from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Die Liebe" (1904), picture from the cycle on love by Ferdinand Hodler

Love (about mhd. Liep , "good, pleasant, worthy " from idg. * Borrowing , loving, desiring) is a term for the greatest affection and appreciation .

According to a narrower and more widespread understanding, love is a strong feeling with an attitude of intimate and deep attachment to a person (or group of people) that exceeds the purpose or benefit of an interpersonal relationship and is usually expressed through an accommodating active affection to the other. The feeling of love can arise regardless of whether it is reciprocated or not. Initially, no distinction is made between whether it is a deep affection within a family group (parental love, sibling love) or a spiritual kinship (love of friends , partnership) or a physical desire for another person ( Eros ). As physical love, this desire is closely linked to sexuality , which, however, does not necessarily have to be lived out (cf. platonic love ).

Love is distinguished from the temporary phase of being in love . “The first love, it is rightly said, is the only one: because in the second and through the second the highest sense of love is lost. The concept of the eternal and infinite, which actually lifts and carries it, has been destroyed, it appears ephemeral like everything that recurs ”.


Archetypal lovers Romeo and Juliet portrayed by Frank Dicksee (1884)

Based on this first meaning, the term has always been used in colloquial language and in tradition in a figurative sense and then generally stands for the strongest form of turning to other living beings, things, activities or ideas. This general interpretation also understands love as a metaphor for expressing deep appreciation.

In terms of cultural history and history, “love” is a colorful term that is used not only in the German language in a variety of contexts and with a wide variety of connotations . The phenomenon was understood and experienced differently in different epochs, cultures and societies. Every time and every social association has its own rules of conduct for dealing with love. Therefore the levels of meaning can change between sensual perception, feeling and the ethical basic attitude of love .

The meanings of the antonyms are just as complex as the meanings of love . In terms of emotional attraction between people, it is hate . In terms of the absence of love, however, indifference can also be viewed as antagonism. Absolute lack of love leads to hospitalism in the child . Incorrect developments in the ability to love are in the sense of the “pure” concept of love, possessiveness ( jealousy ) or various forms of voluntary dependence or giving up autonomy up to bondage .


Ancient Greek distinguishes several different senses in which the word "love" is used. The ancient Greeks identified four forms of love: kinship or intimacy ( Storge in Greek ), friendship and / or platonic desire ( philia ), sexual and / or romantic desire ( eros ), and self-emptying or divine love ( agape ). Modern authors have presented other variants of romantic love. However, with Greek (as with many other languages) it has historically been difficult to completely separate the meanings of these words. At the same time, the ancient Greek text of the Bible has examples that the verb agapo has the same meaning as phileo .

The Latin language has different words that correspond to the German word "Liebe". Amō is the basic verb, “I love,” with the infinitive amare (to love) as it is still used in Italian today. The Romans used it both in a loving sense and in a romantic or sexual one. The corresponding noun is amor (the meaning of this term for the Romans is made clear by the fact that the name of the city of Rome - Latin: Roma - is an anagram for amor , which was widely used in ancient times as the secret name of the city) and also used in the plural form to indicate love affairs or sexual adventures. The same root also produces amicus (friend) and amicitia (friendship, often for mutual benefit, which is sometimes more like “debt” or “influence”). Cicero wrote a treatise called Laelius de amicitia which discusses the term at length. Ovid wrote a guide on dating called Ars amatoria ( The Art of Love ), which covers everything from extramarital affairs to overprotective parents.

Love as intersubjective recognition

Love is often seen as a relationship between two people based on free will , which does not find its value in the possession of the addressed object, but rather unfolds in the dialogical space between the lovers. The lovers recognize each other in their existence and encourage each other "striving towards each other".

Love is partially understood as an anomic and unbounded counter-model to the restrictions, requirements, functionalizations and economizations of the human everyday and working world. Love is not a conscious or rational decision of the lovers; nevertheless it is not irrational.

In the sense of the discourse of recognition (for example John Rawls , Axel Honneth ) love contains the "idea of ​​mutual recognition" emphasized by Hegel , which gives it a moral foundation. For Honneth love is therefore one of the three “patterns of intersubjective recognition” alongside law and solidarity . Love is therefore characterized in friendships and in relationships based on love by emotional affection and benevolence. The practical experience of love enables self-confidence and creates identity. This means that in the socialization process, demands are made on identity formation. Love makes a contribution to their fulfillment by assigning positive characteristics to a person and giving approval to the personality. Thus the social recognition experienced through love reinforces the development of an intact identity. In addition, the moral foundation differentiates or extends love from the pure drive .


