Love is a Word

Love is a concept by which we measure our pain.

John Lennon — God

Love is an archetype. It’s a word we’ve created to express the notion of caring off the charts, on steroids. We throw it around and over-use it for many purposes. Generally, love is amorphic and expansive. In the typical scenario, a mother with a loved-child who bears another loves them both equally, but it’s not part of some arithmetic function where each child gets half an equal dose each. Love defies any notion of conservation of energy. Both children receive equal shares of the same quantity of love that the first received.

The Beatles – All You Need Is Love

The ancient Greeks had several words to express love.

Storge (στοργή)

Storge is the love we have for community, for family, for our children and spouses. Storge is not romantic love. It is more a love of affection and tenderness. It may be the basis for the urge toward tribalism and nationalism, and it may have a sort of analogue to gravity, wherein the proximity of the source, the greater the attraction. This is where ‘blood is thicker than water’ and why I like my sports team better than yours.

Storge – love of family

Agape (ἀγάπη)

Agape is a sort of universal love, the selfless love of biblical reference of God and all of his children. Neither is agape a romantic notion. It is akin to charity, and the connection of transcending storge to include all of the world and ignoring the silos of tribalism. There appears to be a tension between agape and storge because one cannot have an equal love for all whilst retaining a greater love for one’s own tribe. Perhaps the notion is more aspirational than practicable.

Agape – Universal love

Philia (φιλία)

Philia is fraternal (to be more inclusive, perhaps also sororal) love, the brotherly love hoped to be inspired by the city of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. This is an affectionate love, typically between equals. Again, philia has no romantic basis.

Philia – Sororal love

Eros (ἔρως)

Eros is notably erotic love; sexual love; intimate, passionate love; lust. Eros is ephemeral. Returning to physics, eros requires a lot of energy to maintain. In a typical setting, eros moderates to storge or pragma.

Plato believed that this love was transcendent of the body—and so could exist independently of body—, but I’ll not give heed to this metaphysical notion. Perhaps, this is where the notion of soulmates derives. This is a romantic love.

Ludus

Ludus is a lightweight version or precursor to erotic love. It is the playful, flirtatious nature expressed by young proto-lovers. Viewed teleologically, ludus may be seen as a stepping stone to eros, but not everyone makes it successfully to the final level.

Full disclosure: Ludus is Latin and not of Greek original.

Pragma (πράγμα)

Obviously, pragma is a pragmatic love. This is the love that remains to bond a pair who have remained together for years, say, an old married couple. This form either requires a lot of energy and compromise or a lot of apathy or indifference.

Older couple demonstrate pragma

Philautia

Philautia is a love of one’s self. It’s a portmanteau of philia + auto. As the saying goes, if you can’t love yourself, you can’t love anyone. As with most adages, they is as often true as not and require additional context to assess. Philautia should not be confused with narcissism, which may more properly be classified as a mania. It should also not be confused by onanism.

Philautia – Love of one’s self

Love will tear us apart… again.

Joy Division

Mania (μανία)

Some people include mania in their love collection. Mania is simply an unbalanced sort of love; obsessive love; eros gone wild.


Love has many meanings, but they are all about connecting. Perhaps, I am being hasty to dismiss the term, but it is overused and perhaps more phatic than genuine. In the parlance of Foucault, it’s a power phrase—especially in the erotic arena—, a means to manipulate.

I am not sure is this blog post was about mania, but I’ll link it nonetheless.

Image source: Colour Wheel of Love: By Kaitlindzurenko – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45330870

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A New Decalogue

Bertrand Russell published a New York Times piece in 1951 outlining his own 10 commandments.

1: Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.

2: Do not think it worthwhile to produce belief by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.

3: Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed.

4: When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.

5: Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.

6: Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.

7: Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

8: Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.

9: Be scrupulously truthful, even when truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.

10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

Although I don’t agree with all of these, I won’t challenge them here. On balance, they are words to live by.

Search for Meaning

I’ve been having a side debate with a Christian friend of mine who made these claims:

Whom do you serve?

