Our Sociable Sociality, #3–There Is No Love: Intimacy and Sociality.

By Robert Hanna

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I. Introduction: How to Go Beyond The Mind-Body Politic

II. They Fuck You Up: Families and Sociality

III. There Is No Love: Intimacy and Sociality

IV. Lonely Are the Brave and the Millennials: Friendships and Sociality

V. “Louis, I Think This is the Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship”: Camaraderie-&-Solidarity, Identity, and Utility

VI. Conclusion: Our Sociable Sociality, Hammers, and Blue Guitars

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III. There Is No Love: Intimacy and Sociality

Il n’y a pas d’amour, … il n’y a que des preuves d’amour/There is no love, … there are only proofs of love.[i]

19. To play a philosophical riff on Jean Cocteau’s justly famous line, as per the epigraph of this section:

there is no love, there are only seven basic types of sociality, especially including intimacy.

But what do I mean by that?

20. In this section, I want to focus specifically on intimate relationships, aka intimacy, and, as per section II and family relationships, I also want to say something about intimacy’s characteristic phenomenology and normative structures, as encoded in certain inherent guiding principles.

More explicitly and specifically, my basic claim is

that all healthy, sane rational human animals need intimacy, insofar as intimate relationships inherently provide an essentially embodied bonding between two or more rational human minded animals, aka people (of any gender whatsoever, including gender-neutral people), that necessarily includes their intentionally and freely sharing special feelings, special emotional attitudes, special cognitive experiences (including memory, imagination, and/or thought), and special kinds of affectionate mutual bodily interaction, aka physicality, that social relationships with family, close friends, our wider circle of friends, comrades, people who share identity-attributes with us, and people with whom we have instrumental relationships of various kinds, do not inherently provide — although there might also be contingent overlaps between our intimates and people falling under one or more of the other six types of social relationships.

Or otherwise and more simply put, people in intimate relationships are lovers in the familiar, romantic sense of that term, although with one crucially important qualification I’ll note in section III.23 below.

Admittedly, there’s also a wider use of the terms “intimate” and “intimacy” that applies to social relationships that fall under family relationships, relationships with close friends, and relationships with comrades.[ii]

But for the purposes of this essay, it’s philosophically convenient to focus on the narrower use.

21. Particularly important modes of bonding between intimates include shared memories, shared imaginings of future time spent together, shared humor, a shared “private” language including pet names and shared “private” neologisms, and shared everyday activities, amusements, and pastimes, even (or perhaps especially) those as simple as just eating meals together and/or taking walks together.

And particularly important modes of physicality between intimates include caressing, cuddling, embracing, holding hands, nuzzling, kissing, spooning, and eroticism.

22. Taking into account the fact that all the basic types of sociality are human needs that naturally vary in level of intensity and broadness or narrowness of scope across individuals, over time, and in different contexts, that gives rise to the following possibilities for intimate relationships:

(i) mono-intimacy, whereby a person X is in an intimate relationship with one and only one person Y, at a time and over a stretch of time,

(ii) serial mono-intimacy, whereby a person X is in a series of intimate relationships with different people Y1, Y2, etc., at different times and over different stretches of time, but always only one-at-a-time, and

(iii) poly-intimacy, whereby a person X is in several intimate relationships with different people Y1, Y2, etc., concurrently.

Or in other and simpler words, intimacy is a many-splendored thing.

23. By this ironic allusion to a very kitschy movie, that brings us up to the philosophically problematic term, “love” (mirrored by the correspondingly philosophically problematic French term amour), and also to why I said at the beginning of this section that by playing a philosophical riff on Cocteau’s justly famous line, we can see that there is no love, there are only seven basic types of sociality, especially including intimacy.

That’s because the word “love” is actually and quite correctly used in many different and sometimes mutually inconsistent senses.

Indeed, the word “love” is basically a grab-bag, all-purpose, strong-pro-attitude-expressing term that actually and quite correctly applies under every single one of the seven basic types of sociality.

So, actually and quite correctly, in some contexts, you can say that you “love” all or at least some of the members of your family; that you “love” all or at least some of your close friends; that you “love” all or at least some of the people who belong to your wider circle of friends; that you “love” all or at least some of the people who share various identity-attributes with you; and even that you “love” at least some people with whom you’re in a purely instrumental relationship (“I love my hair stylist!”).

But none of these kinds of “love” is the same kind of “love” that is found in intimate relationships.

Moreover, “love” can also be actually and quite correctly applied to asymmetrical social relationships, e.g., unrequited romantic love, which would actually count as a pathological (and thus degenerate) case under intimacy.

It’s also possible to love yourself, as in amour propre or narcissism.

And it’s also possible to love many things that aren’t people, as in the case of philosophy, i.e., philo + sophia = the love of wisdom.

But intimacy, by virtue of its characteristic phenomenology and guiding principle(s) or normative structure, is a symmetrical social relationship that always involves two or more people, so intimate relationships and love clearly aren’t the same thing, although when romantic love is indeed symmetrical, then that’s the same as intimacy.

— Except for the following crucially important point, which is that the connotation of the term “romantic love” is massively overladen with a hegemonic ideology, indeed, with a big capitalist culture industry, designed to make us buy and sell things, including tickets to kitschy movies, and including buying and selling each other, that ultimately systematically frustrates and distorts our true human need for intimacy.

24. In order to make my next point clearly and distinctly, I’ll need to frame some slightly fussy definitions about carnal matters: but it’s an extremely important point, so please excuse the fussiness.

First, by sex I mean the human physiological activities, processes, body parts, body chemistry, and body dynamics that are naturally associated with human procreation, especially including arousal and/or orgasm, although obviously sex very frequently and indeed mostly happens in the absence of actual human procreation itself.

