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A Review of Consolations for a Broken Heart

210 views. 2018-4-13 20:27 |Individual Classification:Weekly Writing| consolations, philosophy, Schopenhauer, broken-heart

Chapter 5 of The Consolations of Philosophy is devoted to love. Love is not a major concern in the realm of philosophy: most philosophers conceive of love as a childish, irrational side of life which is unworthy of warranting investigation and it is not for philosophers to speculate on hand-holding and scented letters. When it comes to consolations for rejection or marital breakdown, however, rational thoughts offered by philosophy can always turn our tears into inner peace.

  I will begin with Arthur Schopenhauer’s explanation of why we fall in love. This unflattering explanation, I have to confess, highlights love’s function and has nothing to do with romance. Following the logical line of this explanation, I move on to unlock the answer to another eternal questionWhy Him? Why Her? If you are married or in a sweet relationship, I highly recommend you leaving this part unread; if you insist, always remember the answer is mere a product of logic and does not give us a whole, realistic picture. Finally, I am to conclude with consolations for rejections.

Why we fall in love?

The ultimate answer to this question would be: Because we have a duty to continue our species. This answer is disappointing and has its problems. Never did a sense of such a duty occur to me, when I first met my beloved one, beheld into her eyes, or bathed in the moonlight with her holding in my arms. I saw old couples cherishing each other as if they just got married. If love were merely for a bunch of children who would survive and thrive in the future, why it bothered to allow for the romance?

The extremely pessimistic philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer held that there is a force within us which precedent over reason, a force powerful enough to conquer reason, which he termed the will-to-lifedefined as an inherent drive within humans to survive and reproduce (Schopenhauer coined this term in order to describe the opposite side of reason or consciousness. Though it seems to be Darwinian, they are not the same.). The drive of species continuation governed by will-to-life is seldom in our mind, because our reason can not penetrate into the secret workshop of will’s decisions. We consciously feel nothing more than an intense desire to see someone again, while unconsciously driven by a force aiming at reproduction. (Anticipating Freud, Schopenhauer observed the powerful unconscious impulses.) For Schopenhauer, such deception is necessary, because we would not readily assent to reproduce unless we first had lost our minds.

Why Him? , Why Her?

The most profound mystery of love is: Why of all the possible candidates, did our desire settle strongly on our beloved ones, who might not be objectively the most attractive but are comfortable to live with? This is not even a question for Schopenhauer. We are not free to fall in love with everyone for we cannot produce healthy children with everyone. (There are evidences that humans prefer sexual mates who smell most different with themselves. This preference play a role in avoiding pairing with relatives and adding genetic variations to the offspring.) Love is nothing but the conscious manifestation of the will-to-life’s discovery of an ideal co-parent.

  If will-to-life forces one to choose a person with whom he or she can produce a healthy child, then the person who is his or her strong desire is almost never suitable for him or her to live with. The choice one has made is blindfolded by the will-to-life. After a robust child is given birth to and growing well, the duty of continuation of species imposed by will-to-life is almost done, all the passion is past, then reason re-thrones life, leaving a married couple in hostile silence.

Consolations for a Broken Heart

Schopenhauer might have offered us nothing romantic, but there are indeed consolations for rejection in his explanation:

1. Our pain is normal. There is no need for us to be confused by the enormity of the upset. To be shocked at how deeply the rejection hurts, is to deny the happiness acceptance is to bring. 

2. We are not unlovable per se. The rejection could only tell us that we are unfit to produce a healthy child with one particular person.

3. We should learn to forgive our rejectors. He or she might say: I need some time alone; I think things between us going too fast; I think we get too close; I think such and such a person is better, not you. In every clumsy attempt, your rejector is doomed to fail at intellectualizing the unconscious drive of will-to-life. All we need to do is comforting your rejectors who are now afraid of intimacies.

4. Rejections are uncontrollable. Every rejection contains an event terrible but mightier than ourselves. We might have been happy with someone we desire, but nature and will-to-life point to other alternative ways to be happy. This is anther reason to loose our grip on love.

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