The word love is everywhere these days. From the actual and seriously taken presidential campaign of Marianne Williamson to all popular secular and religious philosophies. (Personally, I loved Williamson’s campaign — for great comic relief if for nothing else. She seem to be the only real person in the whole bunch.) Love is seen as the answer to all problems involving human relations in almost any form. So, why is not “love” listed in any of the classical virtues going back to Plato’s Republic nor in the list of Western theological virtues? These two sets of virtues total seven and consist of prudence, justice, temperance, courage (or fortitude), faith, hope, and charity. It is with good reason love is excluded and I am getting tried of hearing about love as if it is a cure-all. When everyone seems to agree on a concept, one should immediately be suspicious of it as either a delusion or a con.
As I contemplated in my essay asking Why Does God Hate the Poor: Can God Love? Part III , love is a self-centered act and one side of a two sided coin in which hate is the other side. One cannot know love if one does not know hate and the reverse. Love is the relationship we have to that which gives meaning to our life; hate is the relationship we have to that which denies meaning to our life. Love is the answer? To what? What is the question? So, love of money, power, sex, rape, child molestation, your tribe, or the almost uncountable number of acts most people would call evil and which the evil love are answers to evil? If you love your neighbor must you not hate if not the evil person who hurts them but the evil acts that hurt them? Must you not hate evil acts? According to those who preach love is the answer, you must hate and punish racism, sexism, fascism, and much more in order to be a truly loving person. Love is not the answer but only an answer to certain specific problems. Even assuming it is somehow possible to love your enemies, loving their evil acts only helps your enemies do evil to you and to others and to spread their evil acts — however you define evil. By definition, to love truly, you must hate the evil acts of those you love to help them see the Good.
As is often true, the Ancients and the Medieval Scholastics were wiser than much of modern philosophy in their contemplations and so they intelligently left “love” out of their list of virtues to instead include Charity. Charity is considered a theological virtue because supposedly it cannot occur naturally, it is a gift from God in which a person sees God and other persons not as a means to an end — such as achieving meaning in one’s life — but simply as an end-in-itself. It is not a two-sided coin as is love and hate. Its absence is not uncharity or the state of being uncharitable but is simply its negation or absence — just as nothingness does not replace being as an state of existence but is simply nothing regardless of what Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, or their worshipers otherwise preach in their aesthetics.
Is Charity a meaningful concept existentially or in any pragmatic form or is it itself simply aesthetics? Is it used and useful only in the same way as the words “Pegasus”, “the Self”, “the Other”, or any of the other uncountable amount of words available for preachers of certain ethics and moralities to use to promote their self-centered images of how the world ought to be? Does it have pragmatic value for nihilism? Maybe. At a minimum, it gives us a word to use and is useful for pointing out the absurdity and the shallowness of the omnipresence of “love” in present society as another false god. Nihilists can do better than love.