“What is love? May plunders Western poetry, philosophy and psychology to find answers . . . Thought-provoking stuff” (The Sunday Telegraph).
Love—unconditional, selfless, unchanging, sincere, and totally accepting—is worshipped today as the West’s only universal religion. To challenge it is one of our few remaining taboos. In this path-breaking and superbly written book, philosopher Simon May does just that, dissecting our ideas of love and showing how they are the product of a long and powerful cultural heritage.
Tracing over twenty-five hundred years of human thought and history, May shows how our idea of love developed from its Hebraic and Greek origins alongside Christianity until, during the last two centuries, “God is love” became “love is God”—so hubristic, so escapist, so untruthful to the real nature of love, that it has booby-trapped relationships everywhere with deluded expectations. Brilliantly, May explores the very different philosophers and writers, both skeptics and believers, who dared to think differently: from Aristotle’s perfect friendship and Ovid’s celebration of sex and “the chase,” to Rousseau’s personal authenticity, Nietzsche’s affirmation, Freud’s concepts of loss and mourning, and boredom in Proust. Against our belief that love is an all-powerful solution to finding meaning, security, and happiness in life, May reveals with great clarity what love actually is—and what it means.
“The most persuasive account of love’s nature I have ever read.” —Financial Times
“Intellectually engaging . . . Provocative.” —The Wall Street Journal