My thesis will be about, in layman’s terms, the dis-interestedness of love. Can we really love without reserve? Can we truly be for the other?
(It will be a dialogue between Sigmund Freud and Emmanuel Levinas, two European Jews who have widely disparate conceptions of the human being. For Freud, we are primarily self-interested both in our continuation and the continuation of our kin. Levinas on the other hand, believes that the human being is primarily ethical and is constitutionally FOR the other. A master of suspicion and the philosopher of responsibility and hope– wouldn’t they have a good conversation?
I’ll tell you my conclusion now– which is more of an intuition than a prodigous work of tracing and scholarship at this point. And I cast doubt on anyone who says it can be done so easily, if at all, without some form of divine blessedness. The dis-interestedness of love is an aporia. It is the very horizon we will spend our lives walking towards, but never a place where we can rest or turn our backs. It’s not a state achieved, but a perpetual motion whose continuous performance under intensities of duress in various circumstances lead us to approach the perfection of the act of love, but never fully achieving it.
Studying Levinas the entire year, I’ve come to nuance my problematic. The quest has never been about the abandonment of the self, but a going beyond it. There is such a thing as judicious self-cultivation, and this self-cultivation is not for its own sake or for the sake of oneself, but for the good of others: I want to be better because the people I love deserve someone better. I desire not for myself but for the sake of my loved ones– those who draw me out from the terrible complacency of solitude. Otherwise, you will always be lonely and your concerns will always loom too large for you to see clearly. Otherwise, you will always have an accounting of given and received.
I understand better now when people say “Find your calling” and why I’ve always been a little afraid of that phrasing. (I’ve always liked “Find your passion” better.) You don’t really chose for yourself out of nothing, but you respond. And when you love, I bet there’s the most wonderful coincidence between what the world needs and your deepest desire.
“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.” – Pedro Arrupe
Explore: relations of aporia of love with the derrida’s aporia of the gift.