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The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

Updated on July 8, 2013

Fromm believed that one learns to love

"Immature love says, 'I love you because I need you';

mature love says, 'I need you because I love you'."

-------------------------------Erich Fromm in "The Art of Loving"

Fromm was associated with what became known as the Frankfurt School of critical theory.

He wrote many great books that are all very readable and understandable by the layman and accurately predicted the future dominance in the public arena of certain negative types of personalities.

The Art of Loving was published in 1956 as part of the "World Perspectives Series". In The Art of Loving, Fromm recapitulated and complemented the theoretical principles of human nature found in his works Escape from Freedom and Man for Himself. These principles were revisited in many of his other major works. Fromm wrote that love is a skill that can be taught and developed. He rejected the idea of loving as something magical and mysterious that cannot be analyzed and explained, and was skeptical about popular ideas such as "falling in love" or being helpless in the face of love.

Fromm believed that because people in modern times are alienated from each other and from nature, we seek refuge from our aloneness in romantic love and marriage (pp. 79â81). However, Fromm observed that real love "is not a sentiment which can be easily indulged in by anyone" and that only through the development one's total personality to the capacity of loving one's neighbor with "true humility, courage, faith and discipline" can one attain the capacity to experience real love. Fromm believed that this is not often achieved. He said, "love today is a relatively rare phenomenon, that we have a great deal of sentimentality; we have a great deal of illusion about love, namely as ... something one falls in. But the question is that one cannot fall in love, really; one has to be in love. And that means that loving becomes, and the ability to love, becomes one of the most important things in life."

The Art of Loving argues that the active character of true love involves four basic elements. These are: care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge. Each is difficult to define and each can differ depending on those who are involved and their circumstances. Seen in these terms, love is hard work, but it is also the most rewarding kind of work.

One concept Fromm explained in The Art of Loving is self-love. He wrote that loving oneself is not arrogance, conceit or egocentricism. He said that loving oneself means caring about oneself, taking responsibility for oneself, respecting oneself, and knowing oneself (being realistic and honest about one's strengths and weaknesses). In order to be able to truly love another person, Fromm believed one needs first to love oneself in this way.

Fromm termed the general idea of love in contemporary Western society: égoïsme à deux â a relationship in which each person is entirely focused on the other, to the detriment of other people around them. Currently the belief is that a couple should be a well-assorted team, sexually and functionally, working towards a common aim. Contrast this with Fromm's description of true love and intimacy, which involves a willful commitment directed toward a single unique individual. He said that one cannot truly love another person if one does not love all of mankind including oneself.

The Art of Loving includes explorations of the theories of brotherly love, motherly and fatherly love, erotic love, self-love, and the love of God and an examination of love's disintegration in our era's Western culture.

In order to fully grasp the ideas illustrated in The Art of Loving, one must comprehend the concept of paradoxical thought, or the ability to understand opposing principles at work in one same instance. Fromm explains paradoxical thought in the chapters dedicated to the love of God and erotic love.

In the last chapter "The Practice of Love" Fromm says: "... many readers of this book, expect to be given prescriptions of 'how to do it to yourself' [...]. I am afraid that anyone who approaches this last chapter in this spirit will be gravely disappointed".

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

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Now, that sounds a little bit like love, hmm?

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More great Erich Fromm stuff on Amazon

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      selfdefenseclique 8 years ago

      I liked the content of your lens and the points which you have mentioned about the perfect art and artist are also perfect. Good going.

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      ShawnMichel 9 years ago

      I've added this to my favorites. In my opinion, Dr. Fromm was one of the great geniuses of the 20th century.