Community & Government

A Philosophical Take on Love

Cornel West

Lesson time 08:35 min

There are various forms of love that each of us is able to give and receive. In this lesson, Cornel explains what they are, how human beings are impacted by them, and the sacrifices required to achieve a love that allows you to become the best versions of yourself.

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Topics include: Unconditional Love vs. Sentimental Love • Love as a Form of Death


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Hmm. [MUSIC PLAYING] Lord, Lord, Lord. Beautiful. Mm. [MUSIC PLAYING] So I think the common denominator of love is an unequivocal and unconditional commitment to the welfare of an other, whoever it is. Whoever it is. To accent the best in who they are. [MUSIC PLAYING] The very notion of something being unconditional has to be examined very carefully. Because on the one hand, all of us want to believe that there is something unequivocal and unconditional about the kinds of loves we have for those who we put at the highest, highest levels in our lives. But when you think of our humanity, who we are as crack vessels, are human beings capable of wholesale unconditional love? See, that's a serious question. Many of us aspire to that when it comes to our most precious loved ones-- our kids and our wives and husbands and spouses and so forth, you see. And we know that, you know, that there are people who do enact unconditional love, who have unbelievable capacities for love. But it's a very, very difficult thing to achieve. I think it's a grand ideal. I think it's a magnificent standard, I really do. But I think we have to be very honest. It's very hard. Yes, I mean, we have to always make the difference between sentimental love and deep love. Oscar Wilde used to say, "The sentimental person is a person who wants the luxury of an emotion without paying for it." The luxury of an emotion without paying for it. Meaning what? That, you see, emotions can be specious. Because when they're sentimental, they can be cultivated for the spectacle but never executed on the ground for the concrete costs that must be embraced in order for it to take place. So the sentimentalism is never an execution, a follow through. It's not a fundamental deed that is done. It is a gesture. It's an attempt to pose and posture. Put on a mask and hide the real face, you see. And sentimentalism is the flip side of cynicism. The cynic is characterized by indifference, callousness, manipulation, no concern with integrity, no concern with standards and ideals. Say and do anything. And the sentimentalists talks about the good things, but has no intention whatsoever of following through. Because when you follow through, you're going to have to pay for something. You're going to have to sacrifice something. You're going to have to bear some burden. You're going to have to take some risk. You see, so sentimental love is, oh, you know, it's so nice to have a good time with you, but I'm not taking any risk at all. Oh no, to pay a cost, no? To go to the edge of life's abyss with you? Oh, no, no. We're on Main Street Disney World. Pass the popcorn, give me some Kool-Aid. I'm feeling so good. I want to feel good like this all the time. That's sentimentalism. [MUSIC PLAYING] Any time you give fully of yourself, there are elements of your old self that are dying. Because a new se...

About the Instructor

Cornel West is one of the most profound, diverse, and intellectual thinkers of our time. Now he’s inviting you into the depths of his brilliant mind to teach you how thinking like a philosopher can help you navigate your personal relationships, your decision-making, and your everyday life by looking at the world from a completely different point of view.

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Cornel West

Distinguished philosopher Cornel West teaches you how to think more deeply, connect more closely, and live a more fruitful and meaningful life.

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