CHAPTER TWO: THE PERSON AND LOVE

Love and Responsibility Summary Continued

by William E. May

CHAPTER TWO: THE PERSON AND LOVE

 CHAPTER ONE: THE PERSON AND THE SEXUAL URGE
  1. Analysis of the Verb "to Use"
  2. Interpretation of the Sexual Urge

CHAPTER TWO: THE PERSON AND LOVE

  1. Metaphysical Analysis of Love
  2. The word "love"
  3. Love as attraction
  4. Love as desire
  5. Love as Goodwill
  6. The problem of reciprocity
  7. From sympathy to friendship
  8. Betrothed love
  9. Psychological Analysis of Love
  10. Sensuality
  11. Sentiment and love
  12. The problem of integrating love
  13. The Ethical Analysis of Love

CHAPTER THREE: THE PERSON AND CHASTITY

  1. The Rehabilitation of Chastity
  2. The Metaphysics of Shame
  3. The Problems of Continence

CHAPTER FOUR: JUSTICE TOWARD THE CREATOR

  1. Marriage

    1. Monogamy and the indissolubility of marriage
    2. The value of the institution [of marriage]
    3. Procreation and parenthood
    4. Periodic Continence: Method and Interpretation
  2. Vocation

    1. The Concept of "Justice toward the Creator"
    2. Mystical and Physical Virginity
    3. The Problem of Vocation
    4. Paternity and Maternity

Chapter  Five: Sexology and Ethics

  1. Marriage and Marital Intercourse (pp. 270-278)
  2. The Problem of Birth Control (pp. 278-285)

          This chapter is rich in content and also somewhat difficult.  I will try to note some of Wojtyla’s more important observations made by Wojtyla. The long chapter has three major parts, each divided into sections. The parts are entitled "Metaphysical Analysis of Love," "Psychological Analysis of Love," and "The Ethical Analysis of Love."

1. Metaphysical Analysis of Love

           After a brief introduction on the almost inexhaustible richness of meaning found in the word "love," Wojtyla focuses on three basic elements in any form of human, interpersonal love, namely attraction, desire, and goodwill. He then takes up the problem of reciprocity of love between human persons, the movement from sympathy to love, and concludes this part with a discussion of betrothed love.

2. The word "love"

           Wojtyla takes as his starting point the fact that "love is always a mutual relationship between persons," a relationship based on "particular attitudes toward the good, adopted by each of them individually and by both jointly" (p. 73). He then outlines the balance of the chapter and the need to present a metaphysical, psychological and ethical analysis of the elements of love as a relationship between persons, particularly between a man and a woman.

3. Love as attraction

           Here Wojtyla is concerned with one basic element in human love, that of attraction. He is, in short, here concerned with what the medievals called the amor complacentiae (the English text mistakenly reads amor complacentia). As an attraction love includes a cognitive element--a cognitive commitment of the subject--but there is in attraction something more, extra-intellectual and extra-cognitive factors involving a commitment of the will. Wojtyla maintains that attraction is "so to speak, a form of cognition which commits the will but commits it because it is committed by it," and because the human person is a bodily being, attraction likewise involves the emotions.

           The principal point is that an attraction consists of responses to a number of distinct values. Since these values have their source in a person, attraction has "as its object a person, and its source is the whole person." From this it follows that "attraction is of the essence of love and in some sense is indeed love, although love is not merely attraction"(p. 76). Attraction is not just an element of love but "one of the essential components of love as a whole" (pp. 76-77). One is attracted to a value one finds in a person, a value to which one is particularly sensitive.

