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What is (unconditional) love?

- a theory
Dedicated to my family, friends, and GK

Salil Kalghatgi
Amidst the chocolates and teddy bears on Valentines day, we recognize the importance of love. Love is confusing to me, and that usually makes Valentines day frustrating. Not this February 14th. I have attempted to dene love, and the process proved extremely rewarding. I hope you nd it as useful. One of the biggest diculties in understanding love is its range as an emotion. Your love for chocolate should probably be dierent than the love between your family. My rst step was dening unconditional love. If it is possible to learn about one type of love, then it may lead to more knowledge about all types of love. Unconditional love also holds a very important place in culture and the fulllment of our lives. The idea of an approach through unconditional love came to me while studying basic probability and logic, and it is using these tools that I chose to pursue my endeavor. Reverend Thomas Bayes (1701-1761) introduced a fairly simple but tremendously useful statistical theorem that mathematically demonstrates the importance of our beliefs before collecting any evidence; and then, reevaluating our prior belief after analyzing evidence. While it may feel intuitive, its ramications are powerful and applicable in numerous ways (in much more advanced techniques than we will discuss), including our context. Isnt dating a way of gathering evidence and information for evaluating your aection? This makes humans sound cold and methodical, and love isnt, but I think it is a fair premise. Love may be conditioned on many events (things). You love because you enjoy reaping the benets. I love chocolate because it tastes good. My love is conditioned on the taste of chocolate. If it didnt taste good, then I would not love chocolate. Unconditional love is conversely not conditioned on any and all events. Regardless of every possible event occurring or not occurring, unconditional love will still exist. It is helpful to think in terms of extremes: unconditional love will remain even if your partner is unfaithful, or your child chooses to run away. Considering the universe as any and all events, unconditional love will not be disturbed by the universe. In fact, this demonstrates that unconditional love is greater than the universe, or the universe is a subset of unconditional love. I feel this is instrumental in making sure we are not simply begging the question. Knowing that unconditional love extends past the universe, it would be helpful to determine by how much it extends. Again, I nd spirit in Bayes. Pretend you ask How do I know I am in love?. Well, the answer is simple, you have to predict if you will still love no matter

what happens . The problem is that it is impossible to actually test if you will still love against the innite universe of possibilities. Bayes proposes that it if our belief is great enough, we consider the argument sound. We must then modify our view of unconditional love to also include belief (whether belief is a subset of universally independent love is not within the scope of this discussion). If you do not have the opportunity to test love against every single condition, if one genuinely believes in the unconditionality of love then this love can be described as unconditional. This leaves us with a dilemma. If belief is necessary for unconditional love, then unconditional love is conditional upon belief. This is perhaps better explained through the idea of conditional independence. Love may originally be conditional on many events, but when we introduce the additional factor of belief, love becomes independent of the universe. Having belief does not guarantee unconditional love, but belief is a necessary component for unconditional love and this notion of belief transforming love from conditional to unconditional is known as conditional independence. Knowing that love becomes independent only when there is enough belief suggests unconditional love and belief are proportionally related. After a certain period of time, and with enough supportive evidence, the person may choose to act upon their data and believe in a love independent of the universe. Love is only unconditional if belief in the aectioned object exists; therefore, we nd that unconditional love is a misnomer. In order to love unconditionally, we must believe in the love more than we believe in the universe. Love normally starts with self-interest, but with enough passion, you will choose to abandon self interest and eventually be willing to sacrice the universe for your partner. Using my denition of love, predicting the unconditional can be very hard to do. One can only postulate upon the innite possibility of events, and thus we often consider circumstances and assess our love for them. Unconditional love is special, and it is forever possible because although it is one of the greatest forces, choosing to believe will make it come true.