Love: A New Understanding of an Ancient Emotion by Simon May

Love: A New Understanding of an Ancient Emotion by Simon May
Simon May

Love | A New Understanding of an Ancient Emotion by Simon May reframes how we should understand the emotion of love. 

What is love’s real aim? Why is it so ruthlessly selective in its choice of loved ones? Why do we love at all?

In addressing these questions, Simon May develops a radically new understanding of love as the emotion we feel towards whomever or whatever we experience as grounding our life–as offering us a possibility of home in a world that we supremely value. He sees love as motivated by a promise of “ontological rootedness,” rather than, as two thousand years of tradition variously asserts, by beauty or goodness, by a search for wholeness, by virtue, by sexual or reproductive desire, by compassion or altruism or empathy, or, in one of today’s dominant views, by no qualities at all of the loved one.

After arguing that such founding Western myths as the Odyssey and Abraham’s call by God to Canaan in the Bible powerfully exemplify his new conception of love, May goes on to re-examine the relation of love to beauty, sex, and goodness in the light of this conception, offering among other things a novel theory of beauty–and suggesting, against Plato, that we can love others for their ugliness (while also seeing them as beautiful).

Finally, he proposes that, in the Western world, romantic love is gradually giving way to parental love as the most valued form of love: namely, the love without which one’s life is not deemed complete or truly flourishing. May explains why childhood has become sacred and excellence in parenting a paramount ideal–as well as a litmus test of society’s moral health. In doing so, he argues that the child is the first genuinely “modern” supreme object of love: the first to fully reflect what Nietzsche called “the death of God.”

Simon May is visiting professor of philosophy at King’s College, London, and at Birkbeck College, University of London. His interests lie in ethics, philosophy of the emotions, questions of identity and belonging, and German 19th and 20th Century thought, especially the work of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Heidegger. He is also a devotee of the aphoristic form. His monographs include Nietzsche’s Ethics and his War on “Morality” (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999); Love: A History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011); Love: A New Understanding of an Ancient Emotion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), and The Power of Cute (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019).

He is editor of Nietzsche’s “On the Genealogy of Morality”: A Critical Guide (Cambridge University Press, 2011), to which he contributed a paper entitled “Why Nietzsche is still in the morality game”; and co-editor, with Ken Gemes, of Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy (Oxford University Press, 2009), for which he wrote a paper entitled “Nihilism and the Free Self”.

Outside academic philosophy he has written op-ed articles for newspapers such as The Washington Post and the Financial Times, as well as a book of his own aphorisms, Thinking Aloud: A Collection of Aphorisms (Alma Books, 2009), which was named a Financial Times Book of the Year. A selection of his aphorisms is included in Geary’s Guide to the World’s Great Aphorists, published by Bloomsbury. His work has been translated into ten languages and has been reviewed in major publications all over the world.

  • ISBN: 9780190884833
  • 304 Pages
  • May 02, 2019

Publisher: Oxford University Press