Saturday, May 9, 2009

Aristotle on Love

Aristotle on the Golden Rule:
Eavesdropping on (Male-Logical-Ethnocentric Ethical) Love

In a post yesterday, we said far too much about us and, therefore, hardly anything about Aristotle. (We were so amused by our own categories of history and fiction, religion and secularism, politics and prayer, and law and love - that we ran out of attention to the father of our logic and how we think it must derive his ethics for us. Yes, I'm talking about how we tend to co-opt a method of knowing in order, for example, to rob Jesus of the Golden Rule as if that's our moral obligation. "But we're only being objective," we protest, "merely investigating the nature of what's really real." We hardly think about why Aristotle hated Heraclitus and why Einstein loved Heisenberg and why Toni Morrison's blind, wise woman, who is "the daughter of slaves, black, American, and . . . alone in a small house outside of town," will, without forgoing much at all, kindly point out the fact that the "systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation.") So today let's get right to Aristotle on Love.

Let's let Aristotle speak for himself, shall we? Translator Harris Rackham does. (But aren't we amused that Jeffrey M. Perl and his friends suggest that Aristotle and his translators need anything more than logic? Perl and his pals recognize nuance, complexity, and un-forgone mid-wifery properties: "It takes a rhetorician more ingenious than Aristotle to refigure 'a lover of war' as an isolated pawn — though, as Harris Rackham demonstrates, a translator can devise a sort of logic: 'For one by nature unsocial is also a "lover of war" . . . inasmuch as he is solitary, like an isolated piece at draughts.'" Yes, I know, I'm suggesting we're not so much going to listen to Aristotle's original authorial intent as much as we are going to listen with our own. And yet Krista Ratcliffe suggested this long ago: our recovering Rhetorical Listening from its banishment by Aristotle so as to authorize eavesdroppers). When Aristotle says one thing, Rackham gets it as that very same (dynamically equivalent) thing (and the Greek reader, especially the one of racial and sexual and academic privilege should not make an error). When the author writes, the invisible translator renders precisely. First a glossary, then Aristotle:

φιλίας [philías] = "friendship"
φιλήσεις [philēsis] = "affection"
φιλοῦντες [philoũntes] = "affection"
φιλοῦντες [philoũntes] = "friendship"
ἀντιφίλησις [anti-phílēsis] = "reciprocal affection"

φιλούμενός [philoúmenós] = "friend"
φιλούμενός [philoúmenós] = (person) "loved"

φιλεῖται [phileĩtai] = (to be) "loved"
φιλητοῖς [philētoĩs] = "loveable"
φιλοῦσιν [philoũsin] = (to) "love"
φιλοῦσι [philoũsi] = (to) "form attachments"

ἀγαπῶσι [agapōsi] = (to) "enjoy"
ἀγαπῶσι [agapōsi] = (to be) "fond of"
ἀγαπᾷ [agapã] = (to) "care for"

ἐρωτικοὶ [érōtikoì] = "to fall in love"
ἐρωτικῆς [érōtikēs] = "love"

ἀλλήλους ... καθ’ αὑτοὺς
[allēlous ... kath' aűtoùs]
= "each other in themselves"

Now listen:
Now these qualities differ in kind; hence the affection [φιλήσεις] or friendship [φιλίαι] they occasion may differ in kind also. There are accordingly three kinds of friendship [φιλίας], corresponding in number to the three lovable [φιλητοῖς] qualities; since a reciprocal affection [ἀντιφίλησις], known to either party, can be based on each of the three, and when men love each other [φιλοῦντες ἀλλήλους], they wish each other well in respect of the quality which is the ground of their friendship [φιλοῦσιν]. So that there is a different species of will-wishing in each case.

Thus friends whose affection [φιλοῦντες] is based on utility do not love each other in themselves [ἀλλήλους οὐ καθ’ αὑτοὺς φιλοῦσιν], but in so far as some benefit accrues to them from each other [ἀλλήλων].

And similarly with those whose friendship is based on pleasure: for instance, we enjoy [ἀγαπῶσι] the society of witty people not because of what they are in themselves, but because they are agreeable to us.

