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"The Four Loves" Book Review

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TY 224

21 September 2008

            C.S. Lewis’ “The Four Loves” is a book about love: different types of love and reasons for love.  In this book, Lewis explains the four different loves he believes there to be: “Affection”, “Friendship”, “Eros”, and “Charity”.  He defines these four loves, gives examples of them, and shows how each love relates to the other three loves.

In the first part of Lewis’ book “The Four Loves”, which is titled “Introduction”, Lewis points out that all human loves have their root in God’s divine love.  I agree with Lewis’ view on this.  I believe that if love is not rooted in God’s divine love, it could be viewed by the world as being love.  However, when love is not rooted in divine love, I believe it then ceases to be a true love.

Lewis also states that “the highest does not stand without the lowest” (p. 9).  I disagree with this statement; I believe that God’s “Gift-love” toward us would still remain, even if our lowest human love toward each other ceased to exist.  However, God has created us in His image and likeness; God is love, and He created us with the capacity to love.  Without the lowest love, the most human love, the least divine love, and our knowledge and experience of that love, we would not be able to even begin to comprehend God’s love for us.  So, although I believe this “highest” love does “stand”, even without the “lowest”, we would not be able to see the “highest” if it were not for the “lowest.”

Also in the first chapter, Lewis explains the difference between what he calls “Gift-love” and what he calls “Need-love”.  “Need-love” is love that is needed from another.  I agree with Lewis when he states that we need love; we need each other, and our varied personalities, in order to know even ourselves.  “Gift-love” is love that is given to another.  Divine “Gift-love” is given to another freely, without condition.  It is God’s love for us, or what Marshall refers to as “Agape”.

            In the second chapter, “Likings and Loves for the Sub-Human”, Lewis points out that, besides the “Gift-love” and “Need-love” described in the first chapter, there is also “Appreciative love”.  “Appreciative love” is the love that respectfully appreciates the other for who they are.

Lewis also points out that there are two different types of pleasure: “need pleasure” and “pleasure of appreciation”.  “Need pleasure” is something that brings pleasure because it is needed, such as a steak when one is hungry.  “Pleasure of appreciation” is something that brings pleasure, not because it is needed, rather because it is appreciated.  An example of this is the smell of a rose. 

            Also in chapter two, Lewis uses Kipling and Chesterton’s ideas to explain the love of one’s country, family, school, class, etc., also known as patriotism.  There is a love of one’s home and of anything pertaining to it or reminding one of it.  I agree with Lewis on this and that it should be realized that others love their home just as much.  Home becomes home only when it differs in some way from someone else’s home, only when it is unique.

Pertaining to patriotism, there is a great attitude toward, a love of, their country’s past; therefore, there are certain expectations to live up to.  These expectations are usually informally established in the home, in order to carry on the beloved past to the future.  Lewis puts it this way: “we must not fall below the standard our fathers set us, and because we are their sons there is good hope we shall not” (p. 25).

There is a feeling that “my” country is better than everyone else’s country; this is what is often viewed as patriotism.  Out of this feeling of superiority, comes the feeling that one’s duties and rights are better than those of another; this has been viewed before as there being more rights and less duties, but in reality, there must be a balance between the two.

Lewis says that “patriotism in its demoniac form unconsciously denies itself” (p. 27).  I agree with this because, as soon as one’s country is idolized, patriotism, as the love of one’s country becomes demoniac.  When a love becomes demoniac, it contradicts its nature and therefore denies itself.

Lewis quotes one of the Greeks by saying, “No man loves his city because it is great, but because it is his” (p. 28).  I believe this quote accentuates the true meaning of patriotism.  This goes back to the first part of patriotism: the love of home.  One loves their home because it is theirs and unique from that of another.  I believe that one’s love for their country is somewhat related to other types of love.  One should not love another because they are “lovable”, rather because they are worthy of love.

            I agree with Lewis when he says, “When the natural loves become lawless they do not merely do harm to other loves; they themselves cease to be the loves they were – to be loves at all” (p. 28).  I believe this is the reason God made the laws: to give us boundaries not for confining us, rather for freeing us.

            The third chapter is titled “Affection”.  This chapter deals with one of the four types of love Lewis believes there to be.  “Affection” is what the Greeks call “storge”, which is like the love of a parent to their child as well as the love of a child to their parent.  “Affection” ignores any barriers of characteristics, including the barriers of species.”  I agree with Lewis’ definition of “Affection” and that it is a “Need-love” as well as, and because it is, a “Gift-love”.  “Affection” needs to give.

            “Affection” is the most animal-like of the loves.  It is a jealous love.  It is a love that is threatened by change.  “Affection” relies on the old, familiar, and routine.  Affection at its height cares not about “public courtesy”; a person with such a level of mutual “Affection” may say whatever he wishes to say, regardless, because at this level of mutual “Affection” one does not wish to offend.  I agree with this because I have seen it in action.  There are different “manners”, or social expectations, depending on who one is with and what their relationship is with the other. 

            I agree with Lewis when he says, “they are, like all beauties, derived from Him, and then, in a good friendship, increased by Him through friendship itself, so that it is His instrument for creating as well as for revealing” (p. 90).  Since our love is because of God’s love, our love must be rooted in His love.  When our love is rooted in His love, it becomes more divine.  Through this friendship, God both strengthens us and reveals to us who we are.

