I had a major epiphany about love today. Okay, that sounds a bit pompous, but I do think it's a bit of a breakthrough. (Also, I'm allowing myself to backspace again.) So yesterday I wrote that philosophers shouldn't spend so much time and energy trying to figure out "what love is", because there is clearly not one universally-acceptable definition of love. Love means different things to different people, end of story. But (and this is my realization) philosophy is in essence the analysis and clarification of concepts. Philosophers ask questions like "what is justice?" and "what is goodness?". And they do this because people use these words, in the belief that other people have a similar understanding of their content. So the critical question that I asked myself today is: if love means different things to different people, why do we use the word "love" to refer to these different meanings? Mustn't there be some common core to the concept of love that is shared by almost all, if not all, conceptions of it? That, I believe, is the essence of the philosophical inquiry. And to give up this search is to give up on doing philosophy.
Funnily enough, this is the same discussion that Socrates had with the sophists in Athens. The sophists were travelling teachers who taught critical thinking and persuasive reasoning, but always with the goal of personal gain. They were radical relativists, and believed that there is no objective truth. So they also thought that finding definitions to concepts is meaningless, because concepts mean whatever people want them to mean. Socrates didn't like the sophists, and he disagreed with their relativism. He retorted: if you don't believe in the truth of concepts, then my "justice" is different from your "justice", correct? So that means that we should really use different words to refer to these different concepts. If we do that, our language will become unusable. Yet we use our language every day, and it's clearly succesful at communicating ideas. So there must be some common truth that everyone refers to, when they refer to a concept like "justice".
In short: I regained my faith in the philosophical inquiry of concepts by way of Socrates. My teachers would be proud of me.
Oh, and also, I'm writing this in the afternoon. Crazy stuff. I think this is a first! I should do it more often.