           But Wojtyla holds that love as attraction must be rooted in the truth, and that emotional-affective reactions (whose object is not the truth) can distort or falsify attractions--if so, emotional love easily turns to hate (pp. 77-78). Thus in any attraction "the question of the truth about the person towards whom it is felt is so important....the truth about the person who is its object must play a part at least as important as the truth of the sentiments. These two truths, properly integrated, give to an attraction that perfection which is one of the elements of a genuinely good and genuinely 'cultivated' love" (p. 78)--and obviously sexual values can elicit attraction. It is therefore important, Wojtyla continues, "to stress that the attraction must never be limited to partial values, to something which is inherent in the person but is not the person as a whole. There must be a direct attraction to the person: in other words, response to particular qualities inherent in a person must go with a simultaneous response to the qualities of the person as such, an awareness that a person as such is a value, and not merely attractive because of certain qualities which he or she possesses" (p. 79). In the development of this theme Wojtyla makes the following most significant comment: "A human being is beautiful and may be revealed as beautiful to another human being" (p. 79). And beauty is more than skin deep: the love between persons, and between a man and a woman has as one of its components an attraction originating "not just in a reaction to visible and physical beauty, but also in a full and deep appreciation of the beauty of the person" (p. 80).

4. Love as desire

           Wojtyla next considers love as desire, or what the medievals called the amor concupiscentiae (not amor concupiscentia, as the text reads). Desire belongs to the very essence of love, and does so because the human person, as a limited and not self-sufficient being, is in need of other beings (p. 80). In particular, a man as a being of the male sex is in need of a woman as a being of the female sex and vice versa: the two are "complementary," i.e., they help fulfill each other, and the sexual urge is oriented in part to this completion of the one sex by the other. "This is 'love of desire,' for it originates in a need and aims at finding a good which it lacks. For a man, that good is a woman, for a woman it is a man" (p. 81).

           But, and this is most important, "there is...a profound difference between love as desire (amor concupiscentiae) and desire itself (concupiscentia), especially sensual desire." Desire as such implies a utilitarian attitude. Hence "love as desire cannot be reduced to desire itself. It is simply the crystallization of the objective need of one being directed towards another being which is for it a good and an object of longing. In the mind of the subject love-as-desire is not felt as mere desire. It is felt as a longing for some good for its own sake....love is therefore apprehended as a longing for the person, and not as mere sensual desire, concupiscentia. Desire goes together with this longing, but is...overshadowed by it" (p. 81). Wojtyla notes that "to be useful is not the same as being an object of use....thus, true 'love as desire' never becomes utilitarian in its attitude for [even when desire is aroused] it has its roots in the personalistic principle" (p. 82).

5. Love as Goodwill

           Here Wojtyla is concerned with what the medievals termed amor benevolentiae."Love is the fullest realization of the possibilities inherent in man....The person finds in love the greatest possible fullness of being, of objective existence....A genuine love is one in which the true essence of love is realized--a love which is directed to a genuine...good in the true way" (pp. 82-83).

           Love of benevolence or benevolence is essential to love between persons. It is unselfish love, for goodwill is free of self-interest and is indeed "selflessness in love....Love as goodwill, amor benevolentiae, is therefore love in a more unconditional sense than love-desire" (p. 83).

6. The problem of reciprocity

           Wojtyla here notes that since human interpersonal love, and particularly the love of man for woman and vice versa, is a love which exists between them, this suggests that "love is not just something in the man and something in the woman--but is something common to them and unique" (p. 84). We come now to the communication of incommunicable persons. How is this possible? How can the "I" and the "Thou" become a "We"?

           The path lies through the will. "The fact is that a person who desires another person as a good desires above all that person's love in return for his or her own love, desires that is to say another person above all as the co-creator of love, and not merely as the object of appetite....The desire for reciprocity does not cancel out the disinterested character of love....Reciprocity brings with it a synthesis, as it were, of love as desire and love as goodwill" (pp. 85-86). Wojtyla then recalls Aristotle's thought on friendship and reciprocity. Aristotle distinguished different kinds of reciprocity, depending on the "good on which reciprocity and hence the friendship as a whole is based....If it is a genuine good...reciprocity is something deep, mature and virtually indestructible....So then...if that which each of the two persons contributes to their reciprocal love is his or her personal love, but a love of the highest ethical value, virtuous love, then reciprocity assumes the characteristics of durability and reliability [leading to trust"] (pp. 86-87). A utilitarian attitude, rooted in a merely useful good and not an honest good, destroys the possibility of true reciprocity (p. 87).