The occidental conception of love is shaped by the tripartite division of the ancient terminology. In ancient times, three terms were used to denote different forms of love:

  • Eros  - denotes sensual-erotic love, the desire for the beloved object, the desire to be loved, the passion ;
  • Philía  - denotes love for friends, mutual love, mutual recognition and mutual understanding;
  • Agápe  - denotes the selfless and promoting love, also the love of neighbor and the love of enemies, which has the welfare of the other in view.

The exact meanings and emphases of the terms have changed over the course of time, so that - in contrast to what was originally meant - "platonic love" is understood today to be a purely spiritual and spiritual principle without physical involvement and desire for possession, which is the bodily-erotic model of sexual love is juxtaposed sharply.

In the course of time these basic forms of love have been differentiated again and again. For example, playful-sexual love is sometimes referred to as ludus , possessive love as mania and love based on reasons of reason as pragma . In theistic religions, a special love relationship is represented by that between God's compassionate love for people and people's adoring love for God (generic term for both is love of God ).

Based on this three-way division, one can distinguish the manifestations of the phenomenon of love in terms of sensation , feeling and attitude :

Feeling of love

Angelo Bronzino , Allegory of Love (1540/45), detail

Under feelings of love is meant primarily sensual love feelings, especially the infatuation and sexual attraction. As a rule, they are related to the other two forms of love, but can also be triggered by the perception of a strange body, i.e. by visual , olfactory or tactile stimuli or simply by the perceived lack of a loved one. The feeling of love is closely related to sexuality, that is, sexual desires, needs and actions (for example, sexual intercourse , also known as “making love”).

Feelings of love

Feelings of love are understood to be a complex, diverse spectrum of different sensations and attitudes towards different types of possible love objects, in which the sensual-erotic component is only of secondary importance. They lead to a turning towards the other, to whom appreciation, attention and tenderness are given.

Sympathy, friendship, care and emotional love are phenomena in which feelings of love play a major role. Similarly, can contemplative love (for example, to nature), the active caring love for one's neighbor ( charity ), the religious or mystical love and compassion are expected to do so.

Love attitude

This describes the inner attitude towards the loved one, to act for their own sake and to promote their well-being and happiness through their own behavior.

Type of love object

  • Self-love: Self-love is usually seen as always there; Some also regard it as the prerequisite for the ability to love and to love one's neighbor, whereby Erich Fromms (1900–1980) believes that selfishness means self-hatred. Selfishness expressed itself in love by owning greedy interest. Fromm went on to claim that excessive selflessness is not a virtue, but a symptom that can cause unintended harm. Physical self-love is also lived out as masturbation , which promotes sexual development. Excessive self-love or pathological self-love is known as narcissism .
  • Partner Love: The sexual love can in the opposite sex ( heterosexuality ) and same-sex love ( homosexuality ) are differentiated and often found in romantic relationships expressed for the European in today's culture the ideal of partnership is emphasized, mixed with the supposedly courtly ideal of romantic love, probably originated in Romanticism. Robert C. Solomon considers romantic love to be nothing that is inherent in humans, but rather a construct of modern western cultures. In society, conjugal love often has an institutionally significant role and often claims exclusivity for itself (see monogamy ). Love models that are not based on exclusive two-way relationships ( polygamy ) play in non-European cultures and, in recent decades, in rare cases in the West (“ polyamory ”), e. B. in subcultural ways of life, a role.
Family love
  • Family love: In addition to love based on partnership, love between (close) relatives ( fatherly love , motherly love , filial love ) and friendship in human communities are of the greatest importance.
  • Charity: The charity , for the purposes of religion and ethics primarily those in need, while the philanthropy it expands to universal love (cf.. Humanity ). The love of one's enemies is a love of neighbor related to enemies in the New Testament , which is often considered a Christian peculiarity, but also occurs in other religions - for example in the Hawaiian Hoʻoponopono , in which it is expressed as “letting go of the other”. Another concept is the concept of distant love .
  • Love of objects and ideas: In recent times in particular, social concepts have also moved towards the center of attention in Western cultures for animals and nature. In the broadest linguistic interpretation, one “loves” one's hobbies or passions and can then also call these hobbies or preferences. According to this, ideals can also be loved, for example represented by the term “ love of freedom”, but also affiliations such as love of the country (patriotism).
  • God's love: A special role is played by the love of God one, in its general form the prerequisite in several (not all) religions God's love for His creation, and especially humans. The same term also denotes love for a god.
  • "Objectless love": Love as a basic attitude does not require an object for Christian mystics like Meister Eckhart . Love is understood here as unconditional opening . The philosopher and metaphysician Jean Émile Charon describes this “universal” love as the “finality of evolution” and “self-transcendence of the universe”.

