Levi Bryant on the Role of Love in Philosophy

Bryant posted a great piece on textual transference and the role of love in learning. He has succeeded in making me wonder what it is exactly that gives ideas their alluring personalities. How is it that sympathy and charisma have such an effect in the world, while cold-hard facts and rationally deduced truth seem to fall on deaf ears? If an idea isn’t interesting enough for its teacher to sustain a relationship with a student, it will die a mere logical possibility lacking effective deployment in the relational world.

I share Bryant’s sentiment here:

“I…recognize that the world is saturated with many different loves and that these loves carry people in many different directions… Often in directions contrary to my own. The best I can do is continue to speak and write and hope that in doing so I encounter those from whom I can learn and grow.”

I would add, though, that I think love operates at various levels; it isn’t simply the psychological invention of individual human beings, it is a cosmic energy. So is wisdom. I hope not only to encounter other humans, animals, plants, and elements to learn from, but also to participate in the soul of the world from whom we each receive our life.

Bryant writes:

“The philosopher in me, of course, is offended by transference.”

I don’t think philosophy is inherently adverse to love. On the contrary, it seems as though love is the very essence of wisdom (and, as you suggested, love is clearly at the root of learning).

I’m not sure about this:

“When the atheist sets upon the believer, systematically destroying those beliefs, for example, he would do well to remember that it’s never just about the beliefs but that there’s a whole network of libidinal attachment to family, spouses, lovers, friends, rituals, festivals, etc, of which the beliefs are but the tip of the iceberg. Tenacious attachment to these beliefs might very well be, in many cases, tenacious attachment to these other libidinal investments.”

I don’t think atheism should be opposed to belief. Atheism is not the opposite of positive belief, but agnosticism. Atheism is also a system of beliefs rooted in a mostly unspoken network of drives and familial/communal rituals. Even the agnostic, as metaphysically skeptical as they may pretend to be, is still an enculturated animal operating in the world according to some unconscious imaginative background, and to that extent is the historical product of a set of communal practices. In the Jamesian sense, a belief is anything we are willing to act on, despite at first lacking certain knowledge of it. Love, since it is at the root of learning, is the original belief, the belief from which all else, cosmic and human, follows. Without it, there is nothing. Nihil.

The love of wisdom seems to come natural to Homo sapiens.