Is Love Real?

Is Love Real?

Yuval Noah Harari, in his book, ‘The Brief History of The Homo Sapiens,’ talks about three kinds of realities experienced by human beings; the sort that is based on an individual’s own judgment and emotions, which he calls subjective reality, the one that is a result of a people’s collective perception, the inter subjective reality and the one that is factual, the objective reality. Let’s discuss, in detail, these realities.

Subjective reality. How we see and experience the world at personal level is influenced, most of the time, by our individual emotions and feelings. Each human is of a distinct genetic makeup hence each human has a distinct genetic predisposition. That is, each of us is limited by our biology in our worldviews.

Let’s talk inter subjective reality. Is money real? Is time real? Is culture real? What about gods? As in, is currency intrinsically valuable or does it derive the value of something else, goods and services? Is time tangible or is it just psychological? Perhaps metaphysics could give us a clue.

Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy that studies reality. It is divided into two parts; one branch called realism postulates that reality can exist independent of a person’s mind.(This is the objective reality that I will cover in detail shortly). The other branch, idealism, states that reality is what we already know as we know it, that whatever we don’t and cannot know doesn’t exist.

I believe cultures, gods, religions, money and ideologies fall under intersubjective reality. What is intersubjective is what is believed by a community of people but can stop existing in the event that part of, or all of the people lose confidence in it and decide, instead, to believe in something else. In essence, what is intersubjective is just a construct, cultural, ideological or otherwise.

Objective Reality. It is what exists independent of human subjectivity. It is based on science. It is facts and figures. It is what comes out of a scientific experiment. It is what human perception cannot influence. Gravity, for example. It affects everybody, whether one believes in it or not. Shape of the Earth. Even “Flat Earthers” experience the spherical Earth effects. Flora and Fauna; they have existed for millions of years without human intervention.

So? Is LOVE REAL? In light of the realities discussed above perhaps the question should pose; Is love OBJECTIVELY or SUBJECTIVELY real? We can choose to look at this question from two vantage points; Socio cultural and scientific.

Scientifically, “love” is an instinct arising out of a pattern of neural firings in the brain of animals (not only humans) that leads to the release of specific neurochemicals. This “feeling of love” aims at nothing more than achieving an evolutionary objective. See, evolution serves two purposes in living organisms; reproduction and survival. The instinct of “love” is at the epicenter of survival of any species.

Here is how the “feeling of romantic love” forms in human animals. A male human sees a female human.(Could be the other way round. Excuse my cultural bias.)
Light travels from her to him, passes through the cornea and the lens of his eyes. The image of the object (the girl) is then reproduced on a layer of photoreceptors called the retina at the back of his eyes. The visual information from the retina is then transmitted by means of electrical signals to the optical receptors in the occipital lobe and the visual cortices of his brain where they are processed. His brain processes the image of the girl and instructs the hypothalamus to release the hormone Oxytocin. This hormone increases bonding and attraction.

Also, when two people are attracted to one another, hormones Dopamine and Serotonin are released. These hormones cause humans to experience a surge of positive emotion such as empathy and trust.
This causes the two human animals to bond strongly. Oxytocin is the same hormone that causes a mother to bond to her infant and pets to bond to their owners. This bonding, accompanied by strong positive emotion is the feeling of love.

Culturally, people love for a host of reasons that vary among cultures and some of which are almost universal. Also the idea of love varies among communities. For most, love is a prerequisite for reproduction. For others, love is primarily a means to achieving happiness. For others, love is a gift from the gods.(Consider Cupid, the god of desire, erotic love and passion in Classical Mythology and Venus, the ancient Greece goddess of love.

Venus, the Greek goddess of love

Culturally, love isn’t just a feeling. Love is the foundation of order. It is the hallmark of human civilization. Picture a male and a female hominid somewhere in the grasslands of Africa, millions of years ago. They could mate, bear an offspring and go separate ways, never to bond again. The male, as observed in the males of other animal species, would abandon the younglings forever. Human societies realized overtime that if they are to civilize, they had to make the male bear the offspring and stay. The idea of romantic love was born. Societies that adopted this idea had increased chances of survival over those that didn’t.

The scientific viewpoint is a reductionist perspective. It reduces an instinct that has formed and shaped over millions of years to neural firings and neurochemicals. It is definitely more complex than this. After all, science itself is still on the fringes when it comes to understanding how the human brain fully operates. The socio cultural perspective shouldn’t be dismissed as naïve or ignorant. If anything, it was a necessity that has helped humans to survive over hundreds of thousands of years.

Back to metaphysics, there’s this philosophy that postulates that everything is subjective, that there isn’t such a thing as objective reality. That what we call objective may be subjective in another civilization somewhere in the universe.(There may be a hint of sense here if you believe in aliens. Drake’s equation estimates that there may be thousands of other civilizations like ours in the Milky Way Galaxy alone!) The way gravity works in our solar system may be different in a parallel solar system! That would make it subjective. There may be lions in a parallel universe but aliens in this universe probably call them something else. Who knows if aliens have a different “typa luv”? (Insert D. Munoz’s voice)

Everything subjective has an objective basis. This is also the case with what we call love. So yes, love is real. Objectively and subjectively. Go out there and love guys! Just for the sake of the survival of our species if not for anything else.

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