Hence in a friendship [φιλοῦντες] based on utility or on pleasure men love their friend for their own good or their own pleasure, and not as being the person loved [φιλούμενός], but as useful or agreeable. And therefore these friendships [φιλίαι] are based on an accident, since the friend [φιλούμενος] is not loved [φιλεῖται] for being what he is, but as affording some benefit or pleasure as the case may be.
There's more in the Nichomachean Ethics:
And the tastes of youth change quickly. Also the young are prone to fall in love [ἐρωτικοὶ], as love [ἐρωτικῆς] is chiefly guided by emotion, and grounded on pleasure; hence they form attachments [φιλοῦσι] quickly and give them up quickly, often changing before the day is out.

The young do desire to pass their time in their friend's [φιλίαν] company, for that is how they get the enjoyment of their friendship [φιλίαν]. The perfect form of friendship [φιλία] is that between the good, and those who resemble each other in virtue. For these friends [φίλοις] wish each alike the other's good in respect of their goodness, and they are good in themselves; but it is those who wish the good of their friends [φίλοι] for their friends' sake who are friends in the fullest sense, since they love each other for themselves and not accidentally. Hence the friendship [φιλία] of these lasts as long as they continue to be good; and virtue is a permanent quality. And each is good relatively to his friend as well as absolutely, since the good are both good absolutely and profitable to each other. And each is pleasant in both ways also, since good men are pleasant both absolutely and to each other; for everyone is pleased by his own actions, and therefore by actions that resemble his own, and the actions of all good men are the same or similar.—
And there's the distinctive distinguishing of love based on science - far separate from that of the poets and pseudo scientists like Heraclitus and Heisenburg - who know nothing of logic or objectivity:
Some try to find a more profound and scientific explanation of the nature of affection. Euripides writes that ‘Earth yearneth for the rain’ when dried up, ‘And the majestic Heaven when filled with rain Yearneth to fall to Earth.’ Heracleitus says, ‘Opposition unites,’ and ‘The fairest harmony springs from difference,’ and ‘'Tis strife that makes the world go on.’ Others maintain the opposite view, notably Empedocles, who declares that ‘Like seeks after like.’

Dismissing then these scientific speculations as not germane to our present enquiry, let us investigate the human aspect of the matter, and examine the questions that relate to man's character and emotions: for instance, whether all men are capable of friendship [φιλία], or bad men cannot be friends [φίλους]; and whether there is only one sort of friendship [ἓν εἶδος τῆς φιλίας] or several [πλείω]. Those who hold that all friendship [...] is of the same kind [οἰόμενοι] because friendship [...] admits of degree, are relying on an insufficient proof, for things of different kinds also can differ [τὰ ἕτερα] in degree. But this has been discussed before.
Perhaps the answer to these questions will appear if we ascertain what sort of things arouse liking or love. It seems that not everything is loved [οὐ πᾶν φιλεῖσθαι], but only what is lovable [τὸ φιλητόν], and that this is either what is good, or pleasant, or useful. But useful may be taken to mean productive of some good or of pleasure, so that the class of things lovable [ὥστε φιλητὰ] as ends is reduced to the good and the pleasant.
But before we leave there's that hint at a Corinthian love, that Christian one, of that man named Paul, who begins to stretch in an other way Aristotle's more objective "agape" love (before he tells the women to be silent in the church and to ask their husbands at home). Says Aristotle, in his Ethics, logically avoiding hyperbole and other extremes:
The man who exceeds these limits cares [ἀγαπᾷ] more for such pleasures than they are worth. Not so the temperate man; he only cares for them as right principle enjoins. . . . Men who have inherited a fortune are reputed to be more liberal than those who have made one, since they have never known what it is to want; moreover everybody is specially fond of [ἀγαπῶσι] a thing that is his own creation: parents and poets show this. But it is not easy for a liberal man to be rich, since he is not good either at getting money or at keeping it, while he is profuse in spending it and values wealth not for its own sake but as a means of giving.
That brings us back to Jesus, to the Golden Rule, to the various translations of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John of the conversations and questions. They are not so logical, so predictable, so categorical. They listen, with their own intent, as they listen to Moses, and to God. Have we answered all of our questions about Love, and the Law? Do we know its shape definitively (as if Greek male elite ethically)?

Would we recognize that "The love of God and for God resides in a gap"? Why are we listening to silenced women, like Julia Kristeva with her Tales of Love and their erotic, apagetic, philetic ambiguities? Like Jane's attention to ... Maggi Dawn and Jeanette Winterson and Simone preaching ... Bits and pieces, fragments, gaps, inbetween.

Who is my "neighbor"? and what must that mean?, asks Suzanne.

If we keep up this nonsense, we'll never listen to Aristotle only and only to his original designs on the Golden Rule.