Are Love and Hate the Same?

radioraheemThis question, whether the things we call love and hate are the same, has been plaguing my thoughts for the previous two weeks, so I have been driven to ask others their opinion and philosophical understanding. Here is a portion of my results.

My mental struggle with this concept came from a late night conversation with a friend of mine who claimed that there is no practical difference between love and hate, stating the well known idea of Stockholm Syndrome as evidence. The idea seemed quite absurd to me at the time, but I realized later that I responded with my gut reaction to the topic. To say that it is the same thing to love someone as it is to hate them clashes against all intuition, yet the very fact that it does means that I ought to take to time to dredge up the reasons behind such a claim.

So here I am, sharing my inquiries, thoughts, and discussions on the topic in the hopes of finding a satisfying answer to this increasingly frustrating question.

The easiest answer is to say that no, they are not the same thing because they are different words with entirely opposite connotations. Love is positive, thus better, and hate is negative, thus worse. A negative thing and a positive thing cannot be the same thing, so love and hate must be different.

Are you satisfied with this answer? Because I’m not. No idea with the power to move a person to self-sacrifice or cold-blooded murder can, or should, be explained in such simplistic terms.

Another part of the argument with the aforementioned friend was that the makeup of love and hate were only chemicals in the brain, so one cannot differentiate between them. While I do not claim knowledge of the exact brain chemistry involved, my layman’s knowledge of the subject is that they are made up of different chemicals affecting different parts of the brain, making the person experience different emotions. Though this raises an interesting point; both love and hate are emotions of passion, something you feel strongly about and something that plays a powerful role in determining actions.

Does this mean that love and hate only come from a biological/evolutionary source? A different discussion concluded that to love is to feel affection and protective towards the family unit and that to hate is to be in conflict with those who threaten the family unit.  Once again, the ideas are not the same, but can love truly be only this desire to protect our ability to reproduce, while to hate is to despise the hinderance of reproduction? Today there are many couples who claim to love each other and either have no desire or the inability to have children, and I cannot rightly say it is an inferior form of love.

Though why does my intuition tell me this? Perhaps it is only my cultural, historically based view of the world that determines love and hate for me. The Western view of love today is quite different than an Indian view of it in the 1200s. While I cannot deny that different cultures view these concepts in radically different ways in what we would call the norm, there can still be aspects of love and hate that can be identified.

Let us take one of the most popular love stories of the Western world, Romeo and Juliet. Although it is nearly 500 years old, high schoolers still struggle over the archaic language today, and even they can connect with the tribulations of the suave Romeo and lovely Juliet. A love that is not meant to be, a boy and a girl of opposing families finding that their love for each other overcomes their lessons on the other family being the worst in the world. This is a love so strong that, when faced with the apparent (and soon after, very real) death of the other, neither can bear to continue to live in the world without the person of their dreams. They hated the idea of the world so much that they decided to end their lives right then and there in the church, putting their love above all else.

A lovely story at face value, isn’t it? As these high schoolers grow up and think back to this tale of woe and heartbreak, experience tells them that these two lovers were simply fools, dumb teenagers caught up in hormones and horniness. “That can’t be love!” They proclaim.

I agree, that story pales in the experience of “true love,” which we can somehow identify without clear examples and explanations. Yet it does provide another interesting point on the sameness of love and hate, as the love for the fallen lover became a somber hatred of the “survivor’s” existence as both emotions razed the logical centers of the brain in a fit of folly.

I am not yet satisfied with an explanation of love and hate from the previous arguments/examples, and I cannot help but think that I am only scratching the surface. My exploration will not end here, and in the future I will have more to share.

Any thoughts on the question of  love and hate as the same or not are always welcome!

– MM

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One Comment

  1. I’m partial to the difference being that something you love being something that you want to flourish and prosper, whereas something that you hate is something you absolutely do not. Por ejemplo, if I say that I love my wife, I am implicitly saying that I want to see her flourish, whereas if I hate her I want her to be like the plants in my Mom’s garden-lacking all means of long-term sustenance.

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