. and Texas: What to Know

A court in Austin heard oral arguments in the federal government’s bid to block Texas from imposing a wide-ranging new immigration law.

Officers in Border Patrol uniforms talk to several people standing near a large border wall.

By J. David Goodman

Reporting from Austin

The Biden administration is suing the State of Texas over a new state law that would empower state and local police officers to arrest migrants who cross from Mexico without authorization.

On Thursday, a federal court in Austin heard three hours of arguments over whether to halt the implementation of the law, which is set to go into effect on March 5.

The case has far-reaching implications for the future of immigration law and border enforcement and has been closely watched across the country. It comes amid fierce political fighting between the parties — and within them — over how to handle illegal immigration and follows the impeachment by House Republicans of the secretary of homeland security , and the failure of a bipartisan Senate deal to bolster security at the border.

Texas has argued that its law is necessary to deter migrants from crossing illegally, as has happened in record numbers over the past year. The Biden administration argues that the law conflicts with federal law and violates the U.S. Constitution, which gives the federal government authority over immigration matters.

The judge hearing the case, David A. Ezra of the Western District of Texas, was appointed to the bench by President Ronald Reagan. He had frequent questions, particularly when the lawyer representing the Texas attorney general was speaking, and appeared skeptical of the law.

“Let’s say for the purpose of argument that I agree with you,” Judge Ezra told the state’s lawyer, Ryan Walters. California might then want to pass its own immigration and deportation law, he said. Maybe then Maine would follow, he added, and then other states.

“That turns us from the United States of America into a confederation of states,” Judge Ezra said. “What a nightmare.”

What does the Texas law say?

The law passed by the Texas Legislature, known as Senate Bill 4 , makes it a crime to cross into Texas from a foreign country anywhere other than a legal port of entry, usually the international bridges from Mexico.

Under the law, known as S.B. 4, any migrant seen by the police wading across the Rio Grande could be arrested and charged in state court with a misdemeanor on the first offense. A second offense would be a felony. After being arrested, migrants could be ordered during the court process to return to Mexico or face prosecution if they don’t agree to go.

Texas lawmakers said they had designed S.B. 4 to closely follow federal law, which already bars illegal entry. The new law effectively allows state law enforcement officers all over Texas to conduct what until now has been the U.S. Border Patrol’s work.

It allows for migrants to be prosecuted for the new offense up to two years after they cross into Texas.

How does it challenge federal immigration authority?

Lawyers for the Biden administration argue that the Texas law conflicts with numerous federal laws passed by Congress that provide for a process for handling immigration proceedings and deportations.

The administration says the law interferes with the federal government’s foreign diplomacy role, pointing to complaints already lodged against Texas’ border actions by the government of Mexico. The Mexican authorities said they “rejected” any legislation that would allow the state or local authorities to send migrants, most of whom are not Mexican, back over the border to Mexico.

The fight over the law is likely to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, legal experts have said . If so, it will give the 6-to-3 conservative majority a chance to revisit a 2012 case stemming from Arizona’s attempt to take on immigration enforcement responsibilities. That case, Arizona v United States, was narrowly decided in favor of the power of the federal government to set immigration policy.

Immigrant organizations, civil rights advocates and some Texas Democrats have criticized the law because it could make it more difficult for migrants being persecuted in their home countries to seek asylum, and it does not protect legitimate asylum seekers from prosecution in state courts.

Critics have also said that the law could lead to racial profiling because it allows law enforcement officers even far from the border to arrest anyone they suspect of having entered illegally in the previous two years. The result, they warn, could lead to improper traffic stops and arrests of anyone who looks Hispanic.

Wait, didn’t the Supreme Court already rule against Texas?

Not in this case.

Texas and the Biden administration have been battling for months over immigration enforcement on several legal fronts.

One case involves the placement by Texas of a 1,000-foot barrier of buoys in the middle of the Rio Grande, which Gov. Greg Abbott said would deter crossings. The federal government sued, arguing that the barrier violated a federal law over navigable rivers. In December, a federal appeals court sided with the Biden administration, ordering Texas to remove the barrier from the middle of the river while the case moved forward.

A second case involves Border Patrol agents’ cutting or removing of concertina wire — installed by the Texas authorities on the banks of the Rio Grande — in cases where agents need to assist migrants in the river or detain people who have crossed the border. The Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, filed a lawsuit claiming that Border Patrol agents who removed the wire were destroying state property.

It was a fight over an injunction in that case that reached the Supreme Court on an emergency application. The justices, without giving their reasons, sided with the Biden administration , allowing border agents to cut or remove the wire when they need to while further arguments are heard in the case at the lower court level.

Why the stakes are higher now

Unlike the other cases, the battle over S.B. 4 involves a direct challenge by Texas to what courts and legal experts have said has been the federal government’s unique role: arresting, detaining and possibly deporting migrants at the nation’s borders.

“This will be a momentous decision,” said Fatma E. Marouf, a law professor and director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at the Texas A&M University School of Law. “If they uphold this law, it will be a whole new world. It’s hard to imagine what Texas couldn’t do, if this were allowed.”

The federal government is seeking an injunction to prevent the law from going into effect next month.

“S.B. 4 is clearly invalid under settled precedent,” said Brian Boynton, who presented the Justice Department’s case.

“There is nothing in S.B. 4 that affords people the rights they have under federal law,” he said, later adding that the law would interfere with foreign affairs and the actions of the Department of Homeland Security.

Lawyers for Texas argued that the new law would not conflict with existing federal law. “This is complementary legislation,” said Mr. Walters, a lawyer for the state.

But Judge Ezra expressed concern that the law did not allow a judge to pause a prosecution for illegally entering Texas in the case of someone applying for asylum, calling that provision of the Texas law “troublesome” and “very problematic.”

“It just slaps the federal immigration law in the face,” he said.

Texas argued that the record number of migrant arrivals at the Texas border constituted an “invasion” that Texas had the power to defend itself against under Article I, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits states from engaging in war on their own “unless actually invaded.”

The state has cited the same constitutional provision in the other pending cases between Texas and the federal government. But legal experts said the argument was a novel one.

And Judge Ezra appeared unconvinced on Thursday, as he had been when the same argument was presented last year in the buoy barrier case, which he decided in favor of the federal government .

“I do not see any evidence that Texas is at war,” he said on Thursday.

Before adjourning, the judge turned to Mr. Walters, the Texas lawyer, and said that he would work quickly to issue his decision so that if the state wanted to appeal before March 5, “you can.” He then turned to the federal government’s lawyers and added: “Either of you.”

J. David Goodman is the Houston bureau chief for The Times, reporting on Texas and Oklahoma. More about J. David Goodman

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