Problems with Agape Love – Nietzsche and Lewis
Both Nietzsche and Lewis find problems with Agape love with accordance to their own respective philosophies of love. Lewis describes a paradoxical relation between God’s love and natural loves. Whereas Nietzsche explicates that the grounds that a person’s behavior may present itself as Agape love, is actually a behavior motivated primarily for selfish reason of gaining power. When comparing these two problems with Agape love, Nietzsche’s explanation is stronger in explaining the pattern of Agape love in the current western culture.
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Lewis says that there is not a true Agape love by itself. Agape love can only be experienced after having experienced the natural loves, such as the romantic love for another human. However the natural loves cannot be experienced without God’s love, as God’s love completes all other loves such as romantic love. This creates a paradoxical circle of experiences that cannot be fulfilled without the other. In this way, there is no true Agape love, just a mixture of Agape and Eros, which Lewis called “Charity”.
Lewis describes the first real motivation for all actions as being to love and to be loved in various means. This is what propels Charity however unlike Eros, it is regulated by reason. Lewis also states that there is intense suffering attached to human loves. He illustrated this with the tragic story of St. Augustine who lost a friend. Consequently any form of Agape love is also not without suffering. Lewis expressed that the only way to get truly close to God, is not to imitate Agape love.
However it is by accepting and reacting to Agape love that God gifts onto one’s self. As Agape love can only be experienced while experiencing the natural loves, one is the closest to God when in love with another. Therefore, to get close to God, one shouldn’t imitate Agape love or love strictly only God, however one must experience a natural love, which seems contradictory. Unlike Lewis who said that behaviors are motivated by the need to love and be loved, Nietzsche believes that behaviors are motivated primarily by the desire to attain power.
Nietzsche’s basic theory is that everyone should have a need to want to be more powerful than others. People of higher power are, as Nietzsche describes them, fighters with the determination and animalistic drives to impose their beliefs on other people and they also acquire enemies who provide respectable opposition. Although they may seem rude, impolite, and volatile Nietzsche assures that they are noble. (In fact Nietzsche would argue that the view of their behavior seeming negative is the result of employing an Agape perspective).
They can then make decisions for the people who are less powerful than them, and those decisions will be for the better of everyone. Contrasting to how Lewis said that one main goal for humans is to be close to God; Nietzsche says that it is to gain self-actualization through increasingly gaining power. The purpose of people attaining power is to continue a strong race of the human species. Contradictorily, polite people who lack determination, don’t impose their beliefs on others, and don’t have enemies are weak.
Nietzsche believes that they are not worthy of life and have survived in peculiar manners. If people of lower power reproduce they will procreate more people of lower power, therefore they will not result in the most supreme future generations of their species. As a result of this, Nietzsche says that people of lower power should be allowed to perish. Nietzsche describes Agape love, as a way for the weak to have power but that is detrimental for the human species’ evolution. The introduction of Agape love essentially made it acceptable to be mediocre and to die.
He explains how this product of Christianity is a bizarre power play as Agape love induces people of higher power to feel pity for people of lower power. In this way people of lower power can impose their belief on people of higher power. If there is a herd of lower power individuals who impose their belief on a higher power person, they can eventually overtake the higher power person. Nietzsche also describes how actions that seem to be a result of purely Agape love, can actually be a behavior based on attaining power.
Participating in volunteer work can deceive someone into believing that they are acting in a fully giving manner, and in a manner, which puts the other person/people before their own self. Contradictorily Nietzsche demonstrates how there is a selfish act to volunteer work in the way that that person is doing it to feel better about themselves, thus giving them power within themselves, or to seem more honorable compared to other people, thus giving them power within a group of people. Nietzsche argues that there is no such thing as an act of pure Agape love.
When comparing Lewis’ and Nietzsche’s philosophies on Agape love, Nietzsche’s holds more substantial in the current Western society. The Western society has an individualistic ideology that is governed by competition. This competition is fundamentally a struggle for power, precisely as Nietzsche describes. The Western society displays doesn’t display the individualistic ideology more strongly than in the school institution and the job field. From a very young age children are brought up in schools that teach students that competition is very important.
Children spend about half of their waking hours in this institution, learning that if they do well, they can get further up the career ladder than their peers. Children are also trained in how to do well and how to gain power. In this manner, individuals are pitted against each other in a competition for power from the young age of four. This continues for numerous years till the end of post-secondary education. At this point individuals know instinctively what will provide them with more power.
In the workplace individuals are told to gain power by reaching the top of their corporate ladder. They must do this by way of requesting promotions, working better than their coworkers, or by putting their coworkers down. All of these are actions of attaining power. In this encompassing example of Western society, it is apparent that Nietzsche’s view of Agape love is more observable than Lewis’. Lewis describes how individuals are trapped in the circle of natural love resulting in God’s love, and God’s love resulting in natural love that will ultimately produce suffering.
Nietzsche however describes Agape love as a weapon for the weak in the human need to be more powerful than others. With accordance to the current Western society, Nietzsche’s explanation is more reinforced. This is illustrated by the way that individuals try to be better than the people around them; be it with regards to their academics, careers, beauty, knowledge or other forms of power. Therefore, although both Lewis and Nietzsche presented a constructive argument for Agape love, Nietzsche’s is more valuable with regards to the current Western society.