Why Do You Love Someone?: Because You Are in Poverty

Love has an attribute of poverty. We need something and therefore we love it because we are impoverished without it. All our lives we are seeking to love things out of need. However, this impoverishment can have a dark side. Therefore, love needs to be treated sometimes as greed.

What is love? Typically questions of a ‘what is?’ nature are difficult to answer. Love, however, has a very simple attribute that is easy to understand and it is that of need, or poverty. The one who loves is someone who suffers from a poverty of being.


That is not my insight, by the way. That is the insight of the great Neo-platonic philosopher Plotinus. Neo-platonists were followers of Plato who lived early in the first millennium A.D. In his Enneads, Plotinus says this;

Love lacks its Good but, from its very birth, strives towards It. [1]

Plotinus talks about Love in very cosmic terms and in Neo-Platonism, the ultimate goal is to seek The One. Generally, humans love things from need but are not always able to discern the Divine things from the material things.


Possible image of Plotinus.

Is Plotinus right? One way of discerning thie is to observe cultural phenomena. An obvious object of investigation is romantic love, and herein need is a strong feature. How many times do we hear ‘I need you’ in the cinema, or even ‘I want you.’? Remember the song Unchained Melody? ‘I need your love…’ Most expressions of love in culture can be paraphrased as needs.

In a sense, there is no real difference between want and need, when we understand love as a poverty of being. Only the individual can know what he is defective in. While we may say that that person is satiated, who are we to know?


However, this brings us to a very important point. Love can never be thought of as a right. Why?

Needs exist in us. We do not need to be handed them. Instead we must discuss how to repress and suppress a need, this expression of love for the good, so that everyone can share in the good to the fullest degree, e.g. people aren’t deprived of a good because of my excessive love for good.

People love good things. But our poverty of being clashes with those of others. This then can give rise to tyranny when one faction promises to liberate the public from all needs. Tyrants are those who promise to satisfy our restless drive for love and they manipulate out poverty of being.


German philosopher Hannah Arendt understood the link between needs and the human condition.

As Plotinus intimated, our need to love worldly and material things is dangerous for ourselves. And to others. And our poverty of being can then be merciless greed to someone else.

[1] Enneads



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