The Human Embrace: The Love of Philosophy and the Philosophy of Love: Kierkegaard, Cavell, Nussbaum

By Ronald L. Hall | Go to book overview

Six

THE WISDOM OF LOVE

Is the passion of love an uncontrolled happening? Is it merely a matter of chance or luck? Is love an emotion we merely fall into? Or is it merely a matter of being subject to fate? Is love an emotion that we cannot resist or refuse? And will this fall into, or this assault by, love inevitably harm or help us? Some have thought that love is the definitive human emotion, that without it we would not be human. And yet others see clearly that the passion of love can, and almost always does, bring as much misery as it brings joy. No other passion seems to have the power of love, yet no other seems so fragile.

The passion of love raises so many difficult questions. Can a human life be happy without it? Or is the real question this, Can a human life be happy with it? Does human happiness require that we find a way to control, or even extirpate this most volatile of human emotions? Do we need a techne to keep love at bay or to control its potential excesses? Or does human happiness require the existential embrace of love? And there are further, perhaps more profound, questions: If love is an uncontrolled happening, do we then not have a say in it? Or is our only say a matter of developing a techne for defending ourselves from its ravishes? Is there a vaccination we can take to avoid the sickness of love? Perhaps if we infect ourselves with a mild case that we can easily get over, we can make ourselves immune to being hurt by the real thing. Or maybe we need a potion if our aim is to become infected by the real thing. Is there any wisdom in love?

These are our questions; they are Nussbaum's questions; they are the questions much modern literature wrestles with; they are the questions to which the Hellenistic Schools propose answers.

-217-

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