Forms of expression

Holding hands as a form of connection and love

Love, especially being in love (“being in love”) can express itself non-verbally, for example through looks, facial expressions, restlessness or posture. If love is based on mutuality, people express it through tenderness, especially kisses and touches such as holding hands . The physical union can serve as the most intimate form of expression of love. Verbal forms of expression are primarily designations of the loved one, mostly in the form of compliments and endearing words or nicknames such as "darling" or "treasure".

Special, conventional forms are the "declaration of love" or the love letter , which have also received special recognition in literature. Also rituals as the engagement or symbols such as the engagement ring include this.

The ideal of “love as adoration” with the exclusion of a specific physical relationship belongs more to (literary) history and found a special form there in the so-called “ high love ”, a term that Walther von der Vogelweide used as the opposite of “nideren” minne ”, meaning the physically fulfilled minne . In this poetic form of love, the " frouwe " remains unattainable. For Evangelia Tsiavou , courtly love contains a strongly masochistic component with reference to Niklas Luhmann .

Cultural symbols for love


Graphic representation of a heart shape in red.  Medium line thickness, area not filled in color, background transparent
Heart shape, also symbol for love

The heart shape (♥) is an ideogram that expresses the idea of ​​the " heart " in its metaphorical or symbolic sense as the center of emotions, including affection and love, especially romantic love. The "wounded heart", which indicates love sickness, was represented as a heart symbol that was pierced with an arrow (Cupid), or as a heart symbol that was "broken" in two or more parts.

The combination of the heart shape and its use within the heart metaphor developed at the end of the Middle Ages , although the shape was already used in many epigraphic monuments and texts in ancient times. With possible early examples or direct predecessors in the 13th to 14th centuries, the familiar symbol of the heart, representing love, developed in the 15th century and became popular in Europe during the 16th century. Since the 19th century, the symbol has been widely used on Valentine's Day cards, candy boxes, and similar popular cultural artifacts as a symbol of romantic love.


Claddagh ring

The Claddagh ring ( Gaeilge  : fáinne Chladaigh ) is a traditional Irish ring that stands for love, loyalty and friendship (the hands represent friendship, the heart for love and the crown for loyalty).

The design and associated customs come from the Irish fishing village of the same name in Galway . The ring, as known today, was first made in the 17th century. This symbol is associated with the legend of Claddagh, a fishing village outside Galway city. According to legend, a young man named Richard was fishing at sea with other men from his family when they were captured by pirates and brought to Africa as slaves. Years passed, many of the Irish fishermen died and Richard was unhappy because he just wanted to go back to his lover who was in Ireland. To keep his spirit alive and to keep hope in his heart, Richard stole a tiny patch of gold every day from his slave masters in the goldsmiths where he tended the fires. Years went by and with his little gold pieces he was finally able to make a ring. It was his hope that despite what seemed almost impossible, he would return to his village and give the ring to his true love.


Lucas Cranach the Elder : Cupid Complains to Venus , ca.1525

Cupid is one of the most famous symbols of love. He is often depicted as a teasing, winged child with a bow and arrow . The arrows signify desires and emotions of love, and Cupid aims these arrows at gods and people, causing them to fall deeply in love. Cupid has always played a role in the celebrations of love and lovers. In ancient Greece he was known as Eros , the young son of Aphrodite , the goddess of love and beauty.

Red rose

The ancient Greeks treated the rose as a sacred symbol of Aphrodite's beauty . According to an old legend, the red rose grew out of the blood of the god Adonis , the rose is also associated with Roman deities such as Hecate , Bacchus and the Three Graces .


Swans have many different meanings in myth and folklore. In addition to freedom, community and loyalty, they symbolize ( monogamous ) love and loyalty. The swan is another symbol of the Virgin Mary and represents her purity and love. According to English and Celtic traditions, the swan is a powerful and ancient power animal. Here the swan is associated with the goddesses of medicinal water.

Historical evolution of the concept of sexual love


The concept of love plays a central role in European Romanticism (approx. 1795–1848), pointedly by Friedrich Hölderlin , for example , in his Diotima novel Hyperion (1797/1799) the ideal of perfect love (as a complete fusion with the love object), which the author conceived as a remedy against alienation , is hung so high that real love relationships never come about.

This exaggeration of love has been criticized many times in later literary epochs, for example by DH Lawrence :

“You love fucking all right: but you want it to be called something grand and mysterious, just to flatter your own self-importance. Your own self-importance is more to you, fifty times more, than any man, or being together with a man. "

"Sure, you love to fuck: but you want it to be called something grandiose and mysterious just to flatter your self-importance. Your own high-handedness means much more to you, fifty times more than any man or being with a man. "

- DH Lawrence : Lady Chatterley's Lover

Bourgeois literature in the 19th century

The conception of love in 19th century bourgeois literature has been well researched. E. Marlitt , for example, advocates the concept of love marriage in her novels , but by no means has the amour passion in the sense that overcomes social barriers, but a sensible love that is based more on the virtues of the partner than on his or her uniqueness Person self-oriented. The protagonists make love for the first time in their lives, and the novels imply that this love will remain their only one - even if it is not realized in marriage.

