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There’s No Such Thing as Unconditional Love. You Either Love Someone or You Don’t

There’s No Such Thing as Unconditional Love. You Either Love Someone or You Don’t

One of the most dangerous sentiments out there is the concept of unconditional love. We’ve been sold it for as long as any of us can remember. Everything in fiction depends on it. The wedding industry thrives upon it. It’s a concept that is so ingrained into the world that those who don’t believe in it are considered sad or somehow malformed. True, unconditional love is the thing to which all people are supposed to aspire. If you can’t find it, you’re missing something terribly important – at least, as far as the story goes. The truth is, there’s no such thing as unconditional love.

Love does exist, but it’s conditional

Sounds cynical, right? The very idea of dismissing unconditional love probably makes your skin crawl. To be fair, most of the people who would dismiss this kind of idea are pretty cynical. What they’re trying to sell is the idea that love doesn’t exist at all [1]. That’s not what’s being said here, though. There’s absolutely such a thing as love. Whether you think it’s something spiritual, something romantic, or just a bunch of chemicals, love is a real thing. Love is wonderful and it’s definitely worth seeking out. The thing that is problematic, though, is the idea that love should somehow be without conditions.

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First and foremost, it’s impossible for something to exist without attached conditions. You either do something, or you don’t. You can love someone truly, or you can not love someone . There are things that would make even the most romantic person fall out of love with another person. Imagine the most horrifying thing you can imagine, and then imagine your loved one did that. Could you still look them in the face? Could you still love them? If you did, what kind of monster would you be? That’s not love – that’s slavish devotion, and that’s never good.

Unconditional love can be a leash

We see the problems with so-called unconditional love whenever we see relationships with a power differential. How many relationships have you seen in which one person mistreats the other, yet the weaker partner will forgive anything? You don’t admire that sentiment, do you? You think of that person as weak, as deluded, as ultimately unable to do the right thing. Yet somehow, in theory, you might still believe that unconditional love is a good thing. If you apply the same standards to other people that you would to a complete stranger, you’d stop obsessing over the concept.

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Putting reasonable conditions and expectations on love makes a stronger relationship

Putting conditions on love [2] doesn’t make it weaker. It makes it far more honest. When you say you love someone, you are saying that you love who they represent themselves as. You love all the things that come together to make them a person. If one of those things was removed, it’s entirely possible that the reasons for your feelings would go away. It’s like a Jenga tower – there’s only so much that you can add or take away without making the entire thing fall over. Love can’t be built on that kind of foundation.

There’s a lot of freedom in abandoning a concept like unconditional love. If you move away from it, you realize that you can begin to reasonably put expectations on how another person treats you and acts. You aren’t committing some kind of horrible act if you walk away from someone who treats you poorly – you are being honest about the fact that you want a strong foundation for your love. You aren’t married to some kind of outdated, outmoded myth. You want real love, the kind that is able to last. You want to be able to experience love as a positive force rather than one that is limiting.

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Love is a verb. It’s something you do

If you except that fact that love is conditional [3], you can also begin to accept the fact that love is a verb. Love is something you do, not something that just happens. When you start to believe this, you start to believe that you will actually have to work for the love of someone else. You can’t be lazy and complacent, because you remember you are loved for what you do, not just who you are. You will suddenly become a better partner because you realize that the other person in your relationship actually deserves some effort.

Should love be thrown away at the drop of a hat? No. It’s something that’s worth preserving. You should not, however, trap yourself just because you think love has to be eternal. This gives you the freedom to love people but to still expect effort from them. It helps you from being trapped by tradition and allows you the chance to be a better person. The more you realize that love is conditional, the more you will be able to see how conditional love is the best thing that could happen to you. Conditional love can last – but it’s built on a foundation or realism, not fantasy.

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Reference

[1] Psychology Today: Is Unconditional Love Possible?
[2] Psych Central: When Unconditional Love Has Conditions
[3] Garden Plants Nursery: Unconditional Love

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Tammy Sons

Master Gardener, Horticulurist, Arborist

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Published on October 30, 2020

11 Essential Philosophy Books That Will Open Your Mind

11 Essential Philosophy Books That Will Open Your Mind

There are numerous ways to build your mindset, but none are as profound as reading philosophy books. Through these books, some of the greatest minds around ask questions and delve deep into thought.

While there isn’t always a clear and distinct answer to the many questions of philosophy, the entire field is a gateway to a higher sense of self. It gets you to think about all manner of things.

Below, we cover some of the essential philosophy books that are best for those who are just starting or looking to expand their mind.

How To Choose a Good Philosophy Book

Before getting to this list, we’ve researched ideal philosophy books to help you expand your mind.

We’ve found that the best philosophy books excel in the following criteria:

  • Complexity – Philosophy isn’t a subject that you can’t dive into immediately and understand everything. The books that we selected are great for people making the first leap.
  • Viewpoint – With philosophy, in particular, the author’s views are more important than in your standard book. We want to ensure the viewpoints and thoughts being discussed still hold up to this day.
  • Open-mindedness – Philosophy is all about asking perplexing questions and unraveling the answer. You might not reach a conclusion in the end, but these books are designed to get you to think.
  • Culture – The last criterion is culture. A lot of these books come from early philosophers from centuries ago or possibly from recent years. These philosophy books should paint a picture of the culture.

1. Meditations

    One that you’ll find on many of these types of lists is Meditations and for good reason. It’s the only document of its kind to ever be made. The book focuses on the private thoughts of the world’s most powerful man who advises himself revolving around making good on his responsibilities and the obligations of his position.

