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Historical Literature on Unrequited Love

Historical Literature on Unrequited Love.

This article examines the nature of unrequited love and some of the ethical and political ramifications. Some have sought to analyse it, others have preferred to leave it in the realm of the ineffable. For philosophers, the question “what is love?” generates a host of meanings. Love is an abstract noun. For some it is a word unattached to anything real or sensible, that is all. For others, it is a means by which our being, our self and its world are irrevocably affected once we are ‘touched by love’.

Unfortunately, persistence in spite of rejection, irrational and inappropriate behaviour are considered justified in case of unrequited love, which our cultural ideologies would not encourage otherwise. We mostly never worry about how uncomfortable unrequited love is, for the rejecter. Do we not feel guilty after rejecting someone? Does it not hurt us to hurt another human? As discussed in my blog Brain Chemistry in Unrequited Love when a love relationship is ended by one of the partners, it can be really hard to handle, especially for the person who wanted the relationship to continue. But is it not difficult for the other person to make the decision to end what was? In fact, as far as I can understand, rejecters understand the situation better than the unrequited lover and are more sensitive towards the circumstances. They have the sense to walk out of an unbalanced relationship, or never let the relationship start, because they know this is not where they want to be. While all this time, all that the unrequited lover does is to crying over rejection and gaining sympathy of friends and family.

Historically, in the Western tradition, love is characterized by a series of elevations, in which animalistic desire or base lust is superseded by a more intellectual conception of love which also is surpassed by what may be construed by a theological vision of love that transcends sensual attraction and mutuality. Thereafter, there have been supporters and detractors of this kind of love, as well as a host of alternative theories—including theory of true love reflecting what was known as ‘two bodies and one soul.’


Even today, we undeniably find love being discussed in songs, movies and novels—humorously or seriously. Love plays an enormous and unavoidable role in our uncountable cultures; it is a constant theme of maturing life and a vibrant theme for youth. Philosophically, since the time of the Ancient Greeks, the nature of love has been a mainstay in philosophy. Theories ranging from the materialistic conception of love as an animalistic or genetic urge that dictates our behaviour, a purely physical phenomenon, to theories of love that in its highest permits us to touch divinity, as an intensely spiritual affair, have been produced.

The philosophical treatment of love transcends a variety of sub-disciplines including religion, ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, human nature and politics. Statements or arguments concerning love and its nature and role in human life are often heard and witnessed. For example, love being examined in the context of the philosophies of sex and gender as well as body and intentionality. Many philosophies of love have been presented to study the appropriate issues in a cogent manner, drawing on relevant theories of human nature, desire, ethics, and so on.

Love is conceptually irrational, in the sense that it cannot be described in rational or meaningful propositions. However, the philosophical discussion regarding unrequited love logically begins with questions concerning its nature. This implies that love has a nature, a proposition that some may oppose. These critics present a metaphysical and epistemological argument of love, where it is an ejection of emotions that defy rational examination; on the other hand, some do not even admit the concept, which negates the possibility of a philosophical examination.

In English, the word “love,” which is derived from Germanic forms of the Sanskrit lubh (desire), is broadly defined and hence imprecise, which generates first order problems of definition and meaning, which are resolved to some extent by the reference to the Greek terms, erosphilia, and agape.

The term eros is used to refer to the passionate form of love constituting intense desire for something. It is interesting to notice the similarity between eros and erotic, the latter meaning sexual desire.

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