Love in religions

Art print God is love (Eng .: "God is love") by Currier & Ives, ca.1874

In trained polytheistic religions, which had developed from a transformation of many local deities into a pantheon based on the division of labor , special (mostly female) deities of love were often worshiped. In ancient Greece there was the goddess Aphrodite and her son Eros , the Romans the goddess Venus and her son Amor .

The monotheistic religions have developed sophisticated theologies of love based on the love of God (see also the ideas of neighborly love and charity derived from them ). The universal love of God is one of his qualities; but since anger or jealousy are also among its characteristics, theology has a complex field of work here. In the Greek New Testament , love is the first fruit of the Holy Spirit . According to Plato, the church differentiates between agape and eros (see above). Pope Benedict XVI dedicated his first encyclical Deus caritas est to the subject of love.

Even in negative theology , as in mysticism, the only statement about the inexpressible is generally recognized as the statement that God is love ; see. also natural theology .


In Hebrew , אהבה ( ahava ) is the most commonly used term for interpersonal love and love between God and God's creations. For example, the Old Testament speaks of God's deep love for his people Israel ( HosEU ; 11 EU ; Dtn 7,7–8  EU ) and also to individuals (such as Solomon).

Chesed , often translated as loving kindness, is used to describe many forms of love between people. The command to love other people is given in the Torah , which says: "Love your neighbor as yourself" ( Lev 19:18  EU ). The command of the Torah to love God "with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might" ( Dtn 6.5  EU ) is used by the Mishnah (a central text of the Jewish oral law) as an indication of good deeds, the willingness to to sacrifice one's life instead of committing certain grave transgressions, a willingness to sacrifice all one's possessions, and gratitude to the Lord taken in spite of adversity (tract Berachoth 9: 5). Rabbinical literature differs in how this love can be developed, e.g. B. by contemplating divine deeds or witnessing the wonders of nature. As for love between spouses, it is seen as an essential part of life: "See life with the woman you love" ( Koh 9.9  EU ). The biblical book Song of Solomon is a romantically formulated metaphor of love between God and his people, but in its simple reading it reads like a love song. The 20th century Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler defines love as “giving without expecting” in his Michtav me-Eliyahu .


Christians believe that to love God with all your heart, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself are the two most important commandments in life. St. Augustine summarized this when he wrote: “Love God and do what you want.” The apostle Paul glorified love as the most important virtue of all. In the famous poetic interpretation in 1 Corinthians , he wrote: “Love is patient, love is kind. She doesn't envy, she doesn't brag, she isn't proud. It's not rude, it's not selfish, it's not easily angry, it doesn't keep a record of wrongdoing. Love does not rejoice in evil, but rejoices in truth. She always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always endures. ”(1 Cor 13: 4-7, NIV) The apostle John wrote:“ For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son for everyone who believes in him, is not lost, but has eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him ”(John 3: 16-17, NIV). John also wrote: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love ”(1 John 4: 7–8, NIV) Augustine says that one must be able to decipher the difference between love and pleasure. Lust, according to St. Augustine, is an excessive indulgence, but loving and being loved is what he has been looking for all his life. He even says: “I was in love with love.” The only one who can really and completely love you is God, because love for a person only allows for mistakes such as “jealousy, mistrust, fear, anger and strife”. According to St. Augustine, love for God means "to obtain the peace that is yours". Augustine regards the double commandment of love in Matthew 22 as the heart of the Christian faith and the interpretation of the Bible.

Christian theologians see God as the source of love that is reflected in people and their own love relationships. Influential Christian theologian CS Lewis wrote a book called The Four Loves . Benedict XVI. wrote his first encyclical on "God is love". He said that a person created in the image of God who is love is able to practice love, to give himself to God and others (agape) and to receive and experience the love of God in contemplation (eros). This life of love for him is the life of saints like Teresa of Calcutta and the Blessed Virgin Mary and is the direction Christians take when they believe that God loves them.

And so Pope Francis taught : "True love is love and being loved ... what is important in love is not our love, but to be loved by God." For him, the key to love is "... not ours Activity. It is the activity of the greatest and the source of all forces in the universe: that of God. "

In Christianity, the practical definition of love is best summed up by St. Thomas Aquinas , who defined love as "for the good of the other" or for the desire for the other's success. This explains the Christian need to love others, including their enemies. As Thomas Aquinas explains, Christian love is motivated by the need to see others succeed in life, to be good people.

