Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Skye Cleary

Australian Philosopher and Author, Teaches at Columbia University

"Existential philosophers acknowledge that we are born into webs of relationships, and they explore how relations with others infuse our world with meaning and modify our possibilities. Existential thinking brings to light complexities, knowledge, and expressions of romantic loving because it provides a language to understand and reflect on our being in the world and being with others, and it expands our knowledge about possibilities and dynamics of relationships."

"Existential philosophies reveal to us the notion that once lovers free themselves from preconceived ideals about how romantic lovers ought to behave, and free themselves from being slaves to their passions, they will be free to create relationships that complement and enhance their personal, authentic endeavors. Love is a passion to be chosen and mastered, not sacrificed to. One argument is that although romantic lovers lose certain freedoms, the love they acquire compensates. However, I argue that one of the key contributions of the existential approach to romantic loving is its criticism of such an assumption. After all, it is by no means given that the benefits of romantic love necessarily outweigh the costs."

"Expectations about romantic loving are grand, but there seems to be an issue with the way we understand it because reality often falls short of the ideal. Romantic loving suggests images of perfect happiness, harmony, understanding, and intimacy that make the lovers feel as if they are made for each other. The ideal is alluring but flawed, because romantic loving often involves conflicts and disappointments."

"According to Bela Szabados, it can be dangerous to ignore philosophers' personalities because philosophizing is a personal interpretation of truth."

"Awareness of freedom and responsibility creates anxiety, which is also referred to as anguish or angst. Aspects of romantic attachments can relieve anxieties. For example, Mario Mikulincer et al. argue that loving relationships can act as a death-anxiety buffering mechanism, since the sense of security, protection, comfort, self-esteem, and social validation that close relationships provide may serve as defensive devices with respect to existential anxiety about the threat of mortality."

"Next time you?re missing a loved one, instead of electro-flirting, try composing a crisply folded expression of affection."

"Peter Koestenbaum also elaborated on the importance of others, particularly romantic lovers, in the existential context. Love is the choice to create and reflect each other mutually, verifying and illuminating each other's uniqueness because this is how we learn that we exist and who we are. A key theme of authentic love is resistance between, but welcoming of, two independent consciousness acting like positive and negative magnets within a single magnetic field."

"Philosophy does not have to be only an intellectual exercise but can be used to understand everyday living."

"Romantic loving is, for Simone de Beauvoir, existentially dangerous. Romantic relationships can be such intoxicating experiences that lovers get lost in euphoria. Passionately they sink together into the muck and mire of couple-centered selfishness and attempt to merge in ecstatic harmony. The problem is that this eventually leads either to boredom or to games of submission, domination, and possession. Authentic loving, according to Beauvoir, needs to overcome such traps."

"The existentialists' view of love is not romantic, because they do not believe in love as an abstract force or amorous sunset walks along the beach. However, Cox also said, if your idea of romance is somewhat more gothic and stormy, full of heartache, yearning and the thwarted desire to possess breaking up, making up and breaking up again, tears before bedtime and tears in the rain, then maybe it is romantic."

"Six existential tips to create better relationships: 1. Choose loving actions. 2. Respect each other's freedom. 3. Be better friends. 4. Remember that romantic forever is the exception NOT the rule. 5. Look for a common goal. 6. Treat each other as the important person in your life."

"The first step in loving authentically is for lovers to believe and recognize each other as free and equal and act accordingly. This means that both partners are autonomous, generous, cooperate, and overcome petty power games."