Friday, April 27, 2012

What We Love and What We Do

I have been thinking more lately on something I posted not long ago on the different kinds of human interactions. I want to expand on what I said there, looking at how these kinds of interactions are related to different kinds of love.

Our social interactions begin at home. We find in the home eros, or sexual love, on which our sexual relationships are founded. I eros my wife. For the rest of the family, there is agape, or familial (brotherly) love, on which our relationships with those we are related to are based. I agape my children. And if we consider friendships as an extension of family, we can then include philia. Philia, however, is also used for the love of things, ideas, etc. "Philosophy" is of course the "love of wisdom," and "philanthropy" is the "love of mankind."

Within the home we find all of the aforeblogged interactions. We gift each other, we engage in any number of exchanges/barters, we sacrifice for each other, and there is even some level of politics at play. Thus we find the gift economy, the political economy, the market economy, and the divine economy all at work in the household -- something which should not be surprising, given "economics" means "rule of the household."

Of course, we are talking about the strongest of our strong bonds in the household. In our extended societies most of our bonds are weak bonds -- some downright ephemeral. Each of the aforementioned economies have developed into their own spontaneous orders, with their own kinds of philia.

Love of mankind give us our gift economies. That love of mankind can be direct, in philanthropy, or indirect, in philosophy, science, the arts, or literature. These economies are based on the development of reputation.

Love of God gives us our divine economies.

And then there are two varieties of love of self:

1.) Love of power gives us our political economies.

2.) Love of gain gives us our market economies.

There are of course moral and immoral versions of each of these. Take the market economy. We get the word "market" and "merchant" from the Roman god Mercury, who was the god of merchants, but also of thieves. Both are certainly ways of improving one's material conditions, even if one is based on force and is zero-sum and the other is based on mutual benefit and is positive-sum. The more theft-like one's exchange interaction, the less moral that behavior is. And it does not matter if you rob the person yourself or have a third party do it for you.

One can do this with each of these. Lying about your accomplishments to gain reputation is how one is unethical in the gift economy (to a degree, this is turning love of others into love of self, which is what makes it unethical, not being in the right economy). Centralized power is less ethical than decentralized power. Sacrificing others is less ethical than sacrificing self. There are of course degrees between these extremes. Further, it seems to me that when we confuse these orders and the actions appropriate to them, we may in fact be acting unethically. Perhaps that is too far -- but it is something that needs to be thought through. As, I would argue, is true of all of the above.

Finally, if the flipside of love is hate, and our inherited tribalism causes us to see an enemy when we have love of one's own, what does this say about people's attitudes toward those orders with which they do not self-identify?
Post a Comment