Unconditional Love

Religious belief is sometimes defined as unconditional trust, and “true” love is often described as unconditional. But nobody ever asks whether unconditional anything actually makes sense. Conditional means contingent, or dependent on conditions, which in this sublunary world are in constant flux and cannot be predicted even five minutes ahead. Unconditional trust or love would therefore be a truly heroic defiance of the nature of the universe.

One might further ask whether unconditional love crosses the line from heroism to abject stupidity, as it would seem to suggest that the Other lacks interests of his own, but has nothing better to do than to remain the changeless object of your affections. It suggests an obligation not to develop, which of course is why we see it most frequently in mothers who want an eternal baby.

A major difference between Christian and Muslim ethics is that the former commands only that we not perpetrate injustice, while the latter insists that we not put up with it either. This is perhaps because, as Socrates said, people are truly harmed only by being made worse, and letting people trample on us undoubtedly facilitates their moral corruption.

From this point of view, unconditional love is a very suspect business indeed, particularly the demand to be given it. For what can it mean other than a manifesto declaration that your job is to give me whatever I want, irrespective of how I behave towards you? Everyone wants free swag, but that does not mean that they ought always to get it. Common prudence dictates that anyone hearing that demand should run for his, or her, life.

Posted on January 4, 2011 at 08:32 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, What Is This Thing Called Love?

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