Chrétien de Troyes — Perceval
  1. ‘[Non-religious people may] not define themselves as particularly “religious”, but…everyone is’, as he references lyrics from a Rush song, ‘even if you choose NOT to decide, you still have made a choice’.
  2. ‘One can choose to believe in nothing but themselves, but if they’re honest, “self” IS their religion. Everyone is religious.
  3. We all yearn for some meaning and we end up pursuing something or someone to fill that inward desire. Whether we organise that something and call it “religion” is beside the point, as he references Bob Dylan’s lyric, “Ya gotta serve somebody; it may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but ya gotta serve somebody.”

This had been the fluid exchange of ideas, but I’ll reply in turn.


even if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice

Rush — Freewill

I’ve won’t repeat my position on free will, but one can choose to be religious or not. To choose not to be religious is not also a choice to be religious. I can agree that some people substitute superstitious, metaphysical believe for, say, scientism, and this is just as ridiculous, but some people remain unconvinced in these metanarratives.

“Self” is their religion

Some Guy

Again, not everyone even ascribes to the notion of self, and there is little reason to believe that there is some element of religious worship involved.

We all yearn for some meaning

Some Guy

Again, this is fundamental attribution error, the assumption that because he believes there is some underlying meaning and yearns to find it that everyone else does. I understand that he surrounds himself with people who share this belief system, and they convince themselves that someone who says otherwise is mistaken.

Ya gotta serve somebody; it may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but ya gotta serve somebody

Bob Dylan — GottA Serve Somebody

This is clearly dualistic thinking incarnate; a false ‘you’re either with me or against me’ dichotomy.

I remember self-assessing myself when I was in high school. Nietzsche notwithstanding, I could never agree with the frame or the assertion that there are leaders and there are followers. I did not identify with either. I do feel that within the society I was born, that I need to comply just enough to not be subjected to the violence inherent in the system for non-conformance, but that’s not exactly following. I also don’t care to lead.

It turns out that this (perhaps not coincidentally) manifested in my career, as I am a consultant—an adviser.

Judging Language

Just a brief post today. I had forgotten about this Steven Pinker quote I shared elsewhere a few years back.

“Judges are not very good linguists. For better or worse, they try to find a way around the most natural interpretation of a sentence if it would stand in the way of the outcome they feel is just.”

Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct

The fact is that they do not care about the lack of specificity of language. Politicos revel in the fact that they can torture language into submission to meet their own objectives. This is the power of rhetoric.

As I have reviewed my posts over the past couple of years, it seems I repeat myself, repeat myself, repeat myself, repeat… I get a sudden urge to capture a notion, and it turns out that I had already written about it before. I’d just forgotten.

What I need to do is to formulate a cogent distilled version, but I can’t quite seem to get there. For now, I’ll just share this.

Admission

I’ve been accused of being hyper-logical and aloof, and I self-identify as a logical intellectual. This noted, for humans—myself included—emotion precedes logic. Every time. Logic is applied to rationalise our emotional response. This ‘logic’ is based somewhat on classical logic and otherwise on environmental factors. This is one reason that rhetorical persuasion is so effective. It doesn’t loose sight of the emotional element—pathos—whilst retaining logical and ethical notions—logos and ethos.

Stoic dude, Marcus Aurelius

I’ve been accused of being a stoic and Star Trek’s Mr Spock—devoid of emotion—, and on one level I don’t feel that I am run by emotions’ but on the other hand, I likely am. It’s just I can rhetorically convince myself to the contrary.

I find that highly illogical

Epistemologically, how can I know this? I can’t. But I think that this fits into Daniel Kahneman’s 2-system approach, and system 1, the heuristic element, is the first responder to all incidences. System 2, the analytical element often isn’t even alerted. For people of my persuasion, we intentionally invoke system 2, but this is always after system 1 has evaluated the situation. I highly recommend Kahneman’s Thinking Fast & Slow as an introduction to these systems and how they deal (and don’t deal) with cognitive biases.

If I had a dollar

This may be why Emotivism makes sense categorically, as Truth is just another notion wrought from emotion. It is also how humans convince themselves that things like justice and fairness can exist.

And, so, does this post have another point to make? Am I going to elaborate? It seems a bit short. By my own admission, nope.

