‘Crazy in love’ or is ‘love complicated’ this Valentine’s Day?

February 14, 2017 - 5 minutes read

Here are four different philosophers that can teach us how to understand love and relationships!

From the great writers and poets of our time to today’s musical artists, love has always been a much debated, passionate and strongly-professed emotion and desired to be understood throughout history – most notably by the legendary philosophers who teach us about their philosophies of love! It can make us feel on top of the world but heartbreaks can make us feel miserable too.

No matter how you’re feeling this Valentine’s Day, we’ve chosen four noble philosophers inspired by love and relationships to give us their perspective on how best to understand it.

Jean Paul Sartre

Two philosophers who understood that romantic relationships can sometimes be complicated are Sartre and De Beauvoir, who were famously in an open relationship together. Although they had similar views in how love should be expressed, they had very different ways of showing it. To Sartre, a 20th century renowned philosopher and novelist, love was “conflict” between freedom and commitment, as he believed that romantic relationships should not be based on ownership or possession of another person. We try and seek our “other half” when looking for a partner, but according to Sartre we are really looking for a better insight into ourselves. Pretty insightful!

Simone De Beauvoir

A 20th century French existentialist philosopher, and feminist, Simone De Beauvoir’s ideas of romantic relationships and love are expressed in her most notable work ‘The Second Sex’ in 1949. De Beauvoir takes a gendered approach, arguing that strong relationships and love can be achieved when we are not tied by gender stereotypes of what it means to be masculine and feminine. Women and men in relationships are more enriched when they “treat each other as equals” and preserve their individuality and interests. We must therefore, “identify our assumptions” and be freer in who we are, because the “best love relationships are those where lovers are free and equal.”


Jalal ad-din Rumi

A revered Persian Sufi poet, philosopher, theologian and mystic from the mid-13th century, Rumi’s philosophy of love and life has transcended cultural and religious boundaries, being valued and relatable to people around the world. His idea of love and how we can express it has challenged western ideas of romantic love. Love is understood to be beyond words and something to be felt and experienced rather than through reason and logic.  To Rumi, love must first be sought within us and the source of love cannot be found in temporal and worldly things but in the divine of our true selves: “you are searching the world for the treasure, but the real treasure is yourself.”

Plato’s Ladder of love’  

A classical Greek philosopher from ancient Athens in 470 BC, and a student of Socrates, Plato used the metaphor ‘ladder of love’ to explain what love is. The physical attraction we feel when we meet someone special is the first step to love, but only the first step on the “ladder of love”. At the ascent is the beauty of being itself, giving us a chance to experience real ‘platonic’ love and, as a result, access the beauty of knowledge, wisdom and life itself… and even philosophy!


Whether you’re celebrating this day with someone special or with a tub of ice cream in bed, we hope you have enjoyed reading these love insights from some of the great philosophers from history. If you’d like to get to grips with the big questions of life, love and morality, why not enrol yourself on our Philosophy course at the Oxbridge International Summer School!

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