    We know enough about Marcus Aurelius to know that he was trained in stoic philosophy and practiced every night on a series of spirituality exercises. These exercises were designed to make him humble, patient, empathetic, generous, and strong in the face of whatever problem he had to face off. And he faced plenty of problems since he was basically the emperor of roughly a third of the planet.

    All of that is poured into this book, and you are bound to remember a line or more that will be applicable in your life. It’s a philosophy book staple.

    Buy Meditations here.

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    2. Letters From a Stoic

      Similar to Marcus Aurelius, Seneca was another powerful man in Rome. He was a brilliant writer at the time and was the kind of guy to give great advice to his most trusted friends. Fortunately, much of his advice comes in letters, and those letters happen to be in this book. The letters themselves provided advice on dealing with grief, wealth, poverty, success, failure, education, and more.

      While Seneca was a stoic, he has a more practical approach and has borrowed from other schools of thought for his advice. As he said when he was alive, “I don’t care about the author if the line is good.” Similar to Meditations, there are several brilliant lines and advice that are still relevant to this day.

      Buy “Letters From a Stoic” here.

      3. Nicomachean Ethics

        Aristotle was a famous Greek philosopher at the time with profound knowledge. He’s named after a form of logic as well called Aristotelian logic. Through this book, Aristotle writes about the root of all Aristotelian ethics. In other words, this book contains the moral ideas that form a base for pretty much all of western civilization.

        Buy “Nicomachean Ethics” here.

        4. Beyond Good & Evil

          Friedrich Nietzsche played a big role in the philosophical world. He was one of the leading philosophers of the existential movement, and it all came through this particular book. He is a brilliant mind. However, the issue with a lot of his work is that it’s all written in German.

          Fortunately, this book is one of the slightly more accessible ones since it’s translated. Within the book, he breaks down the paradoxes of conventional understandings of morality. By doing this, he sets the stage for a lot of the 20th-century thought process that followed.

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          Buy “Beyond Good & Evil” here.

          5. Meditations on First Philosophy

            In Meditations on First Philosophy, René Descartes breaks his book down into six meditations. The book takes a journalistic style that is structured much like a six-day course of meditation. On day one, he gives instructions on discarding all belief in things that are not guaranteed. After that, he tries to establish what can be known for sure. Similar to Meditations, this is a staple and influential philosophical text that you can pick up.

            Buy “Meditations on First Philosophy” here.

            6. Ethics

              Written by Benedict de Spinoza, this came at a time during the Age of Enlightenment. Enlightenment was a movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries and with that, many schools of thought emerged and were presented through books.

              Out of the many influential philosophy books published back then, Ethics dominated during this period as it discussed the basis of rationalism. Even though we’ve developed further beyond that, Ethics can introduce new ways of thinking from this particular school of thought.

              Buy “Ethics” here.

              7. Critique of Pure Reason

                Immanuel Kant is another great philosopher who brought together two of history’s biggest opposing schools of thought into a single book. Those schools being rational thought and empirical experiential knowledge—knowledge gained through experience.

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                In Critique of Pure Reason, Kant explores human reason and then works to establish its illusions and get down to core constituents. Overall, you can learn more about human behavior and thought processes and thus, open your mind more to how you think and process everything around you.

                Buy “Critique of Pure Reason” here.

                8. On the Genealogy of Morals

                  Another piece of work from Nietzsche that is accessible to us is On the Genealogy of Morals. According to Nietzsche, the purpose of this book is to call attention to his previous writings. That said, it does more than that so you don’t need to worry so much about reading his other books.

                  In this book, he expands on the cryptic aphorisms that he brings up in Beyond Good and Evil and offers a discussion or morality in a work that is more accessible than a lot of his previous work.

                  Buy “On the Genealogy of Morals” here.

                  9. Everything Is F*cked

                    The only book on this list that’s been written in the past few years, this book by Mark Manson aims to explain why we all need hope while also accepting that hope can often lead us to ruin too.

                    While many of the books on this list are all practical, this one is the most realistic one since not even the greatest of philosophical minds could predict things like technology, Twitter, and how our political world has shaped.

                    Manson delivers a profound book that taps into the minds of our ancestral philosophers, such as Plato, Nietzsche, and Tom Waits, and digs deep into various topics and how all of it is connected—religion and politics, our relationship with money, entertainment, and the internet.

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                    Overall, this book serves as a challenge to all of us—a challenge to be more honest with ourselves and connect with the world in a way we’ve never tried before.

                    Buy “Everything Is F*cked” here.

                    10. Reasons and Persons

                      One of the most challenging philosophy books to read on this list, Reasons and Persons will send you on quite the trip. Through a lot of painstaking logic, Derek Parfit shows us some unique perspectives on self-interest, personhood, and whether our actions are good or evil.

                      Considered by many to be an important psychological text around the 20th century, the arguments made about those topics will open your mind to a brand new way of thinking.

                      Buy “Reasons and Persons” here.

                      11. The Republic of Plato

                        Written by Plato himself, this book is the origin of political science and offers a brilliant critique of government. As you would expect, the critique is still important today. If you’re looking to understand the inner thoughts of Plato, this is one of the best books around.

                        Buy “The Republic of Plato” here.

                        Final Thoughts

                        Philosophy books take a while to digest as they provide profound knowledge and leave you with many questions. With many of these philosophy books, you need to take your time with them, and you might have to read through them a few times as well. And with every read, your mind will only expand.

                        More Books to Open Your Mind

                        Featured photo credit: Laura Chouette via unsplash.com

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