As for love for one's enemies, Jesus is quoted in the Gospel of Matthew in chapter 5:

“You heard it said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may become children of your Heavenly Father. He makes his sun rise on evil and good, and sends rain on the righteous and unjust. If you love those who love you, what reward do you get? Don't even the tax collectors do that? And if you only greet your own people, what are you doing more than others? Don't even pagans do that? So be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect. "

- Matthew 5: 43-48

Tertullian wrote of love for enemies: “Our individual, extraordinary and perfect goodness consists in loving our enemies. Loving one's friends is a common practice, loving one's enemies only among Christians. "


Love embraces the Islamic view of life as a universal brotherhood that applies to all believers. Among the 99 names of God ( Allah ) there is the name Al-Wadud , or "the lover", which can be found in both Sura 11:90 and Sura 85:14. God is also referred to at the beginning of each chapter in the Qur'an as Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim , or the “Most Merciful”, which means that no one is more loving, compassionate and kind than God. The Qur'an speaks of God as "full of loving-kindness".

The Qur'an exhorts Muslim believers to treat all people who have not persecuted them with birr, or "deep kindness," as stated in Sura 6: 8-9. Birr is also used by the Qur'an to describe the love and kindness children need to show their parents.

Ishq , or “divine love”, is also the main focus of Sufism in the Islamic tradition. Practitioners of Sufism believe that love is a projection of the essence of God onto the universe. God wants to see beauty, and as if looking in a mirror to see yourself, God is looking at himself in the dynamics of nature. Since everything is a reflection of God, the school of Sufism practices seeing beauty in the seemingly ugly. Sufism is often referred to as the religion of love. God in Sufism is mentioned in the main terms "the lover" and "beloved", the last of these terms often being found in Sufi poetry. A common view of Sufism is that through love humanity can return to its inherent purity and grace . Sufism saints are notorious for being "drunk" because of their love for God.

Love in science

Biology and physiology

The term love is not defined in biology and therefore not a biological category. In general, it is difficult to work on emotional processes with scientific methodology, especially since the underlying biochemistry is not yet sufficiently known. Only the following findings are certain for humans:

Neurobiology of Infatuation

Chemical basis of love

According to recent studies of the brainwave and studies, being in love causes the highest activity in areas of the human brain that are also responsible for urges, which suggests that "the feeling" that is commonly referred to as love (in the sense of being in love), has a strong connection with the biological drive in its biochemical correlate .

The sometimes very long-lasting effects of being in love ( limerence ) also indicate neuroendocrine processes that underlie the phenomenon. This would also fit into the formation field that is to be found in sexuality, which in turn significantly the neuroendocrine control of the midbrain subject. Last but not least, the endogenous opiates of the pituitary lobe play a role.

A man in love, so make different messengers for euphoria ( dopamine ), excitement ( adrenaline ), noise-like feelings of happiness and deep well-being ( endorphin and cortisol ) and increased sexual desire ( Testosterone decreases in men, increases in women). Conversely, moments in which one is not with the loved one can be perceived as very painful or even desperate. Sex fragrances ( pheromones ) are also increasingly released. On the other hand, the serotonin level drops sharply, which makes the state of being in love with this point similar to many mental illnesses . This contributes to the fact that lovers can temporarily find themselves in a state of "insanity", allowing themselves to be carried away to irrational actions and breaking down inhibitions . After some time (a few months) the body gets used to these doses and very gradually (according to the WHO at most after 24 to 36 months) the brain ends this sensory “state of intoxication”.

Evolutionary biology of love

From an evolutionary point of view, the deepened feeling of love may have arisen in connection with sexuality, whereby it is love that stabilizes the choice of partner and thus the couple relationship over longer periods of time. Monogamous couple relationships are known in many animal species (for example also in the gray geese by Konrad Lorenz ), but whether these animals feel something like love is an unanswered question.

Under the concept of biological determinacy , love necessarily arises from certain bodily responses.

Psychology and psychiatry

Depiction from the ship of fools : Cupid shoots blind, death greets.

The psychology is concerned with the numerous varieties of love and love withdrawal.

According to evolutionary psychologists , when choosing a partner, women and men are ruled by preferences that have been passed on to us from our ancestors over millions of years. This “stone age psyche” is supposed to make women react to strong or high status protector types; Men against young, pretty women. In both sexes, beauty is apparently an indication of “healthy genes”, as human ethologists confirm. In this context, it was also often examined what “beauty” means in this context, which physical characteristics are considered attractive for both sexes (“averageity” as ideal).

