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Literature / The Four Loves

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In Greek There Are Four Words For Love
"The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell."

The Four Loves is a nonfiction work by C. S. Lewis analyzing four types of love.

  • Storge (Affection/Family) - This is fondness through familiarity, especially among family members or people who have otherwise found themselves together by chance.
  • Phileo (Friendship) - Friendship is a strong bond existing between people who share a common interest or activity. This includes what Lewis calls companionship; that is gregariousness of the kind which is found in a Good-Guy Bar or Local Hangout; as well as friendship proper which is between Heterosexual Life-Partners, Platonic Life-Partners and the like but often starts as companionship.
  • Eros (Romance) - This is love in the sense of 'being in love'. (This is distinct from sexual attraction.) This kind of love longs for the emotional connection with the other person. According to C.S. Lewis, sexuality is called "Venus." It can be part of "Eros," but on its own, it is not one of the loves, just desire (not to be confused with Lust which is this desire expressed in a sinful way ).
  • Agape (Unconditional Love) - This is the love that brings forth caring regardless of circumstance. The essence of agape love is self-sacrifice. It is also a decision, not fueled by pure emotions (theoretically).

Trope Namer for The Four Loves, obviously.


Tropes included

  • A Friend in Need: A true friend will help and say Think Nothing of It, not necessarily because the other friend would do the same for them, but because friend's troubles prevent them both from enjoying the friendship and both want that obstacle to be gone.
  • Aggressive Submissive: Lewis refutes the idea that the commonality of men being dominant and women being submissive in sex means anything about women being inherently more submissive in the rest of life, saying that the opposite is more often the case.
  • All Take and No Give: Both unhealthy Taking and Giving are dealt with throughout the book.
  • Commonality Connection: The book defines this as the beginning, and, indeed, the foundation of friendship. Phileo is a bond that is built over a common interest (hobbies) or commitment (field of study, career or vocation).
    “The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’”
  • Crusty Caretaker: Described as an unlikely person for children to have storge for. But, especially in case of Parental Neglect, the old retainer is a familiar presence that gives security associated with storge.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Affection is so naturally jealous that any deviation from the ethos of home, whether falling below it or rising above it, often feels like a betrayal to the rest of the family.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: "Mrs. Fidget" (an example of self-serving generosity) always cooked for her family; even when they were happy with a cold meal.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Both "eros" and "storge" makes claims on the beloved that fall within the bounds of proper ethical demands, but more often than not the possessive impulse is likely to go wrong.
  • Ho Yay: Deconstructed In-Universe; Lewis makes the point that those who perpetually see homosexuality in Heterosexual Life-Partners have made the mistake of thinking that every close emotional bond between adults is sexual. After all, the whole point of the book is that there are different kinds of affection that must not be confused.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Lewis defies this trope by asserting that the mere desire to be one's friend cannot sustain a long-lasting friendship. True philia can only arise when there is a genuine Commonality Connection between the friends.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: This is the essence of agape and how it affects the other loves.
  • Jesus Was Crazy: Lewis makes the point that, from the world's perspective, Jesus was crazy.
    He was not at all like the psychologist’s picture of the integrated, balanced, adjusted, happily married, employed, popular citizen. You can’t really be very well 'adjusted' to your world if it says you 'have a devil' and ends by nailing you up naked to a stake of wood.
  • Like Brother and Sister: There are two archetypes of storge: mother and child and siblings. But you can have storge with people who are not your blood relatives, and then you're sort of Like Brother And Sister.
  • Love Hurts: All love. Even the love that doesn't go evil. There's no escape except in Heaven — and Hell.
  • Love Interest vs. Lust Interest: Discussed:
    • Eros is Romantic Love, and it, like Storge and Philia, has a negative side to it, whereas Agape was pure unconditional love. Eros, as Lewis points out, can be the most appreciative and pleasurable of all the loves, aside from Agape, but at the same time, can turn into lust, full of false idols, the worship of beauty over substance, and a needy or possessive desire derived from unwholesome and selfish feelings.
    • Lewis also makes the point that sexual desire and eros-love are two distinct things: You can have eros without Venus (Courtly Love) or Venus without Eros. He also points out that two people can be happily and faithfully married without possessing eros in the strict sense, fueling the relationship on Venus, fidelity to oaths once given, and eventually storge once they have grown used to each other.
  • Love Makes You Evil: The earthly loves: storge, philia and eros may turn sour if not infused with agape: storge becomes smothering, jealous possessiveness, philia turns a group of True Companions into a pretentious, snotty clique, and eros becomes Destructive Romance or Masochism Tango.
  • Loyal Animal Companion: Love for anthropomorphized beings such as pets and dolls is treated under affection rather then love of the subhuman.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Heterosexual Life-Partners may cause insinuations of Ho Yay, but according to Lewis that's the fallacy of mistaking other kinds of love for Eros. (They're heterosexual, and platonic, after all.)
  • Mistaken for Romance: What happens when the other kinds of love are confused with eros.
  • New Friend Envy: When one of the siblings, who have storge, begins to grow up and have new interests and new philia-based relationships, the other sibling may turn into a Green-Eyed Monster who sabotages it all in order not to get abandoned.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Strongly discouraged, though its lesser form "My Country Great or Humble" is admirable and should even be encouraged.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Analyzed along with nature love as one of the most notable loves of the subhuman. Lewis describes five forms, in descending order from the very good to the very bad to a form sunk so low that it isn't even a love anymore.
  • Safe, Sane, and Consensual: Mentioned in the chapter on eros, rather vaguely.
    This act can invite the man to an extreme, though short-lived, masterfulness, to the dominance of a conqueror or a captor, and the woman to a correspondingly extreme abjection and surrender. Hence the roughness, even fierceness, of some erotic play; the “lover’s pinch which hurts and is desired”.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Mrs. Fidget made things for her family out of a need to be "sacrificial."
  • Tragic Bromance: Discussed briefly, in that if someone in a group of close friends dies, that death not only removes that person, but everything brought out by that person's presence in others.
  • Trickster Girlfriend: Discussed at length in the chapter dedicated to Eros. The author metaphorically describes Venus as a Trickster Goddess who plays jokes on humans, and notes that "lovers are always laughing at each other".
  • True Companions: Philia, sooner or later also storge, as the friends have been friends for a long time.

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