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Phoenix Philosophy Meetup Group Message Board Socrates Cafe Philosophy Discussion in Tempe Discussion Forum › Socrates Cafe Summary: Are You Nobody Unless Somebody Loves You?

Socrates Cafe Summary: Are You Nobody Unless Somebody Loves You?

David W.
Tempe, AZ
Fellow Philosophers -

My thanks to everyone who participated in Wednesday evening's meeting and gathered afterwards at Doc & Eddy's for continued debate and delight. Below is a summary of the discussion. It's not a precise narrative but rather an organized description from my notes and impressions.

1. QUESTION: At the start of the meeting, each participant offered an initial answer to the question: "Are You Nobody Unless Somebody Loves You?" Of the twenty in attendance, ten said yes, eight said no, one said you're less of a person if no one loves you, and one turned the question around to say that you're nobody unless you love somebody. Those who answered yes gave such reasons as: a) You can't flourish without friends. b) The somebody who loves you can be yourself or a pet. c) Life without love is meaningless. Those who answered no gave such such reasons as: d) Self-worth shouldn't be determined by others. e) Love is nice but not essential. f) Everybody is somebody.

Two participants felt the question was not philosophical, with one labeling it "banal, shallow, and absurd". Since debate isn't allowed during initial answering, their judgments were addressed later in the discussion.

2. DEFINITIONS: Participants first brainstormed each definition before critiquing to insure that all possible definitions were at least silently considered.

The following definitions were suggested for Somebody: a) Person with self-worth. b) Person of influence or importance. c) Human being. d) Sentient/conscious being. e) Person who's love you want. f) Anybody. After debating what qualities would make anyone someone, it was agreed to simply define somebody as "a person".

The following definitions were suggested for Nobody: g) Unvalued. h) Incomplete. i) Without self-worth. j) Without influence. k) Undistinguished. After debating which of these qualities best defined nobody, it was agreed that since somebody was defined as a person, nobody would be defined as less of a person.

The following definitions were suggested for Love: h) Connection. i) Positive emotion. j) Positive action. k) Life. l) Approval. m) Other-interest as opposed to self-interest.. n) Psycho-sexual attraction and attachment. o) Caring. p) One of the Greek words for love http://en.wikipedia.o...­ : Eros (romance), Philia (friendship), Storge (family), or Agape (humanity). q) Emotion that encourages flourishing.

Since the meaning of love was crucial to the discussion, the moderator asked the group to consider defining love according to Aristotle's four causes http://en.wikipedia.o...­ : material (what), formal (how), efficient (who), and final (why). Under this method, a pen could be defined as a thin, plastic, cylindrical object fabricated in a factory for the purpose of writing. After considerable debate and significant direction by the moderator, each cause was defined as follows: r) Material (what): Oxytocin hormone http://en.wikipedia.o...­ , which stimulates uterine contractions during labor, breast milk ejection during nursing, and feelings of sexual arousal, bonding, trust, and nurturing for the remainder of our lives. s) Formal (how): Oxytocin release is triggered through nurturing actions in the form of cuddling, kissing, consummating, co-passioning, communing, complimenting, considering, caring, contemplating, caretaking, committing, and comprehending. t) Efficient (who): Nurturing actions can be done by anyone. u) Final (why): Nurturing is done for the purpose of procreation, sharing, completing, self-gratification, serving, understanding, gaining power, developing virtues.

The mature participant who during initial answering labeled the question "banal, shallow, and absurd" now strongly objected to this emotional definition of love and offered as evidence that he felt no nurturing feelings while performing some of the difficult but loving acts in taking care of his ailing mother. In response to why he took care of his mother if he didn't feel like it, he answered that it was the virtuous thing to do. In response to how he would feel if he stopped caretaking, he answered that he would feel guilty. The moderator then suggested that his example was the exception that proved the rule: he could not feel self-love if he could not nurture others when he didn't feel like it.

Given the above definitions, the question "Are you nobody unless somebody loves you?" was understood to mean: Are you less of a person if nurturing feelings aren't directed toward you in the form of cuddling, kissing, consummating, co-passioning, communing, complimenting, considering, caring, contemplating, caretaking, committing, and comprehending?