The psychiatry deals with the medical aspect of the phenomenon. Thus, for example, the psychopathology of " love madness " is diagnosed in connection with paranoid ideas (cf. madness ).



In sociological research, phenomena related to love are often discussed. Among other things, the conditions of partner choice or the socio-psychological significance of couple therapy are discussed. In addition, love is taken up within the family sociology.

In sociology, there are at least four substantial, thematically complementary approaches to love. They more or less emphasize the love-related aspects of communication, interaction and semantics. Hence becomes love

  1. as "emotion",
  2. as " culture pattern ",
  3. as "intimate system" and
  4. "Non-cognitive form of communicative practice" defined.

Among other things, love is viewed as a socially effective symbol for interactions (cf. Symbolic Interactionism ) and examined for its social function. Sociology examines numerous individual forms of love, such as "romantic love", "love" in the bourgeoisie, "motherly love", "fatherland love" (often as ideology), the relationships between love, violence and power and others. For example, among contemporary sociologists, Bálint Balla delves into love in his sociology of scarcity ; Horst Herrmann examines the (gender-specific) connections between love and violence as well as the socially effective models of today's love relationships. Sociology has also examined related social customs such as coquetry ( Georg Simmel ) or flirtation.

Systems theory approaches

The system theory undertook a drastic narrowing term by love as a new "social semantics" or as code defined the cooperation-circumvention. Thus formulated Niklas Luhmann in love as Passion (1982) romantic love as a phenomenon of modernity which finds its foundation especially in the middle of the 18th century.

Love functions - according to Luhmann - in today's functionally differentiated society primarily as a “symbolically generalized communication medium ” that is supposed to make improbable communication probable. Society is increasingly differentiating itself into individual sub-areas. Each individual is no longer rooted in just one area, for example the family, but in many sub-areas, such as leisure or work. It is also only partially located and is constantly moving back and forth between different areas. Because of this communicative “polycontextuality”, identity-forming interaction is more difficult.

Guido Reni , Caritas (1604/07). The allegory of caring love can mean, among other things, maternal and family love

Against this background, it is increasingly difficult for the individual to determine himself. In addition, this individuality and identity must be confirmed in communicative exchange with others. This "highly personal" communication is constantly decreasing in such a differentiated society, because on the one hand, due to the multitude of roles in the sub-areas described (for example as a daughter, secretary, hobby sailor, etc.), only impersonal communication is experienced and on the other hand it is understood the human being as an individual, something special, unique, different from the others. In view of this development, it is not only difficult to get in contact with each other, it is also difficult to understand each other at all or to find the motivation to get involved with someone who is so special. To cope with precisely this problem is - in this theory - the task of love. The systems theorist Peter Fuchs therefore defines love as “mutual, complete acceptance in the mode of maximum relevance”. Love as a communication medium motivates to approach the other in its "wholeness" while ignoring idiosyncrasies and not from the narrowing perspective of the respective social system (for example as a hobby sailor). This complete acceptance creates a mutual confirmation of the “self-being” and the respective “relation to the world”.

Love, or more precisely the intimate system that operates in the medium of love, is a pre-form of the family social system, which has fundamental social functions (namely reproduction and socialization ). The medium love is necessary because improbable events (two people meet among millions of others and establish and stabilize a coexistence) have to be made predictable. Like money or power, love is a so-called control medium that increases the chance of unlikely expectations of meaning. It is surprising, however, that intimate systems are based on the paradoxical, complex and very delusional medium of love.

Love in literature

Wanders German Proverbs Lexicon offers about a thousand proverbs on love, Liebeli, Liebeln, Lieben, Liebende etc. Love and its consequences (such as " lovesickness ") have also appeared in medical literature since ancient times.

Other aspects

In the social context, it is essential to distinguish between one-sided and mutual love. The former has its special case in what is popularly known as unhappy love (see lovesickness ).

Many names for subject areas, like a number of other terms, are based on the prefix phil- , which stands for love. These include in particular philosophy (originally: love of wisdom ) and philology (originally: love of languages ). The Philately is representative of other collective passions called the name Philip ( "Phil Hippos", various spellings) means "horse lover".

Titian , Heavenly and Earthly Love (1515)

Gabriel Marcel represents a Christian point of view within existential philosophy in being and having : Man originally does not exist in the delimitation, but in the participation in fellow human beings and divine being. In this sharing of being , love is realized, which opens without reservation when the person becomes aware of it with inward devotion.

Ever since Harry Harlow (see literature: Psychology) published his report on the studies of monkey boys ( The essence of love ), it has been debated whether love can also be felt and experienced by animals. His concept of love, however, is rather positively oriented, because love is a feeling of the skin in that it is mainly realized through the touch of two living beings.

