What Is This Thing Called Love?@[A Sceptical Essay

Kenji Tsuchiya

The power of love is formidable (I shall call love here mainly the love between men and women unless I specify). Love makes people voluntarily lose their money, ruin their health or even throw away their lives. Love is only beaten by more intensive love.
Exceptionally (only six or seven times out of ten), love is beaten by fear of death, avarice, greed, hunger, or ambition. But people disdain those who put those desires before love. Thus those who sacrifice everything in order to avoid their death are never praised, nor are those who sacrifice everything for money or honour. By contrast, one who sacrifices everything for love is highly praised. Some people are accused of philandering, but it is probably because they are regarded as those who disregard love rather than as those who admire love.
Thus love is not only powerful but is thought to be noble. Why? What element of the beloved attracts one and compells one to love?

1. Love for Conditions

We don't love everyone.@We usually impose some conditions. Some people impose stern conditions, others weakened ones. In an extreme case, the condition is that anyone will do. But one who imposes such a condition, or rather an unconditional condition, equally wants at heart to impose stern conditions. One has only resigned oneself to such a condition against one's will, after many sad experiences and repeated price reductions. It is like a closing sale. Indeed, the market principle dominates the situation of choosing among the opposite sex as well as that of buying and selling goods, so that there are phenomena in choosing among the opposite sex, such as a good buy, a hasty buy, scrupulous buying, an ill-timed sale, a post-Christmas sale, an irrevocable sale and panic selling.
The conditions are classified into two categories, external ones (looks, property, educational background, parentless or not, the kind of car owned), and internal ones (personality, sense of values, intelligence, taste, preference, way of thinking). I don't think either of them is nobler, but there is a tendency to disdain those who are particular about external conditions.
Women are generally said to tend to stipulate external conditions. A man tends to look down on them for two reasons, which are:
(1) He doesn't meet the conditions they stipulate.
(2) Such women themselves invariably have piteous looks, poor educational background and no property.
You can easily see that men are just as prone to stipulate external conditions as women. Whenever he has a choice, a man usually stipulate external conditions in the first place. Indeed, some men don't care what a woman is like inside, as long as she has good looks ( I am not among them). In fact, some men even wish she had no 'inside' at all ( I am not among them).
Thus, in general, whether man or woman, one tends to stipulate external conditions, and, strangely enough, to display contempt for those who stipulate external conditions, even while doing it oneself. And it is also a strange fact that those who do show contempt for stipulating external conditions are always the kind of people who would be embarrassed by the question "Then, do you want someone who stipulates internal conditions?". Anyone who reflects long enough would agree that everyone secretly thanks God for creating the human mind as hidden from others.
There are people who don't admit that they are stipulating external conditions. Some of them, especially women, claim that personalities, the 'inside', are their only concern, and that they don't care about external conditions at all. It is mistaken to believe this sort of claim uncritically.
First, if you ask what personalities they like, the answer will be something like this: one who looks cool, bitter, or even unfriendly, and yet hides gentleness and tenderness in his heart, and is not too cheerful, but grief-stricken and lonely deep inside, and reserved and yet decisive and determined at critical moments. Who can have these personalities other than a good-looking man? This kind of description is in fact a description of the appearance they like. I would rather be required to meet a simple external condition such as being rich or having long legs than to meet such a demand.
Secondly, how a man's behaviour is evaluated varies according to appearances. Suppose someone helped a woman in trouble. She would say either, "How kind of you!", or "How disgusting of you to take advantage of me by pretending kindness!". In this case, 'kindness' is distinguished from 'pretending kindness' by his outward looks. In the same way, a man who teaches a woman something is spoken of either as well-educated or as a show-off according to his looks. There are many other cases where the same act is evaluated differently according to one's appearance. Such are the following.

a good-looking man a bad-looking man

'decisive' 'hasty'
'intelligent' 'over-cerebral'
'having a good sense of humour' 'shallow'
'consistent' 'pigheaded'
'easy-going' 'insensitive'
'gentle' 'effeminate'
'mature' 'past it'
'boyish' 'childish'
'good humoured' 'weak'
'sensitive' 'neurotic'
'elegant' 'vain'
'conscientious' 'strait-laced'
'man of convictions' 'selfish'
'hard working' 'workaholic'
'courageous' 'imprudent'
'generous' 'extravagant'

