Types of love

“Love comes in many different forms. I distinguish between at least seven,” says philosopher Pärttyli Rinne.

BIGTALK is a interview series, where big questions are asked from the scientists of Helsinki University.

Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love and affection. It has long traditions, possibly dating back to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, observed in February in honour of the goddess of women and marriage. But what exactly is love?

“Love comes in many different forms. I distinguish between at least seven,” says Pärttyli Rinne, a dramaturge, philosopher and expert in Immanuel Kant’s concept of love.

“These are self-love, erotic love, parental love, love of God, friendship, love for your neighbour, and love of truth. We have yet to scientifically determine the common denominators, if any, between these forms.”

So, to quote the Beatles, is love all we need?

“If we define love to be a process of empathetic sensitivity and caring between individuals, it is obviously a basic need for humans – and possibly for all mammals whose survival and prosperity depends on early parental care,” Rinne muses.

“But is it all we need? The way I see it, people need enough food and clean water, decent housing and electricity, basic health care and education – and, yes, love. That is all we need.”

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Text: Tapio Ollikainen
Video: Tapio Ollikainen and Tiina Aarniala
14.2.2013
Translation: Language Services/Language Centre (University of Helsinki)
University of Helsinki, digital communications


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