38. Nietzsche on Love and Difference

In his book Human, All Too Human, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) has an aphorism entitled Love and Duality which reads:

“What is love but understanding and rejoicing at the fact that another lives, feels, and acts in a way different from and opposite to ours? If love is to bridge these antitheses through joy it may not deny or seek to abolish them. Even self-love presupposes and unblendable duality (or multiplicity) in one person.” (translated by Hollingdale, p. 229)

This loving celebration of difference is rare!  So many people want to love what they can control and what they know. Rather than embracing people’s diversity they are disturbed by it and seek to remove it, condemn it, demonize it, etc. And this desire for control and knowledge is often linked to their narcissistic desire to see themselves in the beloved. The more the world doesn’t reflect themselves back to themselves the more the world is loveless.

But Nietzsche is challenging this model. Love doesn’t seek to make the world in its image: just the opposite. It takes one beyond one’s own world view. This, I think, is part of what it means to learn, grow, and experience. And even if we do love ourselves, the selves we come to love are “unblendable” dualities or multiplicities. Thus to love one’s self is to celebrate differences: not just tolerate them.  This celebration of unblendable selfhood could then, when projected outward, lead to a healthy celebration of unblendable people in an unblendable society. Such a world would presumably be a world where there are more individuals, more freedom, more diversity, and more novel experiences. It would be a more lovable world.

2 replies on “38. Nietzsche on Love and Difference”

  1. Dear Philosophical Eggs,

    I agree with much of Nietzsche’s sentiments on the expression of love. I am intrigued, however, by the concept of love extending to differences and being felt for those differences in contrast to love accepting differences.

    I suppose it really depends on what is implied by differences. If differences include mannerisms such as snoring or talking loud, I would ask if these types of differences can actually be loved in contrast to being accepted. If we love these differences and should truly celebrate them, wouldn’t we need to have some form of appreciation or perceived value for their existence? Are love and acceptance mutually exclusive?

    Just as prejudice and hate can be examples of an unwillingness to accept, I believe that love facilitates acceptance. Additionally, love can be manifest in different ways (romantic, familial, and principled). Where love is different from acceptance as a whole is in its ability to accept principally rather than subjectively. To illustrate, a parent may love their gay child on the grounds that the child is a family member, yet abhor the gay community as a whole. They are biased in their acceptance. A different parent loves their gay child and accepts the gay community on the grounds that they too are living beings (among other commonalities / differences). However, I do not believe that the second parent has to love or celebrate the fact that their child is gay to truly have or show love. Yet they are accepting. Should the child change sexual preference it may actually be more agreeable to the parents taste but still not affect their love.

    Acceptance based on love would seem less restrictive then love of all that makes us different. A person will love their spouse and accept that their spouse has a snoring problem, however, if they are a light sleeper I don’t believe they would love or celebrate the snoring, to the contrary, I believe they would celebrate the disappearance of the snoring. However, life without the snoring would not be better than life with the snorer because of the love they have for the snorer. They accept the snoring, but they would not necessarily love it or even miss it should it cease.

    I’m obviously not a philosopher but the topic of love is definitely of interest to me. I’d love to hear other comments and viewpoints.

  2. Joe Nieves on

    Is love really loving the difference or coming to a point of apathy about it. Love being the celebration of the difference almost seems like a hippy LSD trip gone wrong . I feel when people love they become indifferent or enjoy the difference love would be the celebration of ones existence. Celebrating their moral values and their just being with you. The differences either do not bother you or you embrace them but they are not a foundation of your love. Not to be sophistic but Corinthians talks about love being patient and kind never jealous that type of love helps you put up with the difference. The difference can never be a block to build the relationship on? Furthermore the celebration of unblendable self hood sounds very nice and makes for good children’s stories but is it pragmatic? There are differences that do not coexist. I don’t think one can celebrate the differences between gihad ideology and American ideology… It’s like Harry potter and bolder mort one can’t exist while the other lives. Some things cannot coexist. We may love ourselves for are uniqueness yet we gravitate to people that are like us. We want to be constantly reinforced by our beliefs and like others around us to do so

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