Sharing my learnings from the book, In Praise of Love by Alain Badiou
In Praise of Love by Alain Badiou
In a world rife with consumerism, where online dating promises risk-free romance and love is all too often seen as a mere variant of desire and hedonism, Alain Badiou believes that love is under threat. Taking to heart Rimbaud’s famous line “love needs reinventing,” In Praise of Love is the celebrated French intellectual’s passionate treatise in defense of love.
For Badiou, love is an existential project, a constantly unfolding quest for truth. This quest begins with the chance encounter, an event that forever changes two individuals, challenging them “to see the world from the point of view of two rather than one.” This, Badiou believes, is love’s most essential transforming power.
Through thought-provoking dialogue edited from a conversation between Badiou and Truong, a vibrant cast of thinkers are invoked: Kierkegaard, Plato, de Beauvoir, Proust, and more, create a new narrative of love in the face of twenty-first-century modernity. Moving, zealous, and wise, Badiou’s “paean to the anticapitalist, antiessentialist, unifying power of love” urges us not to fear it but to see it as a magnificent undertaking that compels us to explore others and to move away from an obsession with ourselves
- We moderns are fast forgetting how to love. Many people are missing out on one of life’s most profound experiences, replaced by brief hook-ups devoid of passion. We need to rediscover the pleasures of romance. To renew the status of love to its highest pitch – love as a life-changing, existential adventure.
- This story begins a few years ago when the author, Badiou, was strolling through the streets of Paris. He noticed posters advertising a French dating site called Meetic, and was immediately troubled by the messaging. The poster’s slogans promised things like “find love without chance” and “perfect love without suffering.” In effect, Meetic was suggesting it could eliminate a lot of the riskiness involved in dating. The problem is, for Badiou, love without risk is no love at all. Love is an inherently risky endeavor. For him, the fact that dating apps are helping people eliminate risk from their love life should serve as a dire warning for the dismal state of love today. At best, such a dating app sets the stage for a stable relationship – but not a passionate encounter.
- Risk-free love is really a sterilized idea of love that’s all about servicing your desires. True love, on the other hand, is risky because it has the potential to completely change your life by throwing you into contact with people who are very different to you, and who will shake up your entire perspective on life.
- Part of the problem with modern love is simply that people give up on it too easily. As soon as a relationship encounters an obstacle, there’s a tendency to just quit and move on to the next thing. This is a shame because it’s usually the challenging things in life that are the most meaningful and rewarding.
- The fact is, people just don’t value long-term, committed relationships like they used to. People see commitment as a limitation on their freedom to pursue pleasure. So, many people drop love before it gets too serious. Unfortunately, this attitude completely misunderstands what love really is and why it’s important.
- two basic myths about love that one encounters today:
- what we call love is nothing other than sexual desire in disguise. The message is: you have sexual desires, so fulfill them, but there’s no reason to get hung up on the idea that you have to do it with the same person. this view of love would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. To live without love would be to live a very gray, lonely existence. But it’s an all-too-common view these days.
- It views love as just another way of enjoying yourself within the wide range of possibilities presented to us by our hedonistic societies. You can take it or leave it – and if love doesn’t work out, you can devote yourself to video games, or cheese, or whatever gratification you end up picking. this myth falsely equates love with the ecstasy that one enjoys in the first stage of a relationship – the honeymoon period. But, after this initial stage is over, love declines sharply, and the only way to get it back is to move on to someone else. The problem with this interpretation of love is that it’s completely self-obsessed. If you’re only with someone because of how they make you feel, you’re not really in a relationship with them; you’re in a relationship with yourself.
- true love is able to break us out of our lonely little pleasure-seeking bubbles and help connect us to something greater.
- How would your thinking change if you were to incorporate another person’s perspective? That’s what love is, according to Badiou. It’s a way of thinking as though you were looking from the perspective of two rather than one.
- For Badiou, the vast majority of what happens in life is just a predictable continuation of our everyday world. That is to say, there’s a tendency for life to congeal into routine and habit. An event, however, is something that doesn’t fit the pattern. Love is a perfect example of an event because it always takes the form of a chance encounter that bursts into our life, and refashions it in unpredictable ways. Love has the power to change everything from our daily routines to our future plans, to our fundamental values.
- When we fall in love, we open a door for another being into our world. To live in a loving relationship is like seeing the world from two perspectives at the same time. It’s like we’re adding an extra dimension.
- we’re aware that these words “I love you” possess real power. When you say it, you’re not just presenting information; you’re exerting a real force on your relationship. The very act of saying “I love you” is enough to bind two lives closer together.
- Love always starts with a chance encounter. there comes a time in the relationship when the trivial nature of the first encounter has to be transformed into something more significant. This usually happens a short while in, when a couple decides to declare their love. By saying “I love you” to one another, a couple transforms the fragile, uncertain nature of the relationship into something more solid and resilient.
- relationships aren’t static. They’re full of trials, temptations, and new developments. And every time a relationship faces a new obstacle, you have to reaffirm the initial declaration of love. With each declaration, it’s as though you’re back at the beginning, reaffirming the decision to be together, and repeating those three critical words, “I love you.” Given the imminent danger of separation, lovers continuously feel a deep urgency to reaffirm their connection. This explains why couples say “I love you” so frequently.
- There’s an expression in French called “amour fou,” which literally means “mad love.” The expression evokes that uncontrollable form of love that borders on obsessiveness. The person afflicted with such intense love could just as easily leave a broken family behind them, only to start a new one with someone else. Love has always represented a danger to the established order. That’s precisely why it’s so frequently been subject to control, by the family, the community, and the state.
- parents have been taking an interest in their children’s love life since time immemorial. The whole institution of arranged marriage, for instance, was designed to control children’s amorous passion by channeling it into a safe outlet. In practice, that usually meant someone of the same class, race, or religion.
- At a political level, states employ similar tactics to control the love lives of the entire population – only in this case it’s done for the sake of maintaining a national or cultural identity.
- If we’re genuinely committed to breaking down boundaries and creating a more equal and inclusive society, we need to defend love’s power of bringing different kinds of people together.
- Modern culture has a love affair with love stories. There are so many songs, films, and books about love, that it just goes to show that love has an almost universal appeal. The storybooks have very little to say about the hard work of actually maintaining a relationship. this is a serious omission. It’s contributed to a culture that fetishizes the initial rush of passion in a relationship and puts no value whatsoever on love’s duration.
- Artists need to invent new narratives of love – narratives that are capable of expressing enduring love that is real love, and not only the fetishized first encounter.