Two Definitions of Love: The Metaphysical and Physiological

Which One Is Yours?

Alejandro Betancourt
Bottomline Talks
Published in
4 min readFeb 14, 2022


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Love is a complicated concept that has been studied for centuries. Philosophers have tried to define what love is.

You can experience love in two ways.

The first definition of love is the metaphysical definition, which looks at how people are drawn to each other.

The second definition of love is the physiological definition, which looks at how people are drawn to each other’s bodies and reproductive organs.

The metaphysical definition of love is: “…the psychological force producing a desire to enter into and maintain profound, intimate interpersonal relationship with another person unmitigated by concern for the duration of that relationship.”

This type of love has been seen in Greek tragedies such as Romeo and Juliet. This kind of love can be very passionate and romantic, but it does not always last.

Philosophers have come up with many different definitions of love. One way to define it is that love is the emotion of strong affection and personal attachment.

Another way is that it represents all human kindness, compassion, and affection.

Thomas Aquinas defines love as “to will the good of another.”

Another type of metaphysical definition was provided by Robert Sternberg, who describes how there are three types of love: “passionate,” “romantic,” and “compassionate.”

Passionate love is the feeling you get when you fall in love: butterflies in your stomach, sweaty palms, etc.

Romantic love is what you feel when someone can make you laugh or feel good about yourself.

Compassionate love is the feeling you get when you feel empathy for someone else and want to help them.

The latter two types of love are more long-lasting than passionate love, which often ends after weeks or months.

Helen Fisher provided a physiological definition of love in her article “The Drive To Love: The Neural Mechanism for Mate Selection.” This definition focuses on how people are drawn to each other’s bodies and reproductive organs.

According to Fisher, three stages make up the process of creating a connection between two people: lust (desire), attraction (romantic or sexual desire), and attachment (the urge to be near another person).

Lust is driven by hormones such as testosterone and estrogen, released when people fall in love.

Attraction starts with the way people look at each other and can begin as early as one-tenth of a second.

Attachment is the process by which two people create emotional intimacy.

What is the Physiological Definition of Love?

Love is a complex emotion with many different definitions. The physiological meaning of love is the release of certain chemicals in the brain that make us feel good. This includes dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin.

These chemicals are released when people fall in love. They are also released when mothers feel their baby in their womb and when people care for someone in a nursing home.

Here’s how it works:

Oxytocin is the chemical that makes us want to be near another person. When children touch or hug their parents, they get oxytocin squirted into their brains, making them feel good about being close to their mother or father. This is the same thing between two adults who are together romantically or sexually.

Dopamine makes us feel good whenever we do something pleasurable, like eating chocolate cake or kissing our crush.

Serotonin is the chemical that makes you feel good about yourself. When people are in love, their serotonin levels go up. This is why people act so goofy and giddy when they’re in love.

When we feel love, there’s a release of certain chemicals in the brain that make us feel good whenever we do something pleasurable, like eating chocolate cake or kissing our crush.

When you’re with someone you like, your brain releases dopamine every time you kiss them or hug them, making us feel good about ourselves.

The Meaning Behind the Word “Love”

The word love has many meanings and is used in many different ways. It is often used as a noun to refer to a strong, deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and attachment.

Love can also be used as an adjective to describe the feeling of being infatuated with someone or something or as a verb meaning to like very much.

Love can also be categorized into five types: Agape, Eros, Philia, Storge, and Pragma.

Agape is unconditional love for all people and things which can be seen as selfless love.

Eros is passionate sexual love that has the power to transcend one’s physical form and enter into the spiritual realm.

Philia is platonic love between friends, not including physical contact but involving emotional intimacy.

Storge is the love that family members and friends share for one another. Everyone feels Storge's love towards their parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Finally, Pragma is an intellectual form of love that includes affection and respect between people who share common interests or goals. Such as those in a social movement like feminism or environmentalism.

There is no love like the kind of love you share with those closest to you. You can define what love means for yourself. Still, it doesn’t matter how you define it because there’s nothing else quite like that feeling we get when we’re in a loving relationship.

Whether your definition is metaphysical or physiological, I hope this blog post has given you some food for thought. Have fun exploring all its meanings and expressions!

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Alejandro Betancourt
Bottomline Talks

Entrepreneur, Investor, Executive Coach & Author. Single Dad sharing insights on Mindset, Philosophy, and Self-Improvement.