Love in art

Street art in Lower Saxony Sin un amor la vida no se llama vida (meaning "without love life is not worth being called life")

Minnesang or minnesota reflected programmatically unfulfilled love, praised the loved one or described erotic experiences (from the middle of the 13th century).

The pastoral poetry was a popular literary genre of European Renaissance and the Baroque in the tradition of bucolic . It originally developed out of the sheep farm, a courtly scroll poem, which was characterized by the amalgamation of lyrical-musical elements, prose, dialogues and artistic verse and idealized the shepherd's life. A popular topic is the report of a brittle, dismissive lover who is confronted by a lover who is completely at her mercy, longs for her and, under certain circumstances, even suffers pathologically. Feelings such as unfulfilled love, hymns of praise to a shepherdess, sadness in view of a more beautiful past or a lost home are among the typical objects of artistic representation.

See also





  • Karl Grammer : Signals of love. Dtv, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-423-30498-7 .
  • Robert A. Johnson: Dream Idea of ​​Love. The error of the West. 3. Edition. Walter, Olten et al. 1988, ISBN 3-530-40391-1 .
  • Peter Lauster : Love. Psychology of a phenomenon . 35th edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-499-17677-7 .
  • Harry Harlow : The essence of love. In: Otto M. Ewert (Ed.): Developmental Psychology. Volume 1. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 1972, pp. 129–135.
  • Nadine Bauers: Psychological Aspects of Love. Recent findings . jmb Verlag, Hannover 2016, ISBN 978-3-944342-86-3 .
  • Frank Talllis: The Incurable Romantic & Other Stories from Psychotherapy . Translated from the English by Liselotte Prugger. btb, Gütersloh 2019.

Sociology and Cultural History

  • Georges Bataille : The erotic. Matthes & Seitz, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-88221-253-5 .
  • Ulrich Beck , Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim : The normal chaos of love. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1990
  • Ulrich Beck, Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim: Fernliebe. Life forms in the global age. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2011.
  • Christoph Egen: On the socio and psychogenesis of the romantic concept of love in Western European societies. Cuvillier, Göttingen 2009, ISBN 978-3-86955-199-9 .
  • Werner Faulstich (Ed.): Love 2000. Concepts of love in popular culture today. Scientists-Verlag, Bardowick 2002, ISBN 3-89153-034-X .
  • Peter Fuchs : love, sex and things like that. For the construction of modern intimate systems. UVK, Konstanz 1999, ISBN 3-87940-663-4 .
  • Anthony Giddens : The transformation of intimacy. Sexuality, love, and eroticism in modern societies. Polity Press, Cambridge 2001, ISBN 0-7456-1012-9 , ISBN 0-7456-1239-3 . (Reprint, 1st edition. 1992)
  • Doris Guth, Heide Hammer (Ed.): Love me or leave me. Constructs of love in popular culture. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main / New York 2009.
  • Kornelia Hahn, Günter Burkart (Hrsg.): Love at the end of the 20th century. Studies in the Sociology of Intimate Relationships. Leske + Budrich, Opladen 1998.
  • Karl Otto Hondrich : Love in the Times of World Society. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2004.
  • Eva Illouz : The Consumption of Romanticism. Love and the cultural contradictions of capitalism. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2007, ISBN 978-3-518-29458-1 . (orig. 1997)
  • Eva Illouz: Why love hurts. A sociological explanation. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2011.
  • Jean-Claude Kaufmann : The morning after. How a love story begins. UVK, Konstanz 2004. (in French orig. 2002)
  • Henk J. Koning: The love of friends in Holtei's detective novel Schwarzwaldau (1856). In: Leszek Dziemianko, Marek Halub (eds.): Karl von Holtei (1798-1880). Life and work. Questions - differentiations - evaluations. Leipzig 2011 (= Schlesische Grenzgänger. Volume 3), pp. 100–121.
  • Svjetlan Lacko Vidulić: Love today. Praesens Verlag, Vienna 2007, ISBN 978-3-7069-0389-9 .
  • Annemarie Leibbrand-Wettley, Werner Leibbrand : Forms of Eros. Cultural and intellectual history of love. (= Orbis academicus. Special volumes 3 / 1-2). 2 volumes. Alber, Freiburg / Munich 1972, ISBN 3-495-47256-8 .
  • Regina Mahlmann : What do you mean by love? Ideals and conflicts from early romanticism to today. Knowledge Buchgesellschaft / Primus Verlag, Darmstadt 2003, ISBN 3-89678-468-4 .
  • Yvonne Niekrenz, Dirk Villányi (ed.): Declarations of love. Intimate relationships from a sociological perspective. VS Verlag, Wiesbaden 2008.
  • Paul Ridder : Sonnets against the pain of love. Bibliotherapy in the history of medicine. Publishing house for health sciences, Greven 2008, ISBN 978-3-9807065-6-8 .
  • Christian Schuldt: The code of the heart. Love and sex in times of maximum opportunity. Eichborn, Frankfurt am Main 2004, ISBN 3-8218-5592-4 .
  • Kurt Starke : Nothing but pure love. Relationship biographies and sexuality in social and psychological change. Pabst, Lengerich et al. 2005

