Love And Philosophy Essay, Research Paper
Throughout history, philosophers have written about love. In the days of the ancient Greeks, Erotic Love, which included education, wisdom, and sensuality, was praised. As the centuries moved forward, however, Christian Love, which heralded charity, devotion, and chastity, became the love of choice for most philosophers. Finally, fusing together the sensuality of the Greeks and the ideals of the Christians in the eighteenth century, Romantic Love came to be. This new theory of love included the legitimization of sexual desire, equality of the sexes, and expansion of one s inner self to include another. It also brought with it a new outlook on the institution of marriage in society. Romantic Love presents marriage as the result of a union of two people in love, not as a means of reproduction or economic practicality as in prior years, but simply as a means of totally uniting two people. It is this view of love and marriage that society thinks of today. However, this conception of love is not as perfect as it sounds. Throughout its duration, Romantic Love has not been equal to both sexes. Women often get the short end of the stick when it comes to this complex subject. Through their writings, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Karen Horney, Simone deBeauvoir, and Shulamith Firestone all show how the concepts of love and marriage today disadvantage women.
Often times when one reads a collection of philosophical writings on a subject, one will find authors who are usually associated with another field. Among these are Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and Carl Jung, who are all considered psychologists rather than philosophers. However, they present multitudes of information regarding the disadvantages of women when it comes to love and marriage. The basis of Freud s argument comes from the Oedipal complex. Freud argues that in order to develop one s sexuality in a normal fashion one must join one s Affectionate and Sensual currents. If a male fails to do so correctly he will never overcome his natural libidinal attachment to his mother. Therefore, he will not be able to be intimate with those women who he has great respect and affection for, since they will effectively remind him of his mother. This presents a problem, for a man chooses for a wife someone who he does have respect and affection for. Consequently, he will not be able to be intimate with his wife, and must seek a far inferior replacement to fulfill his sexual desires. This theory is called Debasement. Freud states: Where they love they do not desire and where they desire they cannot love. 1 This debasement definitely disadvantages women, as they can never be sexually satisfying to their husbands. As a result, they feel worthless and in some way defective.
I stated above that a man chooses to marry someone whom he has great respect and affection for. However, it is often the case that the man will idolize his wife so much as to disadvantage her. Carl Jung argues that all humans have a Collective Unconscious, where they store images and ideas from long ago, prior to their own lives or even generations. These images are called Archetypes. The archetypal image of the opposite sex in humans is called the anima (for men) or animus (for women). According to Jung, Every man carries with him the eternal image of woman The same is true of the woman: she too has her inborn image of a man an image of men. 2 Note that while the woman s archetypal image is of numerous different men, the man s image is of one ideal woman. This results in a great overvaluation of his wife. She becomes an idol, and must live up to her husband s impossible standards in order to gain his love. A man does not love his wife for who she is; rather, he loves his archetypal image of what she should be. Therefore, no matter what she does, his wife will never live up to his impossible standards.
Regarding the institution of marriage, Nietzsche, Freud, and Jung all agree that it disadvantages women in many ways. For one thing, as Nietzsche states, marriage simply cannot endure due to the fact that its vows are made based on a love that may or may not endure. Regardless, numerous people get married each day. However, society has taken it upon itself to keep young women as sexually ignorant as possible, while at the same time expecting them to know exactly what to do when they finally do enter marriage. If, by chance, a woman does enter a marriage knowing a little about sex, she is considered wicked. Nietzsche states: All the world is agreed to educate them with as much ignorance as possible in erotics, and to inspire their soul with a profound shame of such things 3 Freud goes on to argue that since society teaches us to practice abstinence until marriage, the male anxiously awaits the day when he will finally be satisfied sexually. However, when that day comes he finds that his wife knows nothing at all about intimacy. Therefore, he is disappointed. Freud states: the preparation for marriage frustrates the aims of marriage itself. (Freud 175) When this disappointment in marriage occurs, the male often times looks other places (to other people) for sexual satisfaction. But, the more strictly a woman has been brought up and the more sternly she has submitted to the demands of civilization, the more she is afraid of taking this way out (Freud 173-4) This is the classic double standard in love, as explained by Nietzsche. A woman is expected to be loyal to her husband; however; fidelity does not belong to the essence of his love. (Nietzsche 147) These things result in the woman once again feeling as if she has done something wrong, when really all she has done is conform to the expectations set forth by society. She may use her children as a sort of apology for her lack of sexual knowledge, and when faced with an adulterous husband may lose more of her self-worth.
