A Philosophical History of Love
A Philosophical History of Love explores the importance and development of love in the Western world. Wayne Cristaudo argues that love is a materializing force, a force consisting of various distinctive qualities or spirits. He argues that we cannot understand Western civilization unless we realize that, within its philosophical and religious heritage, there is a deep and profound recognition of love’s creative and redemptive power.
Cristaudo explores philosophical love (the love of wisdom) and the love of God and neighbor. The history of the West is equally a history of phantasmic versions of love and the thwarting of love. Thus, the history of our hells may be seen as the history of love’s distortions and the repeated pseudo-victories of our preferences for the phantasms of love. Cristaudo argues that the catastrophes from our phantasmic loves threaten to extinguish us, forcing us repeatedly to open ourselves to new possibilities of love, to new spirits.
Fusing philosophy, literature, theology, psychology, and anthropology, the volume reviews major thinkers in the field, from Plato and Freud, to Pierce, Shakespeare, and Flaubert. Cristaudo explores the major themes of love of the Church, romantic love and the return of the feminine, the conflict between familial and romantic love, love in a meaningless world and the love of evil, and the evolutionary idea of love. With Cristaudo, the reader embarks on a journey not just through time, but also through the different kinds, origins, and spirits of love.
"In many ways, love has been relegated to the "unreal" or the purely emotional side of life. But Cristaudo (Univ. of Hong Kong) argues here that love remains a substantial reality that can infuse people's relationships and shape people's sense of who they are. In fact, this book is a hymn to love and, as Cristaudo says, it "rests on the premise that love itself is a subject and that it is striving to realize itself." Cristaudo describes the telos of love's development with chapters on Plato, Christ, Saint Augustine, courtly love, Dante, family love, and Peirce. Love is viewed as the key to Western culture, and Christianity is held to offer the greatest achievement of love…. Cristaudo presents a great many ideas in these pages…. Highly recommended."
—R. White, Choice
“[A] sprawling study of love in all its forms (though he focuses primarily on ‘love of wisdom… love of God… and romantic love’), recalling Plato, Christ, Dante, Marquis de Sade, and other key figures whose ideas and teachings have shaped its development in Western thought.... a powerful vision of love as a complex, evolving material force.... scholars and philosophy buffs are treated to a dazzling panoply of philosophies that extends well beyond that represented in the table of contents... the book’s essential message: ‘the ‘ism’and ‘ist’ ideologies of modernity… are all serving the same dead end if they do not make the world and the practitioners more lovable.’”
“Wayne Cristaudo presents an intriguing break down of human history and one of the most base of emotions, from ancient philosophy of the Greeks, Christ, to the other extreme, the love of hate. "A Philosophical History of Love" is well worth considering for those musing philosophy and this unifying element of humankind, highly recommended.”
— Library Bookwatch
“Sensible and humane, provocative and challenging reflections. . . . a lively, reflective introduction to selected philosophical, religious and literary sources for the discussion of a fundamental human reality.”
—Allan Janik, The Vienna Review
“The Western world no longer understands the great force of love, argues University of Hong Kong philosopher Cristaudo. Cristaudo’s history explains how philosophers, religious leaders, and writers have shaped how we think of love, and tries to get at what power love has over us today. Literary lovechild of:Allan Bloom’s Love and Friendship and C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves. You’ll find it on your bookshelf if: You adored your double major in philosophy and religion but were romantic enough to skip class if it meant a day in bed with a new flame, or two. For optimal benefit:Read this ostentatiously at a café and see if you can get lucky. Snap judgment:Cristaudo makes a number of interesting arguments in this short but dense treatise.”
—Zócalo Public Square
“Taking love seriously as a topic for philosophical concern is a risky yet critical task. Wayne Cristaudo has begun an intense and thoughtful beginning to such a project in his Philosophical History of Love. From Plato to Dante to American pragmatism, love is universally present as a concern but absent as project in modern philosophy—but no more. The meaning of love and of evil is Cristaudo’s concern and we shall have to deal with the issues he has so forcefully presented.”
—Sander L. Gilman, Emory University
“It’s magnificent! [Cristaudo has] written a marvelous vade mecum through our Western wisdom on the most compelling subject of all. It is a stylish text that carries the reader along from one reward to another.”
—Robert Hamerton Kelly, Stanford University
“This book is a truly captivating prose—from its first page to its last. Cristaudo’s narrative includes far more than just a history of our (mis)understanding of love. It is a lesson from the past aiming to infuse a new (thus old, original, divine, the only existing) spirit of love into our confused, struggling civilization.”
—Predrag Cicovacki, author, Dostoevsky and the Affirmation of Life
“Wayne Cristaudo’s work is the mature product of years of meditation on the primary experiences and expressions of love in the Western world. Cristaudo’s synthesis, a truetour de force, took this reader’s breath away. . . . [Cristaudo tracks] the all-pervasive cosmic force of love in Myth, its profound exploration in Plato, its stern strength opposing death in the Song of Songs and Hebrew and Christian scriptures, Cristaudo’s study ranges from these primary sources through the troubadours and Dante to go on to encompass Rabelais and Spinoza and even, in a stunning late chapter, love’s severe testing by terror in the extremes of the Marquis de Sade. All are important for any therapist, professor, or person wanting to understand the history of love and love today in human engagement.”
—Betsy Cohen, C.G. Jung Institute, San Francisco; psychoanalyst in private practice
"The book’s power resides in its gathering whole historical epochs around emblematic cases such as Socrates or Jesus, who inaugurate millenary traditions of self-sacrificial love, or the calamitous affair of Abelard and Eloise near the medieval origins of the modern myth of Romantic love. From such august peaks, the vast history of love in the West is brought into startling focus. Cristaudo exposes the live nerves of this history and mounts an impassioned critique of the bankruptcy of our cultural currency of love today. It is a lucid and dismaying retrospective and stirs bleeding love for the heritage that we are forfeiting."
—William Franke, Vanderbilt University (USA) and University of Macao (China)