Thus, what a man is internally is determined not by what he does, but by his appearance. The women who claim that they care only about personality are in fact stipulating appearances. It is deplorable that the criterion for choosing a man is his appearance. It is unfair to men, advantageous though it is to me.
However, there might be some people, especially women, who really are particular about internal conditions. It may seem that they are praiseworthy. But on reflection, the internal are nothing but the attributes which are convenient for them. More clearly, they are actually demanding what is beneficial to them.
Thus if a woman demands gentleness from a man, she is actually demanding not the attribute of 'gentle and kind to any woman, or some other women' but that of 'gentle and kind mainly to her'. The woman who demands considerateness from a man demands the attribute of 'being considerate towards her especially, not another woman'.
In the same way, she who demands cleverness does not demand the ability to contrive to conceal his adultery or to see through her deceptions, but the ability to perceive sensitively what she wants from him and to deal with everything skillfully. The real meanings of the internal characters which are often demanded are as follows.

sincere = never tell a lie nor commit adultery
broad-minded = allows me to do anything
generous = spend money on me
reliable = protect me from harm and danger, and do hard and heavy work in place of me
diligent = never waste money on gambling or something like that and earn steadily
have a good sense of humour = not bore me
not particular about trifles = never notice whatever bad things I may do
entertain high ideals = not too shrewd at worldly things, and easy to manipulate
healthy = no medical expences or nursing requirements

Thus it is obvious that they demand their own convenience, which is no nobler than demanding external conditons. Rather, the demand for looks is, if anything, nobler than that for internal conditions, because it is not to do with their own convenience and benefit. Anyway, there is little difference between external and internal conditions, as long as both are conditions.
Be that as it may, I wonder why women are always particular about just those attributes which I happen to lack, as if singling me out unfairly. Are they doing it on purpose? I would like to apeal to them with great emphasis, shouting, "What is important is not looks, nor money nor what's inside!".
But if I were asked, "What is imporant, then?", I would be at a loss to give an answer, so I manage to repress my shouting. Isn't there anywhere a lofty-minded woman who is not particular about the outside nor the inside?
In reality, however, nobody loves anyone unconditionally. It is not the person himself or herself but the external or internal attributes (position, money, looks, height, house, health, character) that one loves. Whoever might have those attributes will do equally well. So if two persons have the same attributes, they are interchangeable, and if someone has better attributes than the person one loves, which is almost always the case, then one will naturally want to change to the better one. If someone loves one of identical twins and the one is replaced with the other, he will continue to love the other without noticing it. In short, who the person is doesn't matter. It is the same when one buy some goods. In both cases, anything will do as long as it fulfills certain conditions.
Unfortunately, almost everyone thinks of himself as the one and only person in the world who, unlike a mass-produced washing machine, can never be replaced with anyone, however many attributes he may have in common with him. Consequently, in love which is supposed to touch upon the innermost self of persons, most people find it unbearable to be treated like a washing machine which can easily be replaced with any other. (It would be even more unbearable if one were treated like a washing machine which were difficult to replace with another because an equally inferior one would be dificult to find.) But the reality is that there is no love which treats you as the one and only, irreplaceable person.
Of course there may be people who insist,
"I am not like them. My love will not change even if his attributes change. I don't love him because he fulfills some conditions. I don't love him because he is tall or rich. I don't care whether he has such attributes or not. I love him because he is Jack."
It is true that there are films in which love does not change even if the loved one changes his looks. But there is a limit to the amount of change acceptable. Could you continue to love Jack even if he came to look exactly like a frog? Your love might remain unchanged if your Jack became unable to move. But would your love remain the same if he changed his appearance even further into that of a desk? If it remains unchanged, why don't you love a frog or a desk in the first place?
Further, would your love remain unchanged even if his character were changed dramatically, for example if he joined a fanatical cult or became a pervert. Of course if you like abnormality, your love moght grow even more. But in that case, what if the person you love became abnormally normal? Would your love remain the same if the person you love became a type of person you dislike? If you insist your love would remain the same, why don't you love a person whose character and belief you hate in the first place?.
So it is not Jack himself that you love, but the attributes he has, such as 'looking like a human being', 'having such and such looks' or 'being normal'. If those attributes are gone, your love will be gone as well.
Plato, an ancient Greek philosopher, took even more extreme position.