Second, by sexuality, aka eroticism, I mean the feelings, emotions, and cognitive experiences (including memory, imagination, and thought) characteristically associated with sex.

And third, by physicality I mean affectionate bodily interaction with other people that includes some lesser or greater degree of sexuality.

So all intimate relationships necessarily include physicality and some lesser or greater degree of sexuality, but not all sexuality is intimacy, since many sexual relationships do not involve people who intentionally and freely share special feelings, special emotional attitudes, and special cognitive experiences (including memory, imagination, and/or thought).

Or in short, intimate human social relationships are essentially embodied human bondings between two or more people (of any gender whatsoever, including gender-neutral people) that are inherently deeper and richer than merely sexual relationships.

And all sex necessarily includes sexuality, but not all sexuality necessarily includes sex, e.g., long-distance sexual relationships, or sexual relationships between people who are sexually attracted to each other, but have never had sex together, or haven’t yet had sex together, perhaps waiting until after they’re married — although of course this was far more common fifty or sixty years ago than nowadays.

Therefore, intimate human social relationships are essentially embodied human bondings between two or more people (of any gender, including gender-neutral people) that are inherently deeper and richer than merely sexual relationships, and athough intimate relationships do all necessarily include physicality and some degree of sexuality, and of course also very often include sex, they don’t all necessarily include sex.

25. Correspondingly, one of the most important widespread fallacies about intimate relationships — a fallacy that is also a hegemonic ideological moralistic belief in neo-Hobbesian, neoliberal, aka big capitalist, societies that regard and treat people as essentially egoistic and mutually antagonistic (our “unsociable sociability”) and ALSO claim that this is how we ought to think and act (ethical egoism) — is to confuse sex with intimacy, just as one of the most important widespread hegemonic ideological fallacies about family relationships is to confuse biological-kinship with families in the proper sense.

Moreover, and on the other hand, just as it’s an important widespread hegemonical ideological fallacy to confuse legal-kinship with families in the proper sense, so too it’s an equally important widespread hegemonic ideological fallacy to confuse marriages insofar as they’re legal relationships with intimate relationships.

In any case, the widespread fallacious egoistic belief that sex and intimacy are the same, in turn, is closely related to a wide range of pathologies under intimate relationships.

To take only one variety within this wide range, if someone in a pseudo-intimate relationship is desperately trying to satisfy her intense need for intimacy, but under the hegemonic ideological influence of the connotation of the terms “romantic love” and/or amour, and at the same time her partner is treating their relationship as mutually egoistic and purely instrumental, hence is confusing sex with intimacy, and as a consequence he treats her like a mere means or mere thing, then their relationship will frustrate and/or distort basic human needs, not to mention being bad and immoral on the side of the person who’s just using the other person for sex and treating her as a sexual mere thing (aka “objectification”).

Or in other words, their relationship will be really fucked up.

And in fact, the pseudo-intimate relationship between the characters Hélène and Jean in Robert Bresson’s brilliant 1945 film, Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne — from which the epigraph for this section was lifted — is really fucked up in precisely this way.

26. But this brings me to a more upbeat point.

Even without further exploring the immense variety of pathologies under intimate relationships, I think that we can already see how the political philosopher of mind who is also a philosopher of sociality, over and above presenting and defending the general theory of our sociable sociality, will also be able to describe and explain some of the most pernicious pathologies and hegemonic ideological fallacies under this basic kind of social relationships.

And then perhaps, just perhaps, someone who reads the philosopher’s text might experience a revolutionary and transformative philosophical Gestalt-shift, aka a philosophical insight, about her/his/their own life, then say to her-, him-, or themself, “oh god!, that’s why this relationship is so fucked up” (or: “oh god!, that’s why all my relationships have been so fucked up”).

Correspondingly, that person might also be able to use that self-directed philosophical insight in order to change her, his, or their life, and accordingly, choose and do something about changing it for the better by bringing his, her, or their pseudo-intimate relationship(s) out of the abyss of pathological, degenerate cases and/or bad, evil cases, and saliently closer to the guiding normative ideal of basic-human-need-satisfying, good, and right intimacy.

Of course, that’s the truly hard part — first, actually releasing ourselves from the “mind forg’d manacles” that enslave us, many or even most of these mind-manacles ultimately flowing from the hegemonic ideologies that everywhere surround us, together with our own passive, uncritical acceptance of them, then second, actually changing our lives, and third actually choosing and acting accordingly for the better.

But at least the philosopher of sociality would be able to enable (in the good sense of “enable”) this self-emancipation, and thereby demonstrate how real philosophy that’s of direct relevance to people’s “human, all-too-human” lives and the rational human condition more generally, and also of equally direct relevance to the radical emancipatory political transformation “from below” of destructive, deforming social institutions in contemporary neoliberal nation-States, into constructive, enabling social institutions in a post-State, post-capitalist world,[iii] is really possible.

NOTES

[i] J. Cocteau, Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (1945, dir. by Robert Bresson, with dialogue by Jean Cocteau).

[ii] Indeed, Maiese and I use “intimate” in precisely that wider sense in The Mind-Body Politic (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), also available in preview, HERE, on pp. x and 100, although we also use it in the narrow sense on p. 284.

[iii] See, e.g., R. Hanna, “Statism, Capitalism, and Beyond,” (August 2019 version), available online, HERE; R. Hanna, Kant, Agnosticism and Anarchism: A Theological-Political Treatise (THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, Vol. 4) (New York: Nova Science, 2018), available online in preview, HERE, esp. part 3; and Maiese and Hanna, The Mind-Body Politic.

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