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Thursday
Jan032013

Love vs. Hate

One of the on-line dating sites I tried has a question that's more nuanced than most people on there seem to realize:

"Is it easier to love or hate?"

Surprisingly, the majority of men answered that loving is easier than hating. And I highly disagree.

As I discussed in my post on empathy, our default animal nature makes it easier for us to hate anything and anyone we find different. The more different something or someone seems, the greater our feeling of dislike and distrust.

Confucius wrote,

"It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve and bad things are very easy to get."

(This quote is sometimes attributed to Rene Descartes. Confucius and Descartes. Different time periods, different countries of origin, albeit both philosophers. Curious juxtaposition of attributions.)

Doing the mental and emotional work required to love someone despite differences is much more difficult than knee-jerk, easy-peasy hatred.

At least when it comes to that dating site, I'm a clear outlier in this opinion (although I have Confucius/Descartes as company, which isn't too shabby). Maybe there's something to this question that I haven't considered.

How would you answer?

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Reader Comments (3)

Consider the following and then we can discuss.

Love and hate aren't opposites.

Indifference is the opposite of love. Even when you hate someone you still care if they are doing well or poorly. Does this make hate a subset of love or vice versa?

January 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam Pora

Hmm. This may spur a follow-up post, Will! It's a good question. I've been musing on it since I saw your comment yesterday.

I don't agree that indifference is the opposite of love, actually. Indifference is the absence of love and of hate. It is the null of both. Sort of in the way that limbo, in old-time Catholic theology, wasn't heaven or hell. I'd rather someone feel indifference toward me than hate ma, any day.

I think the love in all its forms (romantic, agape, goodwill, and so on) is well-matched as an opposite of hate in all its strengths.

So I'm interested in reading what others might think on this little debate! It's a very, very good question you've posed.

January 4, 2013 | Registered CommenterLeslie Farnsworth

Although I've never gotten into answering those questions on such sites, I'd wager that the reason "love" wins out over "hate" by such a wide margin on dating sites has to do with people targeting their responses towards what they think a potential date would want to hear. I'm generally somewhat of a pessimist on human nature, at least in the collective, so I more or less agree with the rationale behind your answer. I suppose I’d differ slightly on terminology as I think it’s actually extremely difficult to reach either a full hate or love feeling towards someone. I may be annoyed at the guy who cut me off in traffic, but I wouldn’t say I hate him. I like the people in the group I play tennis with, but I wouldn’t say I love them. I’d rephrase along the lines of “it’s easier to be immoral than moral towards someone.” One person left to their own devices will generally tend towards the morally correct choice, but there’s very often some form of extrinsic pressure on a person that pushes them towards immoral behavior. A person following instructions from an authority figure (as in the famous psych experiment regarding voluntary administration of electric shocks on another person) or simply acting (or not acting—I think one of your previous posts referenced the Genovese case in NYC) as a group/mob is much more likely to act immorally. But anyways, back to your topic, I suspect that if people answered that same question (in some phrasing or other) as part of a psychology experiment that favors unbiased contemplation of the question rather than trying to get a date, the percentages would probably differ significantly.

Also, I very much disagree that indifference is the opposite of love. There’s probably a formal way to disprove that under all those fancy logic rules that I vaguely remember from that class in college, but at its essence, feeling neither good nor ill will towards someone is not the opposite end of the spectrum from either loving or hating them. If you want to argue for some sort of 3-axis categorization, then maybe…

January 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNick

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