Are there things we must love? Like my banana hammock?
Well I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I’m going to make the case that there are in fact things we – as members of the human race – should all learn to love. If this goal sounds like it could be the beginning of bigotry, that those who do not love what is to be deemed as love worthy should be corrected, you do have something to fear because it will sound like that. However, my hope is that with critical analysis it may be possible to avoid this fear and carefully conceive of values that should be universally loved, at the very least it’s worth thinking about.
So let’s cover a couple basic definitions first, if I miss any you feel important comment with a reason and I’ll post it so we can talk about it:
Love: I’m not going to try to define Love with a capital “L”, fuck that, I’m single so what the fuck would I know about that anyway. However love with a lowercase “l” is a simple verb we learned as children meaning something we deeply care for. I love my family, friends, professors (some), pets, myself (on that journey), nature, the smell of coffee in the morning (but not the actual coffee), baby size shoes, you get the idea.
Value: not trying to come up with a hard theory on objective value either, in this case value will mean it’s overall benefit to human flourishing.
So to begin thinking about the possibility of things everyone must come to love, it seems appropriate to ask why everyone should even have to love something, why people should love anything at all, and why do people love to begin with? Since childhood there are things I’ve come to love (see above, unless you want me to tell you MORE about my life), and at particular times in my life I can be certain I love them. My point is that it’s not valuable to question if I love or am capable of loving, because avoiding “Love”, it seems very clear that people love.
Why do people love? Watch the french movie Amelie and find out. Seriously, leave donations to me as well (note the lack of parenthesis before which truly emphasize the seriousness… not really, but it’s a great film). People love because it makes them happy (not “Happy”, just happy). It doesn’t seem very complicated, when I love something, let’s say walking on the beach, it brings me great pleasure to then walk on the beach. However I believe there is also a more important reason for loving as well, it makes me feel alive. Watch this one minute clip explaining what I mean by a magnificent piece of art for our time. Watch it! Despite what you may think, I contend that it’s 100% spot on. Isn’t it wonderful to enjoy a relationship with someone we care deeply for? Do most people enjoy relationships or not? Let’s take a look at the current population of Earth and imagine how each generation came into being… hmmm…. surprisingly, it seems that for the most part people enjoy romance, sex, hanging out together, all that stuff that comes with being in a relationship (I’ll be honest, I haven’t a clue… don’t judge hater). With relationships comes negatives as well, but as Butters clearly explained, something would have to make you so happy before it can make you feel bad. Isn’t it strangely beautiful that we can feel anything at all? The good must come with the bad, something must be sacrificed for the greater good.
A viable counter argument could include (and please do if you feel this way or similarly) something along the lines of the inconsistent triad part of an ontological argument against the existence of god conceived by David Hume and refined by J. L. Mackie: “God is good, god is omnipotent, and there is evil in the world.” The point has nothing to do with God, but Mackie does discuss orders of good and evil. 1st order goods include good health and happiness. 1st order evils include pain and suffering. 2nd order goods include compassion and heroism that can only exist if 1st order evils are given. 2nd order evils include cruelty and cowardice, attributes only possible given 1st order goods. The argument itself is rather interesting between Mackie and Richard Swinburne, who claims there is a 3rd order good: freedom. The final point from the theist (the relevant counter point to my argument here, sorry about that), comes from the book of Job of the Old Testament. I’m not usually one to quote the bible, but the point is relevant nonetheless: when god speaks to Job through the whirlwind and says to Job, (you don’t have to read all of it to understand my point, just the first 8 lines or so, but it’s a beautiful read)
38:1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, 38:2 Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? 38:3 Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. 38:4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. 38:5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? 38:6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; 38:7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? 38:8 Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? 38:9 When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it, 38:10 And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, 38:11 And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed? 38:12 Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place; 38:13 That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it? 38:14 It is turned as clay to the seal; and they stand as a garment. 38:15 And from the wicked their light is withholden, and the high arm shall be broken. 38:16 Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth? 38:17 Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death? 38:18 Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all. 38:19 Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof, 38:20 That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof? 38:21 Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? orbecause the number of thy days is great? 38:22 Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, 38:23 Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war? 38:24 By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth? 38:25 Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder; 38:26 To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man; 38:27 To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth? 38:28 Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew? 38:29 Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it? 38:30 The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen. 38:31 Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? 38:32 Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? 38:33 Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth? 38:34 Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee? 38:35Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are? 38:36 Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart? 38:37 Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven, 38:38 When the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together? 38:39 Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the appetite of the young lions, 38:40 When they couch in their dens, and abide in the covert to lie in wait? 38:41 Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.
Regardless of my own religious beliefs, it’s a wonderful piece of literature, but the point is we weren’t there when the assumed God performed the moral calculus of the universe, so who’s to say that 2nd order goods are worth it at all? This counter argument to mine doesn’t need God to exist, it simply questions my authority to deem orders of good and evil worth our love. I’ll argue they do, I see heroism and compassion as highly beneficial attributes to further our human progress and flourishing, but you’re welcome to argue otherwise.
Compassion and heroism are both types of 2nd order goods that have the potential to, and do, greatly benefit human flourishing. People with compassion are capable of protecting others and animals. Maybe they wouldn’t need protecting in the first place if suffering didn’t exist, but who’s to classify what suffering is? When a cheetah hunts down a gazelle and feeds it’s young, is that suffering? Should we petition the cheetah community to stop being carnivorous and evolve more peacefully? However, let’s say we grow up near the gazelle (or house cat, it doesn’t matter) and become attached to it (are there cases in which people are close to animals? I won’t even), do you think said people would want to protect said animals? Of course, and it’s completely natural. This feeling of compassion allows users (in this case people) to fulfill the role of protectors and carefully guard life so that it may mature. Would a mother protect her daughter from a wild dog that’s trying to provide food for it’s own litter? Is denying the starved dog’s family your daughter as a delicious meal wrong? Obviously not, and it’s compassion, sympathy, empathy, etc. that let’s us believe that. Unless you would continue to argue that protecting our children isn’t right and you’re a shitty politician, it seems clear that: compassion… is… good! Not only to ourselves and animals, but people can be protectors of the Earth through various “Green” campaigns. If there was no Green suffering (pollution, energy wasting, dogs peeing on your lawn) what would there be to fix and improve upon? Before I belabor the point further and completely steer off topic, compassion is highly valuable as a direct influence on human progress and flourishing.
Now that I reasonably established why people love, you’ll see how the rest of this comes easily. While I may not be able to convince you to love my banana hammock (there will be no photos lest my blog be taken down for being a grievous wound to humanity) My aim still remains to prove that we, as a community of people, have to recognize certain things that are worthy of our universal love. I’ll finish up the thought in part 2, right now I have to go find some swimwear and enjoy the beach.