Presenting a more modern philosophical view of love and marriage are Karen Horney, Simone deBeauvoir, and Shalamith Firestone. As deBeauvoir argues, women are socialized from childhood to be totally dependent on men. Throughout their lives men are encouraged to take the harder routes while, conversely, women are presented with almost irresistible temptations; everything incites her to follow the easy slopes 4 Therefore, men achieve power and success and women become both economically and socially dependent on them. Also, deBeauvoir, Horney, and Firestone all agree that regardless of their economic or social prowess, men are presented in society as far superior to women. They control virtually everything in society, and expect to control their wives as well. The women, therefore, live their lives in constant servitude, for they know that they will not be accepted in society without a man at their side. In society To be without a man, never to have had anything to do with one, to have remained a virgin, to be unmarried all these things are a disgrace and cause people to look down upon one. 5 Therefore, they must keep their husbands and lovers at all costs. As deBeauvoir states: For woman, love is a supreme effort by accepting the dependence to which she is condemned; but even with consent a life of dependency can be lived only in fear and servility. (deBeauvoir 239)
After an extended period of time, pathological liars begin to believe the lies that they tell. In much the same way, after numerous years of society telling them that they are inferior to men, many women actually believe this falsehood. Consequently, they dedicate their lives to getting a man, and will do practically anything in order to achieve this goal. Therefore, it is not difficult to grasp a woman s understanding of love and marriage. Love, to women, means not only devotion but a total gift of body and soul, without reservation, without regard for anything whatever. (deBeauvoir 234) They feel inadequate as females, and strive to attain happiness through men. In essence, women must have love not only for healthy reasons but actually to validate their existence. 6 This unhealthy obsession with finding a husband or lover causes them to fail in both love and other aspects of their lives. Also, since they are so desperate for male approval and companionship, women often accept an emotional lacking in men that they would find unacceptable in women. Society s deification of men has educated women to not only accept, but to actually be satisfied and happy with second place. As deBeauvoir points out, it is a small matter to her to have second place if she has her place (deBeauvoir 237)
It is obvious to some women that marriage should not occur in order to achieve greater social status, but rather in order to fully join two equals in every way. Often times these women opt not to get married, for they find that true romantic love is nowhere to be found in a society which inequalizes the sexes from birth. There are those who will argue against such views, stating that men s idealization and glorification of women in marriage will catapult them to a higher level of society, thus eliminating their inherent class inferiority. However, these independent women will see this theory as a lie. They realize that, in attaining a man s love, they must effectively disown their own true selves in order to live up to his ideal standards. So they enter society and the working world without a man. Yet as wonderful as this rebellion from the norms of society sounds, it is very difficult for these women to succeed due to society s expectations and their own struggle to break away from their own learning. As Horney states:
women who nowadays obey the impulse to the independent development of their abilities are able to do so only at the cost of a struggle against both external opposition and such resistances within themselves as are created by an intensification of the traditional ideal of the exclusively sexual function of a woman. (Horney 192)
Society will always place pressures on unmarried women to conform to the norms of female existence, and, therefore, will punish them when they refuse to do so. The saying behind every good man is a woman may be true not only in marriages, but in the business world as well. Women do not receive credit for much of their work regardless of their talent. Clearly, there is no equality between man and woman today, in love and business. Also, in attempting to escape being privately owned by their husbands, independent women instead become, in a sense, public property. They are seen forever as just the other women whether in an adulterous or pure fashion. Basically, these other women mean nothing to men or society. Thus, they feel the same worthlessness in choosing not to marry as they would in failing at snagging men for marriage. They still retain a desire for true love, and must repress this in order to escape the societal paradigm. Due to society s socialization of both sexes, being a woman is a lose-lose situation. As Firestone states, the life of a non-married woman is a living hell. (Firestone 252)
Romantic Love, despite all of its enthusiastic recommendations, has proven to disadvantage women whether one analyzes it from a psychological or philosophical sense, or both. Since it lists equality as one of its attributes, as long as our society continues to promote the inequalities between men and women, we will never experience it in its true form. Our society today deifies men and convinces women that they are far inferior to their male counterparts. As a result, love and marriage becomes complicated and corrupted. The women who believe society s claims consequently live their lives as one giant Manhunt, and feel worthless when they do not have a man at their side. This attitude is fueled by society, which treats unmarried, unattached women as if they are worthless. The patriarchal ideal of womanhood, of woman as one whose only longing is to love a man and be loved by him, to admire him and serve him (Horney 191) still holds true today, regardless of women s various achievements. Until we can achieve equality amongst the sexes, our love lives will remain a very distant state of affairs with a decidedly impersonal character, wholly regulated by traditional customs and prejudices, the prototype of every conventional marriage. (Jung 181)