The Value of Experience

I hear people say this:

Experience is more important than material wealth because you can’t take it with you.

This is silly on so many levels.

Firstly, you can’t take experiences with you any more than you can take material, so the entire logic is faulty.

Secondly, although unsaid, this is typically uttered by those who equate experience with travel to other places, and so one needs some notion of material wealth to do so.

Thirdly, just being alive and somewhat aware is an experience, but I understand the notion implies a diversity of experience.

Fourthly, you still can’t take it with you.

Personally, I love aphorisms, those near-phatic quips that no one really thinks about, yet they feel that these are somehow guiding principles.

Opposites attract.

versus

Like attracts like.

Which of these is correct?

In fact, each of these statements may be correct; it simply depends on context. The issue is that people spout these off to make a point.

Opposites attract is how we justify when two unexpected people, for example, are together. It is also the basis behind the Jungian anima-animus concept.

Like attracts like may be either to justify why person A is with person B, but it sometimes further is meant to imply a sort of guilt by association.

The other issue is one of dimension. When applied to people, they are multidimensional. So which dimension is opposite and which is like. Of course, we’ll choose the dimension that fits our purposes.

Perhaps a 172 cm brunette woman is a police officer has a life partner who is a 172 cm blonde man, who is a criminal, and who both enjoy art museums.

Without specifying what percentage the likeness needs to be to qualify,
if like truly attracted like, wouldn’t the 172 cm brunette policewoman be attracted to another 172 cm brunette policewoman? Or would just another taller policewoman be good enough?

Anyway, nothing earth-shattering here. This is simply another example of the imprecision of language. That, and I couldn’t sleep.

Arguing against Prostitution

TRIGGER WARNING: This post is about sex and prostitution and includes words and images not necessarily appropriate for the self-righteous.

If this describes you, avert your eyes.

The Holy Water, It Burns

I stumbled across another blog site advocating the Nordic (anti-prostitution) Model, which in a nutshell makes it illegal to buy but not ‘sell’ sex.

On the positive side, the advocates of this model pretty much all adhere to the same talking points. On the negative side, there are only weak strawman arguments , moralising, and anecdotes. Any studies referenced are limited in scope and with dubious rigour.

In this case, I (again) pointed out that the core of the argument was one against Capitalism, and (again) the response was that it is (somehow) more than this—because, well, things…moral things.

Interestingly, the site is named Your Social Construct Is Showing, but it seems her complaint is not about social constructs in general; rather, she doesn’t appear to like any social construct she doesn’t agree with—and without recognising the irony in claiming to understand the constructed nature of society whilst also claiming that her construction is somehow better—because, well, things…just things. She’s got some subcultural metanarrative running through her head, and, by God, it’s got to be the only valid one.

I’ve written on this before, but the primary argument is that sex work is not work—otherwise, they wouldn’t have to label it as work. It sort of employs the same logic that oral sex is not sex for the same reason—because reasons.

The next angle is to conflate prostitution with sex trafficking, just hoping no one will notice the redirection. Then they try to muddy the waters with other issues such as exploited, underage subjects as if there is some parallel between these cohorts and women who choose this line of work.

Example of an advertisement by a sex worker

So, to be fair and not fight strawmen like Cammy, I’ll comment on a Logos blog she posted in a response to me. She seemed to be impressed with it. After a rambling preamble, the post gets to its points:

Worker safety: Sex Work does not comply with OSHA rules.

Sexual Harassment: ‘unwelcome sexual conduct that is a term or condition of employment’

Civil Rights: Slavery used to be illegal, and now it isn’t. Prostitution is like slavery.

Without devoting more than a passing moment to remind the reader that workplace safety and sexual harassment rules are social constructs that vary by place and time. OSHA is relevant in the United States of America and nowhere else. Let’s address these in turn:

The Logos post cites various OSHA rules and attempts to rationalise how sex work would be non-compliant.

1

Worker Safety

Mouth pipetting/suctioning of blood or other potentially infectious materials is prohibited

The author (attributed as Lori Watson) points out that ‘this doesn’t say is permitted with protective gear. It says prohibited.’ The line of argumentation here is seemingly that semen is a potentially infectious material and so is prohibited. What she fails to note is that suctioning is not the purpose of oral sex, and with a condom, no suctioning could happen anyway.