            The fourth chapter is called “Friendship”, which is the second type of love Lewis defines.  “Friendship”, according to Lewis, is the least animalistic love, as well as the least necessary love.  It is the least jealous love, because in having less of one’s friend, and sharing them with others, one actually has more of their friend.  Each friend brings out a different aspect in each other friend.  According to Lewis, “Friendship” is not necessary; we can survive without “Friendship”.  “It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival” (p. 71) says Lewis.

            I agree with Lewis in some of what he believes “Friendship” to be.  I think that “Friendship” definitely “gives value to survival”.  I do not, however, agree with him when he states that “Friendship” is unnecessary.  I believe that “Friendship” is very crucial.  It may not be necessary in order to bring forth new life or to keep one alive, but it is a necessary part of life.  Through “Friendship”, God reveals to us who others are as well as who we are.  I believe “Friendship” is necessary for our emotional well-being.  Humans are made to love.  In order to even begin to understand God’s love for us, we must first experience love.  We must learn to appreciate and to love; in friendship, we learn to do this in a way that no other love provides. 

 “Friendship” as Lewis describes it, is dependent upon a shared interest.  One does not search for a friend, rather, he finds a friend when a similar interest is discovered.  “Friendship”, or “Philia” as Marshall defines it, may begin with a similar interest, but I do not think it relies very much on that interest.  “Philia” requires maturity, which Marshall defines as knowledge and love of self.  “Those who have nothing can share nothing” (p. 67).  If one does not have some knowledge of himself, he cannot share himself with others.  Similarly, if he does not love himself, he cannot love another.  One cannot share what one does not have, and sharing is a crucial part of “Philia”.

Lewis says that “Friendship” must contain “Appreciative love” of each toward the other, but it must not be merely “Appreciative love”.  In other words, “Appreciative love” can exist without “Friendship”, but “Friendship” cannot exist without “Appreciative love”.  I have appreciated many people, but I have not befriended every one of them; “Friendship” must be mutual and based upon more than just admiration.  At the same time, I appreciate every one of my friends.  Lewis believes that in the ideal “Friendship”, mutual “Appreciative love” is so present in their relationship that each person feels “humbled before all the rest” (p. 72).  I agree with this statement.  Friends help each other to grow: by having mutual appreciation for one another, as well as by being humbled.

Because Christ has chosen us, Lewis believes that Christ has also chosen us for each other.  “Friendship”, Lewis says, is the way in which God reveals to us the qualities of everyone, including those with whom we have not entered into a “Friendship”.  Seeing and admiring the qualities in a friend makes it much simpler to recognize those same qualities in everyone else and appreciate both the qualities, as well as the people themselves.  I believe that by entering into a “Friendship”, God not only shows us the beauty in others, but He also helps us to recognize the beauty in ourselves.

The fifth chapter is titled “Eros”.  This is another of Lewis’ four loves he believes there to be.  Lewis defines “Eros” as the state of “being in love”.  Within this chapter, Lewis introduces the sexual component within “Eros” which he refers to as “Venus”.  Without “Eros”, “Venus” becomes animalistic, which contradicts the true meaning of “Eros”.  “Venus” is what Marshall refers to as “Libido”; it seeks the object in order to fulfill the desire.  “Eros”, according to Lewis, seeks the person as the beloved.  This is similar to how Marshall defines “Eros”.  “Eros” seeks the beloved in her totality.  It also seeks the well-being of the beloved for the sake of the beloved.

Lewis says, “Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest” (p. 61).  In this quote, Lewis shows the difference he believes there to be between “Eros” and “Friendship”.  The interest of “Eros” is each other while the interest of “Friendship” is a commonality.

According to Lewis, “Eros” is shown especially when the lover would rather be miserable with the beloved than to be happy without the beloved.  He believes the danger of “Eros” is that the lovers will idolize “Eros” himself.  I agree with what Lewis believes the theologians to have meant by there being a “danger of idolatry” (p. 111) in “Eros”: the lover might idolize the beloved.  I believe this to be a danger; this is the thing I fear most about marriage.

In the middle of “The Four Loves”, Lewis states that “without Eros none of us would have been begotten” (p. 58).  This is not true based on his definition of “Eros”.  “Eros”, as defined by Lewis, is the state of “being in love”.  The New Puritanism idea of “sex without love” shows that we could have been “begotten” without “Eros”.  However, we would not be here if it was not for what Lewis calls “Venus”.  Whether “Venus” was included in “Eros” or not, we would not be here without it.  Later in the book, Lewis states that “sexual experience can occur without Eros, without being ‘in love’” (p. 91).  This contradicts his earlier statement.

The last love Lewis defines is “Charity”, which is the title of the last chapter of “The Four Loves”.  Lewis defines “Charity” as a divine “Gift-love”.  “Natural Gift-love” is directed toward people whom the lover finds lovable, such as because of “Affection”, “Friendship”, or “Eros”.  Divine “Gift-love”, “Charity”, or what Marshall calls “Agape”, does not depend upon the beloved being “lovable”.  Rather, “Agape loves because the beloved is worthy of being loved.

Lewis says that in order for us to turn our love into “Charity”, we must first practice the virtues of “forbearance, tolerance [and] forgiveness” (p. 136).  According to Lewis, God instills in us, both a need to love God, as well as a need to love others.  I agree with Lewis about this.  I believe that God instills in us these needs and this is why he gives us the two greatest commandments: to love God and to love one another.

Lewis’ “The Four Loves” is about love: “Affection”, “Friendship”, “Eros”, and “Charity”.  All of which have their root in God’s divine love, or “Charity”.  We are made for God, and God makes us for each other.  We are made for Love himself, and we are made to love.

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