3. ASSUMPTIONS: Participants debated one major assumption: Could the somebody who loves you be yourself? The pro-self-lovers argued that you could not love if you didn't first love yourself. The con-self-lovers argued that you could not love unless you were first loved by another. In philosophy, this is formally know as the causality dilemma, commonly stated as "which came first, the chicken or the egg?" In this instance, the resolution was that everybody was nursed as infants, bathed in the mutual release of oxytocin, instilling deep in their subconscious emotional brains the desire to be nurtured, which meant that self-love was rooted in the memory of being nursed.

4. OBJECTIVES: Though the group did not formally reach this stage of the discussion, it was touched upon by those who argued that the question wasn't philosophical and therefore did not consider the five ethical approaches discussed in every meeting of our Socrates Cafe: Utilitarian, Rights, Fairness/Justice, Common Good, Virtue. For details on the approaches, read "A Framework for Thinking Ethically" at­ In hindsight, the ethical dimensions can easily be seen: nurturing feelings lead to actions that promote the most good and least harm (Utilitarian), protection of entitlements like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (Rights), equitable treatment (Fairness/Justice), flourishing societies (Common Good), and admirable living (Virtue).

5. OPTIONS: The options for answering "Are you nobody unless somebody loves you?" were yes, no, or it depends on how nobody, somebody, and love are defined.

6. COST BENEFIT: Those who answered no argued that it wasn't good, right, fair, or best to be dependent on how others felt about you. One participant argued that if she relied on nurturing by others for self-worth, then during those periods of isolation in her life, she may have surrendered to feelings of worthlessness and chose suicide. She was asked where she got the strength to make it through. After some discussion, she concluded that it was through the reservoir of self-worth created during those times when she was nurtured. Another participant added that it is the hope to be nurtured that sustains us.

7. ANSWER: At the end of the meeting, participants gave their final answers to "Are You Nobody Unless Somebody Loves You?", which was understood to mean "Are you less of a person if nurturing feelings aren't directed toward you in the form of cuddling, kissing, consummating, co-passioning, communing, complimenting, considering, caring, contemplating, caretaking, committing, and comprehending?" A couple participants changed their answers, leaving the final count yes (11) and no (9).

You can post your comments to this discussion on the Message Board under the topic "Socrates Cafe Summary: Are You Nobody Unless Somebody Loves You?" at http://philosophy.mee...­ You can also suggest a question for a future meeting by posting it on the message board under the topic "What Question Should We Discuss?"

The question for the next meeting on Wednesday, February 25th, will be "Does America Need Affirmative Action?" You can read an event description below my signature and RSVP here http://philosophy.mee...­

Hope to see you there.


Does America Need Affirmative Action? - February 25th
An admitted beneficiary, President Obama is a strong supporter of affirmative action. However, when asked in a May 2007 interview with ABC News whether his daughters should be given preferential treatment when they apply to college, he replied "I think that my daughters should probably be treated by any admissions officer as folks who are pretty advantaged." He then went on to justify the continued need for affirmative action because of the strong connection between race and class in America.

At the next Socrates Cafe, we will discuss the question, "Does America Need Affirmative Action?" Can the lack of financial success by minorities still be tied to race bias? Are affirmative action programs effective at increasing success and reducing bias? What makes an affirmative action program ethical? To prepare for the meeting, read the Wikipedia entry on affirmative action in the United States at http://en.wikipedia.o...­

Only 25 people can attend. RSVP now at http://philosophy.mee...­
Steve & B.
Apache Junction, AZ
Post #: 5
David! was honored to be called "mature" for the first time in my life, until i realized you most likely referred to the color of my hair, not the development of my psyche.
correction: i never said the "question" was "absurd"--i said the phrasing was "banal & shallow," intending to imply (many) other better approaches to the issue.
as to the issue of "feeling" or "emotion" as the efficient cause of love or virtue, a quick summary of my objection involves two aspects: 1) a rejection of (pseudo)scientific reductionism, which is scientism, not science (science deals only with measureable matter & energy, but cannot claim or prove this limitation in approach encompasses all reality); 2) the misunderstanding of both love & virtue that attributes all forms of these varied, diverse human impulses to the mere stimulus-response impulses characterizing their lower forms: as love & virtue "mature" (if i may use that term), they both become more complex psychologically, sometimes becoming less a matter of feeling & more a matter of VOLITION.
David W.
Tempe, AZ
Post #: 178
Steve. You do know that I don't believe in free will?
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