2. Love of beauty itself

He was the first to give fully-fledged thought to the object of love. The expression 'platonic love' is still used, but Plato himself did not advocate so-called platonic love. He didn't deny physical love. Ancient Greeks did not have such a perverse notion as 'love without sex'. The Greek word for love is eros, a trace of which is found in the words like 'erotica' and 'erotic art'.
Why do men and women fall into the relationship of 'eros'? Plato suggests various answers, but he regards as the most promising the theory of the Form of beauty. It is roughly as follows. ( see 'Symposium' for further details).
We are attracted by certain faces and figures. What element of them attracts us? When a ceratain face attracts us, is it because it has a mouth? Of course not. (Though it would be disagreeable if it had no mouth). Is it, then, because it is made from protein? Of sourse not. (Though it would be disagreeable if it were made from stainless steel). There are a lot of things which are made from protein and do not attract us at all. (On the contrary, most filthy or disagreeable things seem to be made from protein.) Is it, then, because it is a face? No, because there are faces which do not attract us at all. The face attracts us not even because of a certain arrangement of the parts such as the eyes and the nose. For whatever the arrangement and shapes of the parts might be, the face would not attract us if the face were not beautiful. So we must conclude that the element of the face that attracts us is the beauty which manifests itself in the face. Whatever properties a face might have, the face will not attract us, unless beauty manifests itself there.
The same is true of the whole body. In fact, the same is also true of the case where certain behavours, characters or minds attracts us. That is, they attracts us because they are beautiful.
Therefore what ultimately attracts us, in other words, what we ultimately love, is the beauty something has. The other elements are redundant, as it were. All the other elements -- being made from protein, having a mouth, being a face, being a mind, being a human being, being a particular person-- are unnecessary to attracts us, or for us to love it. Only beauty is necessary. It does not matter at all whether that beauty is possessed by Marilyn or Elizabeth. In fact, if it were possible for beauty to exist by itself, nothing would be better. Being Marilyn or being a human being is an adulterant which makes love that much more impure.
Plato held that this 'beauty itself' which he calls the Form of beauty, in its pure form is the object of philosophy. So there is no essential difference between a man who is being dazzled by the beauty of the women's bodies in an erotic magazine and a man who is contemplating beauty in an abstract way. (So if I am reading an erotic magazine, it is part of my philosophical activity).

In summary, what is loved directly or ultimately is beauty itself. We are attracted by Marilyn because she has beauty. We would love whatever has beauty, be it a hippopotamus, a stone or Pythagoras' theorem, let alone Marilyn or Elizabeth. So according to this theory, what is loved is actually a condition or attribute, namely beauty, and not the person herself. This is an extreme position that there can not be such a thing as 'love for Marilyn herself regardless of whatever her attributes might be'.

