Why do we get attached to certain people?

Philosopher's reply

Dear Holly,

I’m so glad you asked this question! thinking about exactly this problem was one of the first things that drew me to Iris Murdoch. Here’s what she says in “The Fire and The Sun”: “Falling in love … is for many people the most extraordinary and revealing experience of their lives, whereby the center of significance is suddenly ripped out of the self, and the dreamy ego is shocked into awareness of an entirely separate reality”. In other words: falling in love proves something to us that is very difficult to establish by philosophical argument, i.e. that there is something in the world far more important than our own selfish desires. Of course that doesn’t answer your question about why we get attached to certain people. That one might actually be impossible to answer! In my experience, it’s possible to say a lot about why we love the people we do, but anything we can say will never fully explain it. The most important thing for Iris – and for me – is what our love for certain individuals teaches us. It teaches us the value of patience & humility, and the joy of discovering an independent reality that is completely separate from us and that we will never fully understand. Most important, it teaches us that we are not the center of the universe.

I hope this helps with your question. I had fun thinking about it!

All best wishes, Mark Hopwood (The University of the South, Sewanee, TN)

Philosopher's profile

Mark Hopwood

Sewanee: The University of the South, USA

I was first attracted to philosophy because of the way it made difficult and complex questions seem simpler and less mysterious. Murdoch was the first philosopher who showed me how it might be possible to do philosophy in a way that allowed the complexity and mystery of the world back in. I think many people feel instinctively that our experience of love and beauty is central to what makes us human; Murdoch helps us to understand why that might be true.

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