The Four Loves First Edition
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Who could conceivably begin to love God on such a prudential ground--because the security (so to speak) is better? Who could even include it among the grounds for loving? Would you choose a wife or a Friend--if it comes to that, would you choose a dog--in this spirit? One must be outside the world of love, of all loves, before one thus calculates.His description of Christianity here is no less forceful and opinionated than in Mere Christianity or The Problem of Pain, but it is far less anxious about its reader's response--and therefore more persuasive than any of his apologetics. When he begins to describe the nature of faith, Lewis writes: "Take it as one man's reverie, almost one man's myth. If anything in it is useful to you, use it; if anything is not, never give it a second thought." --Michael Joseph Gross
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Mr. Lewis continues with a brief synopsis of things that we can show love for; these include others, nature, country, and finally, the transcendent creator. Dissecting each, he illustrates that love of nature, patriotism, etc. are inadequate receptacles of our love.
Next, Mr. Lewis looks at the different kinds of love which include affection, philios, eros, and charity or agape. Affection includes the love of parents for their child, love of our pets, etc. Philios is the love between friends. Eros is the love between two lovers. Finally, charity is the love of the creator towards the created and the return of that love by the created toward both the creator and creation.
Of all the loves, Mr. Lewis holds charity or agape in the highest esteem. All other loves fall short of Agape, as Mr. Lewis states in this quote, 'The (other) loves prove that they are unworthy to take the place of god by the fact that they cannot even remain themselves and do what they promise to do without god's help.' They are merely images of this 'charity or agape' which is both immanent and transcendent of creation. By placing our faith in images we are placing faith in what is transient and temporary. Yet, the love that is immanent and transcendent of creation is all encompassing, therefore imageless, and thus beyond human conceptual understanding..
To understand love in all of its aspects we need both the images of affection, philios, and eros as well as the transcendent for the images are stepping stones on our way up to this feeling of all encompassing love. Here, Mr. Lewis makes an important point about love when he states, 'To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to him; throwing away all defensive armour.'
We have to feel love for the images in order to understand and feel the love of the transcendent. Yet, we cannot become entranced by our love for the images of the love immanent and transcendent of creation, because they like we are merely temporary, here one day, gone the next..
Mr. Lewis concludes with this point, 'Only those into which love himself has entered will ascend to love himself. We were made for god. Only by being in some respect like him, only by being a manifestation of his beauty, loving-kindness, wisdom or goodness, has any earthly beloved excited our love.'
Most of the time when we think about love we think about it in its aspect of eros. Mr. Lewis compelled me to contemplate love in all of its different manifestations, and through this reflection, to see that love is much more complex than what we frequently assume it to be. It is for these reasons that I consider this a classic read worth pondering.
I bought this version to read for a class since it was the cheapest option, and having the Chinese characters didn't hamper me in reading it at all, if anyone was concerned about that.
I definitely can't say I agreed with absolutely everything Lewis writes in this book, but overall, it's an absolutely fantastic read that I would encourage everyone to take some time to devour at some point in their life.
Top international reviews
I approach this kind of writing in the same way as reading Shakespeare,. The first time reading without thinking too much about it in order to experience the essence of what's being said, enjoying the parts that resonate the most which for me were the sections on affection and friendship.
Whilst I didn't agree with some of the ideas such as women being stereotyped as housewives, and men and women not being able to have close, meaningful friendships, I loved the idea that 'affection has a very homely face' and that 'affection opens our eyes to the goodness we could not have seen, or should not have appreciated without.'
In terms of friendship, there is a lovely passage that captures the essence of a mutual interpersonal bond where 'one knows nobody so well as one's fellow ... an appreciative love of a singularly robust and well-informed kind.'
In another interesting vein, the author highlights how authority frowns on friendship, where real friendship is a rebellion 'of serious thinkers against accepted clap-trap or of faddists against accepted good sense; of real artists against popular ugliness or of charlatans against civilised taste; of good men against the badness of society or of bad men against its goodness.'
Fascinating, challenging and brilliant, superb cognitive stimulation for the mind.
The selling of this 4 page fake for £2.30 is a travesty. Don't be fooled and don't buy it. I'm reporting to Amazon in the hope they will take it down.
The bulk of the book, though, is concerned with the 4 particular loves which the title implies. Namely, these are Affection, Friendship, Eros and Charity.
Each of these is quite tightly argued by Lewis, very much in the same style as he wrote The Problem of Pain. They are also slightly surprising. In other writings from Lewis, he had always come across as very conservative, yet this collection has smatterings of some refreshingly liberal thought, particularly when it comes to sexuality.
The essay on friendship is the longest, at around 40 pages, with each of the others around the 30 page mark. It's not easy to summarise each one, so I won't try. But I'd recommend them to you. They are by no means holistic, but they are immensely thought provoking; for that alone, they are well worth the price of the book.
Yet I couldn't help feeling that the last chapter was a bit of a let-down. Through the first three essays, Lewis was keen to emphasise that for all the good that these loves are and do, that there is a risk of them `becoming gods' in our lives, which was leading up the last chapter where all would be subjugated under charity. Yet the chapter seemed to lack coherence and the argument seemed to fall apart.
That said, there is plenty of good, thoughtful writing here and I would recommend it. It's just that I had extremely high expectations and it fell short of it, like a high jumper failing to get over the pole vault bar.
The way he phrases the paragraph in the book is also beautiful and well written. Highly recommend to anyone who was to gather more insight on what love is.