Especially for romantic love as a cultural phenomenon

  • Karl Lenz : Sociology of the two-way relationship. An introduction. 2nd Edition. Westdeutscher Verlag, Wiesbaden 2003, ISBN 3-531-33348-8 .
  • Niklas Luhmann : love as passion. For coding intimacy. 7th edition. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2003, ISBN 3-518-28724-9 .
  • Niklas Luhmann: love. An exercise. Edited by André Kieserling. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2008.
  • Francis E. Merrill, Mabel A. Elliott: The Romantic Fallacy . In: B. Kuchler, S. Beher (ed.): Sociology of love . Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2014, p. 338-363 .
  • Hartmann Tyrell: Romantic love - reflections on its “quantitative determinateness” . In: D. Baecker et al. (Ed.): Theory as Passion . Frankfurt am Main 1987, p. 570-599 .

Web links

Commons : love  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: love  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: I love you  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikisource: Love  - Sources and Full Texts
Wikiquote: Love  Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. in German related to praise: engagement and engagement as well as vow; allow: leave and leave; as well as believe: credible and authenticate as well as believer
  2. ^ Johann Wolfgang Goethe: Poetry and Truth III, 13 - Poetic Works. Autobiographical writings. First part. tape 8 . JG Cottasche Buchhandlung Nachhaben, Stuttgart 1952, p. 676 .
  3. Axel Honneth: Intersubjective Conditions of Personal Integrity: A Formal Concept of Morality. In: Struggle for Recognition. On the moral grammar of social conflicts. 1st edition. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1994, ISBN 978-3-518-28729-3 , pp. 274-288.
  4. Martin Hähnel, Annika Schlittke, René Torkler (eds.): What is love? Philosophical texts from antiquity to the present . Reclam, Stuttgart 2015, p. 12 ff .
  5. On fair love for yourself and others, see Ethify your Love , accessed March 25, 2014.
  6. ^ Robert C. Solomon: About Love: Reinventing Romance for Our Times. Hackett, 2006.
  7. ^ Friedrich Nietzsche: Thus spoke Zarathustra : The speeches of Zarathustra. From old and young women. Stuttgart 1964.
  8. Hans Jonas: The principle of responsibility : Attempting an ethic for technological civilization. Frankfurt am Main 1979. New edition as Suhrkamp Taschenbuch, 1984 [below], ISBN 3-518-39992-6 .
  9. Evanglia Tsiavou: Romantic love as a medium of sublimation: Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's “The Divorced Woman”. Königshausen & Neumann, 2006, p. 211, note 309.
  10. Patricia McAdoo (2005): Claddagh, the Tale of the Ring: A Galway Tale. Galway Online, ISBN 9780955165207 .
  11. Hölderlin is annoying, isn't it? In: The time . No. 13 , March 19, 2020, p. 53 (interview with Karl-Heinz Ott ).
  12. Urszula Bonter: The popular novel in the successor of E. Marlitt: Wilhelmine Heimburg, Valeska Countess Bethusy-Huc, Eufemia von Adlersfeld-Ballestrem . Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2005, ISBN 3-8260-2979-8 , p. 42 f . ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  13. ^ Haas, H. (1927). Idea and ideal of love for one's enemies in the non-Christian world: a history of religion. Research paper. Nobleman.
  14. Encyclical Deus Caritas Est by Pope Benedict: "About love in Christianity" - The Holy See (
  15. [1]
  16. [2]
  17. for example with Jürgen Gerhards
  18. for example with Niklas Luhmann
  19. with Frank Becker / Elke Reinhardt-Becker, Jürgen Fuchs
  20. in Günter Burkart, Cornelia Koppetsch
  21. Peter Fuchs: love, sex and things like that. For the construction of modern intimate systems . s. bibliography
  22. Bernhard Dietrich Haage: Love as a disease in the medical literature of antiquity and the Middle Ages. In: Würzburg medical history reports. Volume 5, 1987, pp. 173-208.
  23. Bernhard Dietrich Haage: Love as a disease in the medical literature of antiquity and the Middle Ages. In: Würzburg medical history reports. Volume 5, 1987, pp. 173–208, in particular from p. 177 (on "love sickness" amor hereos ).
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on November 19, 2005 .