The book is basically study of erotic love. The author has described love as elusive and complex that has fascinated philosophers and thinker from time immemorial. Robert Solomon and Kathleen Higgins have chosen excerpts from many philosophers in this book. Some phrases are difficult and complex, such as physical impotence, which refers to men inability to perform sexually. This term until recently was considered psychological; but the arrival of Viagra has changed in to men’s disease and is no longer attached with stigma.
Another difficult term is bestowing value in “The Nature of Love” (Page, 237). This phrase refers to a woman value over all as a person; not considering her mere a sexual object; a topic for which feminists are fighting for so past many decades. Freud breaks the myth of romantic love and questions; what is romantic love; how men and women differ in their erotic desires; and how society has chained human being sexuality. Freud terms human sexual desire as Libido (the sexual drive).
He noted that sexual desire is not a sudden drive that arrives only at adulthood, but sexual drive is built-up gradually from childhood. The early childhood sexual drive is named as Oedipus complex where son yearns for mother, but fearful of father; and daughters yearns for father. These yearning are kept in control due to taboo attached to incest in the human civilization. In his book “Civilization and its discontents”, Freud describes man torn between two extremes; on one side lay individual quest of freedom and happiness; on the other extreme lay society’s demand for conformity.
Living amid the civilization, man instinctive drives makes him believe in guilt and sin with regard to sex. Freud draws an extended analogy between the individual and evolution development with three parallel stages in both. In individual, it’s the character development that is called distinct identity. The next stage is sublimation of sexual energy that expresses itself in various form of arts (poetry and other arts); and the last one is the burying aggressive impulses into imposition of law.
However the key difference between these processes is achieving harmony for a society which is built upon the restriction of individual freedom. The individual instinct leads man to happiness; but in a society individual happiness is ignored for the sake of building civilization. Based on this assumption Freud concludes that modern civilization has created discontent among the mankind; however if removing social restrictions can make individual more happy by expressing themselves sexually; the way they want. Poem
Come close to me, oh beloved of my soul; Embrace me, for I feel loneliness; Place your quivering lips upon mine And let me press your honeyed lips in wild ecstasy. Ah: why we tremble …. Let us close our eyes and not look at each other … It may stir our souls……. Take me in your arms and embrace: our souls are one. You are close to me , my forever sweetheart You are close to me always Even when I am not close to myself:
Robert C. Solomon, Kathleen Higgins, (1991). The Philosophy of (Erotic) Love . University press of Kansas.