Friday, February 10, 2006

From the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago:

Survey Links Agape and Eros *

Quite a timely study, even gives a nod to Deus Caritas Est. Excerpt:

Those who score high on altruistic love questions are more likely to rate their lives in general and marriages in particular as “very happy.” People were asked to rate their agreement with descriptions of altruistic love, such as “I’d rather suffer myself than let the one I love suffer,” and “I’m willing to sacrifice my own wishes to let the one I love achieve his or hers.”

Among those least likely to endorse expressions of altruistic love, 50 percent rated their marriage as “very happy,” but among those most expressing altruistic love towards their partner, 67 percent say their marriage in “very happy.” Also, the married are more likely to rank high on altruistic love than the unmarried. Forty percent of the married scored in the top category on altruistic love, but only 20 percent of the never married and 26-28 percent of the divorced and separated had top scores on altruistic love.

The connection between romantic love and altruistic behavior probably comes from an appreciation of love developed in a healthy marriage and reflects the connection between marriage and love in general which is part of the teachings of many religions, including Pope Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical, Smith said.

While I still think that sociology resembles nothing so much as a Pokémon battle ("Foucault! I CHOOSE YOU!" "Oh yeah? Michel won't be able to stop my Derrida and his DECONSTRUCTION ATTACK!"), I've generally been impressed by the useful and careful research done by NORC. Thus it's doubly rewarding to see them discovering empirical support for the idea of agape and eros as two aspects of love which nourish one another, rather than two competing loves. But then, you know, truth is one and all that.

* Title slightly redacted.

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