With Valentine's day a day away my philosophical thoughts turn to love. There's more to the concept than meets the eye. A good book on this topic which outlines the various distinctions philosophers have made regarding the concept is Christopher Phillips Socrates in Love.
In the book, Phillips outlines the five Ancient Greek concepts of love as follows:
Eros: This is the most common conception we have of love, romantic or erotic love, and the one often most associated with Valentine's day. Of course, this is an important aspect of love and one worthy of celebration! But it is important to remember that the concept is broader than this one notion. That is one of the advantages to using, as Phillips does in his book, the Greek words.
Storge: This refers to the concept of familial love as in the love of a parent for their child. It is precisely this notion of love that the Calendar of Virtues is meant to celebrate in part by giving our day to day family life a sense of ritual and togetherness.
Philia: The notion of friendship love; the love we have for our friends. The philosopher Epicurus recognized the importance of friends to a truly happy life saying "Of all the things which wisdom provides to make us entirely happy, much the greatest is the possession of friendship." This month we'll work on honoring that love for friends.
Xenia: Guest friendship or hospitality. We often don't think of this as "love" but it might be beneficial to add it to our conceptual framework. The tea ceremony which my daughter and I began learning last month is based on this notion that you show concern and love for your guests by performing the ritual for them.
Agape: This is often translated as "unconditional love" and has the connotation of a generalized love as in the love of one's fellow human beings. How we can honor this general love will provide some good food for thought throughout the month.
As you can see there are different levels of connection to each of these concepts. They work outward from the most intimate to the most general. But, I think a truly deep notion of love entails each of these levels.
So, go ahead and share the love this Valentine's day!