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The Table Video

Nicholas Wolterstorff

Love As Care: A Brief Definition of Love

Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, Yale University
June 5, 2017

Nicholas Wolterstorff identifies two dimensions of love as care: the enhancement of another’s life, and due respect given to that other.


How do you define love?

So if we think of love as care, not attraction, not attachment, and not friendship, but caring about. Then I think of such caring about is aimed at Shalom, and as having two fundamental dimensions.

To care about your neighbor is to seek to enhance how your neighbor’s life is going. That they will flourish in their life. But also, I’ve come to think that it includes the dimension of seeing to it that one honors the neighbor, that one pays the neighbor respect, due respect for the neighbor’s worth. So both that their life goods be enhanced, but also that they not be demeaned, not treated with disrespect.

And let’s face it, it’s possible in paternalistic situations for example, for the paternalist, the parent to the children or whatever, for the paternalist to say, and say sincerely, that they’re advancing, they’re really doing it for the other person’s good, but they’re just demeaning the person, they’re just paying no attention to their worth, but okay, they’re in some sense living better.

That’s not caring about, that’s not what Jesus had in mind by love, that’s not seeking the Shalom of the neighbor. The Shalom includes being treated with appropriate dignity. Appropriate respect.