Gloves shall be worn when it can be reasonably anticipated that the employee may have hand contact with blood, other potentially infectious materials…

If the punter is wearing a condom, it cannot be reasonably anticipated that the employee would be in contact with [semen].

Masks, Eye Protection, and Face Shields. Masks in combination with eye protection devices, such as goggles or glasses with solid side shields, or chin-length face shields, shall be worn whenever splashes, spray, spatter, or droplets of blood or other potentially infectious materials may be generated…

Again: Condoms obviate this need.

Gowns, Aprons, and Other Protective Body Clothing. Appropriate protective clothing such as, but not limited to, gowns, aprons, lab coats, clinic jackets, or similar outer garments shall be worn in occupational exposure situations. The type and characteristics will depend upon the task and degree of exposure anticipated.

Ditto: Condoms

In the event of exposure, OHSA requires: “The source individual’s blood shall be tested as soon as feasible…

OK

This part of the post closes with a comment that many [note: weasel word] punters do not prefer condoms.

2

Sexual HARASSMENT

Since the definition and expressed purpose of prostitution is ultimately an exchange of sexual services for remuneration, it seems that a person waives this protection. There is much precedence of this occurrence.

Case in point. In the United States, citizens are protected by the Constitution and its Amendments. These documents contain inalienable rights (as established by the Declaration of Independence), yet these rights are abridged (waived) in many instances—military service being the most notable, where members do not have the right to free speech, peaceable assembly, to carry a weapon (except as specifically allowed), due process, and on and on.

3

Civil Rights

The response here is a deluxe word salad, so I’ll break it down slowly.

If sexual autonomy is to mean anything, it has to mean the right to refuse sex with anyone, at any time, for any reason. 

Indeed. And the woman can refuse service and refund the fee. If I am a fast food worker, I can forego my wages and my job if I no longer wish to do it. Try to do that in the military. Indentured servitude, you ask? Why, yes. I do believe you’d be correct.

[As] a regulated commercial exchange, the “providers” are cannot be legally free to refuse clients in protected classes on grounds of their membership in the protected class.

Indeed. If I were a lawyer and refused to service a member of a protected class, I would likely be disbarred. This said, the sex worker could choose another profession. In my experience, many sex workers exclude various classes of people they do not prefer to service.

Below are some images I found whilst performing a Google search. Notice that the provider advertises her boundaries and limitations.

This one makes it clear that she does not provide unprotected services or anal sex and does not accept African-American (AA) customers under 35 years of age.

No BB – No Greek – No AA

This ad makes it clear that she only practices safe sex (No BB (bareback), including no BB oral sex) and will not provide Girl Friend Experience (GFE).

No BBBJ

Again, this provider does not service African American men of any age and does not require protection for oral sex, but she only services from her own location.

BBBJ Friendly – No AA

So at the end of all this, I stand by my original position that there is no argument to have beyond ‘boo hoo. I don’t like prostitution and neither should you. I can’t come up with a cogent argument, so I’ll shout into an echo chamber where my friends and allies will cheer me on, but critical thinking need not apply because reasons and things…lots of them.

Destiny & Free Will

Destiny or free will is a question only as old as religion, and it’s a silly question. In my opinion, this is one of the ways that religion and religious thought sullies the world. Some dead bloke way back when had some seeming epiphany, and it was entered into the doctrinal record.

The concept of destiny is the silliest part. This is a throwback to the teleological notion of progress. I wonder if the whole concept of progress isn’t an offshoot of religion.

I’ve written elsewhere about the folly of progress. Destiny fails on the same level. Moreover, destiny in this context is first about individual destiny—what is my personal fate—and then we devolve further into some group notion, whether by race or nationality or some other social construct. It’s the same logic that led to Manifest Destiny and the slaughter of millions upon millions of people worldwide over the course of history1.

Progress Sign

Neither is free will sensible. Humans—living beings, categorically—have some autonomy over themselves. This, of course, presumes self and identity to actually mean anything. But, they are subject to the influences of genetics and environmental factors—including social indoctrination—, so how would one extricate these from some notion of sovereign free will?

