Nico Nuyens, BA. (University of Groningen)

What is love?
A formal, semantic and historical analysis of the concept of "love"

When we talk about love, a philosophical analysis might not be the first thing we think of. It is commonly believed that love is something very personal, which can only be expressed in special art forms such as poetry, literature or music. What can philosophy possibly tell us about this subjective and complex notion? Many people, I think, have a lot of questions concerning the nature of love: what causes us to fall in love in a way that makes us "blind" for other important values? Why do we love this particular person, although there might be others who are more beautiful, more reliable, and moreover not already married? Is sexual or erotic love completely different from the non-sexual love between friends or is there some similarity after all? Is there something like "true love"? And what are the limits of love anyway? Can we love other things than human beings? Are non-humans capable of love? These are not easy questions to answer when we don't know where to start.

Fortunately, we can use analytical methods to determine the formal characteristics of the concept of love as well as the semantic content of the different aspects of love. And besides that, we are not the first ones to inquire into the mysteries of love. Several love-theorists already constructed very insightful theories, which can be used for reflection on possible answers to the questions posed above.

In this presentation I shall present the results of an investigation into the formal and semantic characteristics of the concept of love. This will then serve as an interpretational basis to compare the three most influential theories of love, constructed by Plato (429-347 BC), Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) and Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) respectively.

Nico Nuyens (1976) participates in the Research Master Programme Philosophy: Knowledge and Knowledge Development at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. Starting his studies in philosophy at Groningen in 2001 he went to Germany in 2003 to study at the Freie Universitaet zu Berlin. Then, two years later, he finished his Bachelor in philosophy (Bachelor thesis on Heidegger and truth), and returned to Groningen to start his Research Master in Philosophy. During his study he worked seveal times as a teaching assistent for first year courses on ancient philosophy, 17th century philosophy and 19th century philosophy. The main topics of interest are the history of philosophy ranging from Plato to Heidegger, but he also has a lively interest in systematic topics related to language, meaning, freedom etc. At present his research concentrates on the Neo-kantian philosophy of Cassirer (the Philosophy of Symbolic Forms). The expected date of graduation is September the 1st 2007.