Love, love, love: where the Greeks went wrong

Everyone who’s ever had a liberal arts background, and most folks who’ve ever spoken to someone with a liberal arts background, and some folks who’ve never done either but who’ve talked about the philosophy of polyamory for any length of time, are probably aware that the Greeks, who loved creating classification systems for things almost as much as they loved war, developed a classification system for love.

In the Greek system, there are four distinct types of love. They believed in Agape, unconditional all-encompassing love like the love of the gods for humans (presumably just before the gods kill lots of people in an earthquake or a flood or something); Eros, or passionate love, usually (but not always) sexual; Philia, or friendship love, of the sort between comrades (and later used by psychologists for sexual kinks that most folks don’t have and usually that the psychologist in question doesn’t quite understand); and Storge, or familial love.

It occurred to me while I was preparing to shower this morning, as such things often do, that the Greeks missed a couple of types of love in their categorization.

Now, I am aware that the Greeks were legendary for their considerable talents in sorting and labeling things, an art they developed to such an advanced degree that their philosophers even devised classification systems for people (bronze, for slaves; silver, for tradesmen and politicians; and gold, for philosophers)…so it is with the greatest trepidation that your humble scribe dares to suggest that the Greek taxonomy of love might in the slightest way be lacking.

However, as much respect as I hold for their considerable skills at pigeonholing (and believe me, I hold it in exactly as much respect as it so richly deserves), I feel I must point out that their system is incomplete.

So I would like to propose two additional categories of love:

Orwellos, for compulsory love that is mandated by authority, such as the love of Big Brother, the love of Kim Jong Il, and the love of various hypothetical divine entities who love you in return but will cast you into a lake of fire if you fail to love them enough, or love them in the wrong way.

Stockholmia, or the love of one’s abuser, such as the love of Patty Hearst for the Symbionese Liberation Army and the love of Linux users for Linux.

There may yet be a seventh category of love, for love of people for political institutions which act against their interests, though it is not entirely clear to your humble scribe whether that’s an entirely separate category of love or simply a combination of the last two.

Edit: After further consideration and consultation with zaiah, I have come to the conclusion that the love of people for politicians and political parties who act against their interests is indeed its own unique form of love, rather than being a combination of Orwellos and Stockholmia.

I would therefore like to propose a seventh type of love. Following slutbamwalla‘s brilliant suggestion, may I propose:

Santoros, the love that people have for politicians or political organizations who appeal to their sense of identity while simultaneously acting against those people’s own interests.

Science: Not perfect, but just a bit better than most other systems

On another forum I read, someone made the claim that in science, politics and general human fallibility get in the way of learning the truth just as they do in all other areas of philosophical endeavor, and ended with “Science is little more or less immune to this effect.”

Which is, when it comes right down to it, totally wrong.

The entire point of using the scientific method as a means to understand the physical world is that science is, at least slightly, more immune than most other human endeavors. There are three reasons for science’s resilience when compared to other human institutions: skepticism, replicability, and peer review.

Skepticism means deliberately mistrusting your data, even if it says something you really really really really want it to say. Science works very hard to get rid of things like confirmation bias. It’s not always perfect, but at the end of the day it’s pretty damn good.

Replicability says that if something is true, it’s true for everyone, regardless of belief or political persuasion. If I measure the gravitational constant, and some guy in Iran measures the gravitational constant, if our measurements are correct they will be the same. No matter what philosophical, political, or religious differences we have.

Peer review means nothing is taken on faith. There are no holy fathers in science, no infallible popes. No matter how renown, popular, or revered a scientist is, if he’s wrong, he’s wrong. Einstein got some things wrong. So did Newton. Everyone’s work is checked. Nobody’s work is taken at face value. Everyone’s data is analyzed. Everyone’s results are scrutinized. From time to time, a scientist might try to bully his way into acceptance, sure; scientists are, after all, only human. But peer review has a way, eventually, of correcting their errors.

No human endeavor is perfect, but those built-in checks do mean that science tends to be self-correcting to a degree that most other human endeavors are not.

It is this fundamental attribute of the scientific method–its self-correcting process–that is the single most valuable thing about it. The scientific method does not guarantee happiness or justice or peace or validation. It does not guarantee that the results it offers will be what we expect them to be, or even that they will be comprehensible to us; the more we learn about the laws of nature on a very small and a very large scale, the stranger they seem to our intuition. It offers only one thing: the ability to model the physical world in a way that is consistent with observable reality.

But that one thing it does, it does very, very well indeed.