3. Unconditional Love

But I think there is a deeper kind of love which loves a person herself, and not her attributes. It is a parent's, expecialy a mother's love for her child. Mothers are believed to keep on loving her child however it turns out.
A women never wishes to exchange her child with another however ugly her child might be, whereas there is no one day when she does not wish to exchange her husband for another. An ugly child often grows into an impudent, foolish and selfish youth. But the mother never abandons her child even when he says spiteful things to her, changes his appearance and character dramatically, or even becomes a criminal. If her husband sees this and says similar things to her, there will be the hell to pay. In the case of her husband, if he does only more trifling things like gaining weight around the belly, staying out overnight or falling in love with another woman, there will be the hell to pay.
The reason why a mother is so generous about what her child does is not that she doesn't care about him. On the contrary, she cares much more and much more sincere about her child than anyone else does. Nevertheless, her love is never changed however far her child may move away from what she wishes him to be. Thus, a mother's love for her child does not depend on how much he meets certain conditions. It is love for her child itself, stipulating no condition, except, of course, for that of being her child.
Love for animals like dogs is also unconditional, though some might doubt that it can be called love when animals are kept on a lead, are kept within fences or even eaten. Dogs are never abandoned on the simple grounds that they get old, get ill, or change their appearance, probably because they are better-natured than human beings.
Love for children or animals, unlike that between man and woman, is not based upon any condition, internal or external. Of course if a child became a tarantula or a vampire, it wouild be difficult to keep loving him as much as before. But the acceptable limit would be much looser.
In the case of love between man and woman, in contrast with that of unconditional love, one will become disenchanted or rather disillusioned with the other someday. This shows that love between man and woman is based on illusions. Indeed, however much one may love the other, one will become disenchanted if the appearance of the other declines or the character gets worse. More trivially, his way to eat meals, speak or sleep can disenchant one. In fact, love fades away for no reason as time goes by.
By contrast, love for children and animals is not based on an illusion or misunderstanding. As a Japanese saying goes, the duller and uglier the child is, the more his parents love him. Parents love their children even when they understand them accurately.
Thus while man and woman love each other out of self-interest, love for children and animals is pure and noble, disregarding one's own interests and convenience. Love between man and woman is biologically a means of preservation of the species or genes. As a consequence, the individual person's self does not matter between man and woman. All that matters is to produce a good offspring, and not to respect a particular individual. That is why various conditions are stipulated between man and woman. Their love boils down to a result of hormones, and there is nothing noble in it.
It might be true that love for children and animals could be explained biologically. (Biology explain everything away). But whether explained or not, it is still caring and devoted love towards an individual, whilst love is selfish between man and woman.
Even love between man and woman can change into another kind of love after a certain period of time. But it actually is what should be called 'being accustomed', 'resignation' or 'fear of loneliness', and is far from the nobleness of love for dogs, although it might not be impossible to get close to that for dogs. (Nothing is impossible in this world). Once that kind of relationship comes about, it might remain unchanged if the beloved changed into a frog once a day. But even in that case, it would be far better if the beloved changed into a dog and never changed back again.
It seems to me that love between man and woman is overestimated. It is silly for man and woman to express love in public like in Western countries, or for people around them to bless them. If a result of hormones is of so much value, bald heads, being the result of hormones, should be blessed as well.
It is a shame that couples expressing love in public has become more and more apparant in Japan. I don't want to be taken to be speaking out of jealousy, but it is deplorable and irritating to see those sights or couples wearing his and hers. It is inexcusable especially when the woman is beautiful.
Anyway we should cherish the feeling that love is something suspicious. I recall my childhood, when hormones had not yet developed enough, as the freest and happiest time I have ever spent. I don't know what fish think, but human beings would be able to be much happier and would have much less problems, if relations between men and women were simplified to that between fish -- that men fertilized the eggs women spawned by spraying sperms over them.
In conclusion, I would like to say to those with rotten brains who are so intoxicated with the happiness of love as to announce "We are bound together firmly by love", that that love is inferior to the love for dogs.

4. Conclusion

One might think that I have reached the conclusion, especially because I wrote in the last sentence, "In conclusion". But it is not so simple. So profound is love -- and am I.
It is true that love between man and woman aims at preservation of the species, in terms of biology. But it does not follow that that kind of love is impure. However hard living things may make efforts to preserve their own species, the day will finally come when the whole universe ceases to exist. Then all the living things will also cease to exist. So preservation of species itself is a fruitless and tragic business without any rewarding, beneficial result to anyone. Preserving species by means of love is thus an even nobler heroic act than loving dogs. So lofty is the love between man and woman. Here might lie the reason why people highly praise those who sacrifice everything for love. So we should never allow anyone to belittle love by the use of biological terms.

This is my conclusion for the time being until I write a sequel to the present article.