One does not even need to be a strict materialist to see that one does not have free will. Not even Sartre’s no excuses Existentialism fully accounts for this. An Existentialist might argue the despite whatever historical baggage yo carry with you to any given point, you can always decide on what your next point might be. But this misses the point that any decision one makes can only be made in context to the experiences you’ve already had.

One can’t one day decide to speak Russian if one had never before learnt the Russian language.

So, as I said at the start, the question of destiny and free will are for juveniles. There is no reason to adopt the religious frame that makes them appear to be more than the specious notions they happen to be.

In the end, you just are. Enjoy the moment or at least just live it. It may be your last.


1. Please note the I am using the course of history in the idiomatic sense as one might employ corners of the earth. There is no course; there are no corners.

Story Time

One primary function of language is to convey stories. As Yuval Noah Harari notes in his Sapiens, one reason humans have evolved to be seemingly above other species is the ability to construct narratives—particularly narratives about some vision of the future as well as metanarratives about the past and how we got here. His other two factors were money and religion; rather, these are merely special instances of story-telling, and so it’s all about stories.

The human brain responds to narratives, but it does not seem so concerned with the truth element. We are often deceived. In fact, there are notions like cognitive dissonance and escalating commitment where we fabricate rationale around some implausible story or we entrench our thinking when counter-knowledge might otherwise alter our perspective.

MC Escher

In fact, truth is merely another narrative we’ve been fed—rhetorical legerdemain. But it’s just a story: cognitive dissonance envelopes the notion and we build some heuristic defences around it; escalating commitment kicks in when someone attacks the notion.

The concept of Truth underlies entire societies, governments, and legal systems. Idiomatically, we employ small-t truth to represent a sort of relative proximity to match our senses to some observation. If I am asked if a book is on a table when a book is on a table—ignoring semantics of what constitutes a book, a table, or the concept of on—, and I say that it is, this is considered to be a true statement. Of course, this statement is concerned with the correspondence of observation and some shared reality. But this is tautological or analytical. In the end, it’s petty.

Capital-T Truth is more universal (or multiversal), is so much as it would be inviolable. Besides, the Truth of Truth, there are the notions of Trust of Justice or Truth of Duty or Truth of Integrity. Truth of any archetypes, really. Yet these are unobtainable—because there are imaginary concepts.

Classically, archetypes are forms from which physical objects sort of spawn. A table to an instantiation of some archetypal table. Archetypes follow from Ancient Greek pathological notions of perfections—perfect forms, shapes, harmonies, relationships, virtues, gods, and on and on. The notion of perfect itself is an archetype in this sense.

But the causal relationship has been inverted. Empirical observations taken to imaginary extremes generate a notion of the archetype. Mother is an archetype—the perfect mother—, but it’s not that mothers are formed by some archetypical mould; it’s that the aggregation of mothers and how a perfect mother might be is the definitive. In Jungian psychology, all mothers are compared by their children against this archetypal form. In the Greek tradition, the virtuous mother would attempt to live up to this expectation.

Christian religion plays this up, too. Jesus and God are archetypes. Humans are fallible, but the virtuous strive to be like them; WWJD. Buddhists have their own archetypes of Buddha and Enlightenment, the realization of perfection in nirvana. Again, this is just a story.

Language itself is a human construct, and so anything within it is also constructed. It doesn’t matter whether language acquisition comes a priori or a posteriori. The language itself remains a fabrication.

Post Truth has been a popular topic recently. But what is post is the belief by many in the concept of truth. Although couched this way by detractors, no one is claiming that all truths are equally valid. The claim is rather that many truths are. To claim that women are equal to men and women are inferior to men cannot be evaluated because it would require a complete set of dimensions. Besides, even with this complete set of dimensions, a couple of dimensions are place and time, both of which are subject to change. Beauvoir pointed this out in Second Sex, where she noted that in hunter-gatherer societies physical size and strength may have made males ‘superior’ in matters of protection (a specific context), but that industrialization and automation have rendered this factor insignificant.

