Friday, November 18, 2011

Derrida on love

One of the first questions one can pose is the question of the difference between the who and the what. Is love the love of someone or the love of some things? Okay, supposing I loved someone. Do I love someone for the absolute singularity of who they are? “I love you because you are you”. Or do I love your qualities, your beauty, your intelligence? Does one love someone, or does love something about someone? The difference between the who and the what at the heart of love, separates the heart.

It is often said that love is the movement of the heart. Does my heart move because I love someone who is an absolute singularity, or because I love the way that someone is? Often, love starts with some type of seduction. One is attracted because the other is like this or like that. Inversely, love is disappointed and dies when one comes to realize the other person doesn’t merit our love. The other person isn’t like this or like that. So at the death of love, it appears that one stops loving another not because of who they are, but because they are such and such. That is to say, the history of love, the heart of love, is divided between the who and the what.

The question of Being - to return to philosophy – because the first question of philosophy is: What is it “to Be?” What is being? The question of Being is itself always already divided between who and what. Is “Being” someone or some thing? I speak of it abstractly, but I think that whoever starts to love, is in love, or stops loving, is caught between this division of the who and the what. One wants to be true to someone – singularly, irreplaceably – and one perceives that this someone isn’t x or y. They didn’t have the qualities, properties, the images, that I thought I’d loved. So fidelity is threatened by the difference between the who and the what.

(This excerpt is taken from the film about Jacques Derrida called "Derrida".)