9780713994735 / 0713994738

The Conditions of Love: The Philosophy of Intimacy


Publisher:ALLEN LANE



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About the book:

Love may be a serious drug, but, as John Armstrong divulges in his artful, quietly impassioned treatise on its philosophical qualities, Conditions of Love, its intoxicating qualities can still be distilled and soberly considered. Armstrong, already the author of the discerningly reflective The Intimate Philosophy of Art, is proving himself the master of his form: elegant, scholarly studies that wear their learning lightly, but surely. In turning his focus from looking at art to the art of loving, he provides the perfect median between the two, and dissects what we perceive of as love, and how it stands up to our demanding preconceptions. With calm assurance, he leads us through the froth to the substance of its being, from the evasive nebulousness of its definition, to its place within an evolutionary framework, in doing so touching on theories of experimental psychology also considered by Geoffrey Miller in The Mating Mind. If that perhaps takes the romance out of love, then Armstrong argues that we need to, if we are to strip bare our adolescent notions to reveal a mature, sustainable version which will endure. Backing up his evocations with considered and illuminating reference to the best efforts of the writers and painters, from Plato, Ovid, Turgenev and Goethe, to Ruskin and Chardin, who contribute to our celebration, but also our stereotypes, of love, Armstrong argues for personal responsibility, and a rejection of the restless masochism which drives so many to seek out an idealised partner, or inadvertently seek refuge in the despair of infatuation. As his title puts it, love is best considered as conditional rather than existing as a precondition, and if handled altruistically, can reap the rewards the artists exalt. In marrying the carnal and the cardinal with a poet's sensibility and a philosopher's rigour, much as Alain de Botton did in Essays in Love, John Armstrong guides us towards a more mature, imaginative future, less rosy, but perhaps more rooted. Love may, ultimately, perhaps definingly, prove ineffable, but Conditions of Love charges us with the power to facilitate its bloom, and the inspiration to achieve it. --David Vincent

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