7. From sympathy to friendship

           Here Wojtyla first analyzes sympathy as an emotional kind of love whereby one feels with another and refers to experiences that persons share subjectively. The danger here is that what will count is the value of the subjectively experienced emotion (the sympathy) and not the value of the person (p. 90). But sympathy has the power to make people feel close to each other; it is hence quite important as a palpable manifestation of love. But the most important element in love is will, and sympathy must be integrated into the person through the will if friendship, based on the objective value of the person, is to take root: "sympathy must be transformed into friendship, and friendship supplemented by sympathy" (p. 91). But "friendship...consists in a full commitment of the will to another person with a view to that person's good" (p. 92). While love is "always a subjective thing, in that it must reside in subjects," at the same time "it must be free of subjectivity. It must be something objective within the subject, have an objective as well as a subjective profile." It must, in other words, be rooted in friendship. Comradeship, while distinct from both sympathy and friendship, can ripen into friendship inasmuch as it "gives a man and a woman an objective common interest" (p. 94).

8. Betrothed love

           In the final section of this part of the chapter Wojtyla is concerned with betrothed love, whose "decisive character is the giving of one's own person [to another]." Its essence is "self-giving, the surrender of one's 'I'" (p. 96). This is an interpersonal love that is deeper than friendship. “Betrothed Love” in Love and Responsibility is what John Paul II calls “spousal love” in the Theology of the Body, and its means is deepened immensely in his reflections on that topic.

           A paradox is involved here, for persons are incommunicable, yet in betrothed love there is a full communication of persons, what Wojtyla later will term a communio personarum--a full surrendering of the self to another without losing possession of the self. What is paradoxical is that "in giving ourselves we find clear proof that we possess ourselves" (p. 98). "The concept of betrothed love implies the giving of the individual person to another chosen person" (p. 98). Marriage is rooted in betrothed love, which satisfies the demands of the personalistic norm. "This giving of oneself....cannot, in marriage or indeed in any relationship between persons of the opposite sex, have a merely sexual significance. Giving oneself only sexually, without the full gift of person to validate it, must lead to...utilitarianism....A personalistic interpretation is absolutely necessary." Marriage is the "result of this form of love" (p. 99).

9. Psychological Analysis of Love

           After an initial section distinguishing between and analyzing "sense impressions" and "emotion," Wojtyla then offers fascinating analyses of "sensuality" and "sentiment [=affectivity?]," which he regards as "raw material" for human love and then the problem of integrating love. Here I will focus on "sensuality," "sentiment," and the "problem of integrating love." This section of Chapter Two prepares the way for the discussion in Chapter Three dealing with the integration of sensuality and sentiment as “raw material” for love.

10. Sensuality

           Since men and women are bodily, sexual beings, they naturally impress one another as persons of this kind and elicit a response. Among the responses is sensuality, a response to the sexual values of the body-person and a response to the person as a "potential object of enjoyment." Thus sensuality has a "consumer orientation," being directed "primarily and immediately towards a 'body,'" and touching the person only "indirectly." Because sensuality is directed to using the body as an object it even interferes with the apprehension of the body as beautiful--as a object of contemplative cognition and of enjoyment in that, Augustinian, meaning of the term (p. 105).

           But it is important to recognize that "this [consumer] orientation of sensuality is a matter of spontaneous reflexes," and is not "primarily an evil thing but a natural thing" (p. 106). "Sensuality expresses itself mainly in an appetitive form: a person of the other sex is seen as an 'object of desire' specifically because of the sexual value inherent in the body itself, for it is in the body that the senses discover that which determines sexual difference, sexual 'otherness'”  (p. 107).

           The human person, however, "cannot be an object for use. Now, the body is an integral part of the person, and so must not be treated as though it were detached from the whole person: both the value of the body and the sexual value which finds expression in the body depend upon the value of the person....a sensual reaction in which the body and sex are a possible object for use threatens to devalue the person" (p. 107). Thus sensuality, although not evil in itself, poses a threat and a temptation. It is, however, "a sort of raw material for true, conjugal love." But since it is "blind to the person and oriented only towards the sexual value connected with 'the body,'" it is "fickle, turning wherever it finds that value, wherever a 'possible object of enjoyment' appear" (p. 108). How true! But this natural response of the person to the sexual values of the body of a person of the opposite sex is not in itself morally wrong. Rather "an exuberant and readily roused sensuality is the stuff from which a rich--if difficult-- personal life may be made" (p. 109). Wojtyla is no puritan, no Stoic!

