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The Antithesis to Love

by on January 15, 2011

As opposed to death being the antithesis of love, I would like to consider envy as the opposite of love.

                To use a Heideggerian approach, the angst of death (or for Heidegger; our being-unto-death) is what gives our lives any meaning whatsoever. The knowledge, the realization that we are going to die is the only thing that really gives any merit to the concept of love. If we were immortal- then love would lose its zest, it would become mundane, for it is our temporal plight that signifies the importance of such concepts as love. It is not a point of contention in citing that death marks the end of the reciprocity of love- but this is approaching only one of the three loves as described, contrasted, and compared by the Ancient Greeks.  Death seems to be more of the culmination of love- displaying the Camus’ notion of the absurd. We plunge into a relationship, purchase a pet, have children with full knowledge that one day, the subject (I) or the object of our love will be faced with isolation as it pertains to the preexisting relationship. Yet we eagerly partake of the love. It is because death is ever approaching that we strive to spend more time with people, pets, loved ones, etc.  Some would consider it then safe to avoid such pleasures and by doing so avoid the heartache, but we all know better. For it is almost inarguable that it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.

                Love, according to the late Robert C. Solomon, is inclusive. The attempt suggested by Aristophanes of love is to reconcile the missing half of us which was lost to the gods’ wrath. Envy, on the other hand, is what separates us. When one is envious of another- one pushes him/her/them away and judges from afar. So as far as human relations go, it would seem that envy serves as a better antithesis to love.  In reference to the love of another person, envy is usually not even directed at a specific person so much as it is directed at the person’s acquisitions or characteristics. Envy is destructive and eroding simply because it is the very antithesis of love or friendship; it separates people.  The Shakespeare play Othello captures the corrosive quality of envy in the character Iago, for he is often ‘off in the wings’ away from the rest of the action, looking at Othello from a distance.

                In accordance with the teachings of Solomon, I believe that love is not simply an emotion, nor is it a feeling necessarily. Love is ‘an engagement with the world, if through one particular person.’ Now death may be the end of a loving relationship, but to argue that death is the antithesis of love seems to misconstrue the significance that death has in such feelings as love or hate any merit.

                The way one sees death, one could argue that death is the ‘end’ of everything as ‘everything’ is, from the perspective of phenomenological existentialism, subjective- our world, our temporality, our spatiality is over. There is no more striving to be authentic, no more yearning for love. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that death is the antithesis so much as the end of a movie is the antithesis of a movie. It is the significance of the end of the movie that we watch it from the beginning, being fully aware that it will end, there will be good parts and bad parts, laughs and even possibly tears, but the end of the movie is the only thing that gives it significance.

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From → Philosophy

4 Comments
  1. Sam permalink

    I think you make a good case that envy is more the antithesis of love than death is. Death is simply a part of the human condition, in that nobody can avoid death. We not only have to learn to “live” with it (so to speak), we have to learn to channel the knowledge that death will happen into something that gives our lives meaning.

    Envy, while seemingly ubiquitous in human relationships, certainly doesn’t have to be. Envy is destructive to human relationships especially, as you argue, love. Envy doesn’t have to be a part of human interaction in the same way that death is. Envy is a choice, which makes it the antithesis of love because you can either have one or the other…you cannot have both.

  2. Malt permalink

    To the degree that “love is the antithesis of selfishness” and that envy is a prime manifestation of selfishness, your consideration has a degree of validity.

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