lunes, octubre 20, 2008

Stefan Beyst, The Ecstasies of Eros

Stefan Beyst, Larvatus prodeo

Much bas been written about love: from Plato to Levinas, from Bachofen to Lévi-Strauss, from Darwin to Lorenz and Dawkins, from Krafft-Ebing to Masters and Johnson, from Dufour to Flandrin, from Freud to Kristeva, the most brilliant spirits have tackled the subject matter - not mentioning the countless love prophets, from Saint Paul, over Vatsyayana to Comfort and the feminists. Although there is much to be learned from their work, many important things have not been formulated yet: that love nurtures in its own bosom the very forces that are out at destroying it; that there are three kinds of love that are intimately interwoven; and, above all, that, unlike is the case with Nietzsche's God, love has yet to be born, and that man himself will have to attend its birth as a midwife.

In order to analyse the sexual misery to the bone, I deemed it necessary to take not only a historical, but also an evolutionary perspective. I wanted to describe love in all its dimensions, the social included, with which it is intimately connected. Such a broad perspective is absent in practically all the approaches.

Only the evolutionists from the nineteenth century take not only a evolutionary, but also a historical perspective, and include more developed societies in their analysis at that. But their perspective remains rather ethnocentric. In the best case, the caravan departs from Mesopotamia, passes over Greece and Rome, heads towards our feudal countries, to end up in the Western metropolises. Later anthropologists amputate this broad perspective from its evolutionistic antecedents and from its recent historical developments. Historians, who take care of these recent developments, continue to walk the beaten paths between Ur and some Western metropolis, if they do not further narrow the perspective - geographically, thematically or socially. What they thereby gain in precision, is at the same time lost in that they mostly come to believe in a presumed uniqueness. The biologists, who took care of the evolutionary prehistory, rather behave like a bull in the historical and cultural china shop. A broader evolutionary and historical perspective is failing altogether with most philosophers, sociologists and sexologists.

Because I take so broad a perspective, I cannot possibly give due account of the specificity of the sexual behaviour of concrete persons in concrete moments and concrete places in history. Not only many historians, but also many readers will reproach me such neglect. My aim, however, is not to write a history of sexual love, but to construct of a theory of love. Such theory has of necessity to contain the historical ('dialectical') dimension. I only have to study the many concrete historical facts to learn which forms sexual love can take and how it is that it takes these forms, and also to lay bare the underlying unity. Of this unity, there is no history. There can only be a history of the way in which love time and again emanates from an immutable kernel.

I deemed it necessary not only to take a broad evolutionary and historical perspective, but to encompass sexual love in its totality as well. From a contentual point of view, many authors have a rather narrow understanding of love in terms of pure sexuality, pure reproductivity or pure economical transaction (marriage). They thereby overlook the fact that sexuality, reproduction and economic cooperation are in principle intimately intertwined. The consequence of this is that they understand society as an force that influences sexual love externally. As I hope to demonstrate, society itself is an illegitimate and revolting child of love. On top of that, many authors tend to lose sight of the manifold social patterns within which love unfolds (monogamy and the many forms of polygamy), not to mention the temporal aspects (lifelong or furtive - promiscuous relations). Finally, it is crucial for a proper understanding of sexual love, to realise that it is intimately intertwined with two other forms of love: parental love between parents and children and communal love between the members of all kinds of communities.

No doubt, it is an ambitious project to study love in a broad evolutionary and historical perspective. No mortal is able to master all the facts. But, whoever does not recoil before such undertaking, is able to disclose unsuspected relations. And that should mark the birth of a new science. Like there is physics and logics, there should be an 'erotics' that should be contentually defined as the study of love or the study of Eros. The first steps towards such a science lie scattered over such diverse disciplines like philosophy, sociology, psychoanalysis, socio-biology, ethology, sexology and - negatively - economics.

I, have finally, resolutely opted to expound this complex matter as concisely as possible. What I thereby lose in precision, I hope to gain in clarity. It is my intention to map the complex interaction of forces that drive Eros into ever new 'ek-stases' - in the sense of emanating from a kernel.