11. Sentiment and love

           Sentimentality, another deeply felt response to the body-person, differs from sensuality because it is oriented "to the sexual value residing in 'a whole person of the other sex,' to 'femininity' or 'masculinity'" (p. 110). It is the source of affection. While based, as is sensuality, on a sensory intuition, its content is "the whole 'person of the other sex,' the whole 'woman' or 'man.' For sensuality, one part of this integral sense impression 'the body' immediately stands out from and is as it were dissociated from the rest [namely, the 'sexual value'], whereas sentiment remains attached to a whole individual of the other sex" (p. 110).

           Thus affection seems free of the concupiscence of which sensuality is full. But a different kind of desire is present, a "desire for nearness, for proximity,...for exclusivity or intimacy" (p. 110). This leads to tenderness, and unfortunately can easily shift into the territory of sensuality, this time a sensuality disguised as sentiment (p. 111). It gives rise to "sentimental love" or what we would call "romantic" love. The problem here is that this can give rise to an idealization of the object of love---one idealizes the object of sentimental love because one wants that object to be the one who gives the subjective feeling of intimacy, etc. Although "raw material" for love, sentiment is not love because it is blind to the person and fixed on the subjective feelings that the idealized person can give. Thus "if 'love' remains just sensuality..a matter of 'sex appeal,' it will not be love at all, but only the utilization of one person by another, or of two persons by each other. While if love remains mere sentiment it will equally be unlike love in the complete sense of the word. For both persons will remain in spite of everything divided from each other, though it may appear that they are very close just because they eagerly seek proximity," but the proximity sought is not sought because the person is loved but rather because the subjective feeling of affection the idealized person communicates is loved (pp. 113-114).

12. The problem of integrating love

           The point of this section is that sensuality and sentiment can be integrated into true interpersonal love, especially between man and woman, only in the light of truth and only by free, self-determining choice: "the process of integrating love relies on the primary elements of the human spirit--freedom and truth" (p. 116).

13. The Ethical Analysis of Love

           In this part Wojtyla insists that it is impossible to integrate the various elements of love, to have psychological completeness in love unless ethical completeness is attained (p. 120). This is possible only by considering love as a virtue acquired when one shapes one's choices in the light of the truth, in particular the truth of the personalistic norm.

           This first of all requires affirmation of the value of the person, and attraction to the sexual values of the person must be subordinated to a reverence for the incalculable dignity of the person. Love "is directed not towards 'the body' alone, nor yet towards 'a human being of the other sex,' but precisely towards a person. What is more, it is only when it directs itself [through free choice] to the person that love is love" (p 123). This leads to the "self-giving" characteristic of "betrothed love," a love based on reciprocity, friendship, and rooted in commitment to a common, shared good (pp. 126-127). Sexual relations are in accord with the personalistic norm only when they take place between persons who are already completely united in this kind of love (i.e., in marriage). Before the love of a man and woman can "take on its definitive form, become 'betrothed love,' the man and the woman each face the choice of the person on whom to bestow the gift of self....The object of choice is another person, but it is as though one were choosing another 'I,' choosing oneself in another, and the other in oneself. Only if it is objectively good for two persons to be together can they belong to each other" (p. 131). In what follows Wojtyla spells out what this entails.

Next CHAPTER THREE: THE PERSON AND CHASTITY

William E. May was a Theological Advisor to Catholics for the Common Good Institute, emeritus Michael J. McGivney Professor of Moral Theology at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C., and Senior Research Fellow of the Culture of Life Foundation.



Copyright © 2004–2012 Catholics for the Common Good®
Permission granted for use of content with attribution to  
ccgaction.org.