So why is any of this important? Well, it’s not. As I’ve said, evidently truth was not necessary to become evolved to this point. And since it’s a figment, there is little reason to believe that it will ever become necessary.  My point is merely to point out that the emperor of truth is wearing no clothes.

Penetration Politics

Foucault (or Dworkin or Butler) may have had something to say about penetration politics—not the measure of electability in the professional political arena, rather the type that occurs in interpersonal sexual (or protosexual) relationships. 

Although different cultures treat this differently, at least in the West, there is a certain polarity between the penetrator and the penetrated, with the penetrator presumed to be dominant and the penetrated to be passive or submissive. I’ve not done any deep research—especially cross-culturally—but I’ll guess that this is more prevalent in patriarchal settings. Religion adds the element of shame and fetishises sex in the first place.

Before Greece

Even in Ancient Greece and some African cultures, same-sex penetration is allowed, but only when the penetrated is of a lower station, whether by age or class standing.

Greek Art

Anecdotally, female same-sex interaction is less of an issue than the male counterpart. I suggest that this is because of the penetration involved. It is also statistically speaking, the least risky. In BDSM parlance, there is a top and a bottom. The choice of these terms is not merely coincidental. And whilst they could represent the actors in physical space, they also relate to the power hierarchy.

Greek Pottery

We can also visit idiomatic speech—at least in English. Penetrative notions are most typically negative. I can’t think of any that are positive, so correct me if I am wrong.

‘I got fucked’ and ‘He fucked me’ are both terms of being taken advantage of. ‘I got screwed’ is the lighter version. ‘I got fucked in the ass’ ratchets it up a notch, perhaps. ‘Fuck you’ is not a term of endearment. I suppose I’ve heard people exclaim ‘fuck me’, but I don’t think one is supposed to reconcile that literally.

Boys will be boys

People we don’t like are cocksuckers. This one has always been a bit curious to me. It represents cocksuckers as some negative actor, but—as a fairly typical male—who doesn’t like a cock-sucker? How could this possibly be a negative? It’s because of the penetration. It’s yet another double standard. Most guys I know want to get their cock sucked and even enjoy it, but the sucker—that person is of a lower order; clearly a loathed order. Myself, I can’t use the term—at least not as a pejorative.

Sex seems to be a power play. Some people use sex as a weapon, either through teasing or withholding, which as I think about it are one and the same. If the receptor (allow me to stay with a heterosexual model for a while) gives in, the penetrator; if she doesn’t, she’s got the upper hand.

Greek Pederasty

Don’t get me wrong. In a functioning relationship, this is an activity of equals, but many relationships are dysfunctional on one level or another, and so it becomes a power struggle. He or she wants it less. One or the other party ‘gives in’ in order to remain in the relationship for some other reason, and so we are back to politics.

In the spirit of TMI (but hopefully not too too much ‘I’), my first wife hated doing dishes. Though I would have preferred not to wash them, I didn’t really care either way, so we alternated turns every other day. On her days, she’d offer a blowjob in exchange for my taking her turn. To me, it was a win-win proposition. Although I might have, I never viewed it as a power thing, though I did view it as transactional. Firstly, it was her idea; secondly, it seemed so consensual.

Unlearn Sexism

But where is the shame in sex? There is even shame in being seen nude in most circles. How did this happen? And why does there appear to be more shame in being penetrated? I’ll blame religion. It seems to be like a cancer that ruins everything it touches—like a reverse Midas touch.

Slut-shaming

I understand that in the past, sex could lead to death in childbirth or sexually transmitted diseases or infections, but with the widespread availability of barrier protection, this risk is substantially reduced. Think about this. What is the difference between a wife having (protected) sex with her husband each day for a year and a woman who has (consensual, protected) sex with different men each day of the same year? Ostensibly, nothing.

It’s not so much that the wife would advertise to the world that she had had sex each night—because sex is somehow shameful—, but if she let it slip that she and her husband had shagged the night before—or the past trend of nightly sex for a week—, there would be likely little more than a blush. For the unattached woman, there would likely be judgment and scorn. But this would be for no other reason than the taint of religious dogma.

The End