Love and Hate

But of course you can’t have love without hate…

“But of course you can’t have love without hate.

They go hand-in-hand.

It’s a psychological fact.”

I thought, at first, she was teasing me. She is one of those charming people who always have the flicker of a smile about them, so it’s hard sometimes to tell whether she is in earnest. But she was: love and hate go together, she insisted, you can’t have one without the other.

I was baffled. Did she mean that one has to hate in order to love? No, of course not. What she meant was that the capacity to love comes with the disposition to hate the person one loves.

Well, I thought, that is at least some comfort. So we’re only really talking about the potential to hate. By being a lover, I am only a potential hater.

It’s a viable possibility, then, that one might live one’s life in loving and blissful ignorance of the capacity for hatred one has inadvertently developed.

Saying that love goes hand-in-hand with hate is just a way of saying: treacherous lovers beware.

Not exactly the most chivalrous conception of romantic love, but perhaps an honest one. There is, after all, a seductive logic in thinking that love is the gateway to the deepest kind of betrayal and therefore the deepest kind of resentment. If so, this talk of ‘psychological fact’ boils down to the logic of loving and hating, and not – say – to survey data from unfortunate lovers.

Is this logic sound? If it is, it means, for one thing, that forgiveness has to be a protracted affair. If I am betrayed by my lover, I must first hate before I can forgive. If love and hate are interdependent, there must be no short-cuts: hatred must have its day. If I could jump straight to forgiveness, love would not, after all, require hate.

There can be no such thing as instant forgiveness.

That seems right. If forgiveness were instantaneous, one would naturally be suspicious about whether one had really been in love in the first place.

And yet, we mustn’t found our logic on suspicions. The very possibility of a saintly forgiveness which circumvented hatred, no matter how improbable, must indicate that the psychological fact that love goes hand-in-hand with hate is not, after all, derived from the logic of love and hate. If the interdependence is a psychological fact, it is an empirical one: 

It just so happens that most lovers would, under the right conditions, hate their beloved.

But would they? We have rather been taking it for granted that the object of love and of hate would be one and the same, post-betrayal. What makes that true? Betrayal might cause a instantaneous rupture of the object: one part cocooned in a nostalgic bubble; the other an object of derision and contempt.

This splitting apart of the emotional objects, if that is what happens, is important. For that would indicate that love and hate are not hand-in-hand, they are back-to-back.


Author: Owen Gower

Owen has spent his life being curious about ideas and people. He has a PhD in philosophy and tutors in philosophy at his local university. A committed member of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain, Owen is also a life-time member of the British Philosophical Association. Despite these trade associations, Owen is convinced that philosophising is not a profession, and needn’t be burdened with unnecessary jargon. He’s happiest in conversation with people who are willing to follow the argument wherever it leads.

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