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Climbing, and Falling Off, Plato’s Ladder of Love: The Emotions of Love and of Love’s Undoing

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International Handbook of Love

Abstract

Love is a state of mind, a social relationship, and a potent emotion. Love is examined as the emotion of two cross-cultural problems of life, temporality and social identity, the bases of communally-shared and equality-matched social-relations. It is proposed that there exist a set of primary emotions which combine in pairs to form secondary emotions. Love is defined as a mixture of joy–happiness and acceptance, the prototypical positively-valenced adaptive reactions to temporality and identity. As an individual loses a love relationship, the primary emotional foundations of love, joy–happiness and acceptance, can turn into their opposites, disgust–rejection and sadness, respectively. Potentially emerging from these four primary emotions are five secondary emotions that contain disgust and/or sadness. These secondary-level emotions are defined as ambivalence (acceptance & disgust–rejection), bittersweetness (joy–happiness & sadness), derisiveness (joy–happiness & disgust–rejection), resignation (acceptance & sadness/loss), and loneliness (sadness & disgust–rejection). These are hypothesized to be the key emotions of troubled intimacy, and are described as they occur during the process of the breakdown and dissolution of love-based social relationships.

[P]assions are susceptible of an entire union; and like colours, may be blended so perfectlytogether, that each of them may lose itself andcontribute only to vary that uniform impressionwhich arises from the whole. Some of the mostcurious phenomena of the human mind arederiv’d from this property of the passions.

David Hume ([1739] 1978, 366)

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Tenhouten, W. (2021). Climbing, and Falling Off, Plato’s Ladder of Love: The Emotions of Love and of Love’s Undoing. In: Mayer, CH., Vanderheiden, E. (eds) International Handbook of Love. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-45996-3_6

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