Love A History Simon May
- Publication date:
- 10 May 2011
- 304 pages: 234 x 157 x 30mm
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 pathbreaking and superbly written book, philosopher Simon May does just that, dissecting our resilient ruling ideas of love and showing how they are the product of a long and powerful cultural heritage. Tracing over 2,500 years of human thought and history, May shows how our ideal 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: the intense desire for someone whom we believe can ground and affirm our very existence. The feeling that 'makes the world go round' turns out to be a harbinger of home - and in that sense, of the sacred.
Simon May is Visiting Professor of Philosophy at King's College, University of London. His other books include Nietzsche's Ethics and his War on 'Morality' and Thinking Aloud, a collection of his own aphorisms that was named a Financial Times 'Book of the Year' in 2009.
"May's enquiry into the nature of love is an amazing tour de force: surprising, provocative, refreshing and instructive by turns, it surpasses everything hitherto written on this subject in its scope and ambition." A.C. Grayling
"May could just have achieved the seemingly impossible and produced a truly original philosophy of love... May is able to draw out what is true in each age’s perception of love, discard what is misleading, and synthesise the result into the most persuasive account of love’s nature I have ever read." Financial Times
'Brilliant ... It is a bold philosopher who writes about love (after Plato), and a rare one who can tackle the subject with May’s verve and humanity.' Harry Eyres, Financial Times
"Rich, provocative and illuminating." Jane O’Grady, Times Higher Education
"May could just have achieved the seemingly impossible and produced a truly original philosophy of love … May is able to draw out what is true in each age’s perception of love, discard what is misleading, and synthesise the result into the most persuasive account of love’s nature I have ever read." Julian Baggini, Financial Times
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Related linksSimon May's web page at King's College London
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