on 16 May 2005
I initially bought this book out curiosity and a desire to read something outside my academic work. However, now as I read the book, what I am getting is a real deep insight into 'the four loves', something that as human we all want, acquire and at certain points in our lives just need. In dividing love into four main areas; Charity, Affection, Eros and Friendship, Lewis shows how all these are interrelated, their beauties, dangers when handled wrongly and in the Christian context ordained/created by Love Himself.
What this book discusses is nothing new, yet the tremendous insight into which CS Lewis gives is invaluable (especially as a young person in a world where, it can be argued that love has lost meaning and reduced to mere physical lust.) Thus in reading this book, what the reader is really getting is something that s/he knows to be truth but never contemplated.
Beautifully written and often comical with his examples (usually literary), CS Lewis, in this book does really offer inspiration and fresh perspectives on love which is truly worthy of the attention of any reader, regardless of age, gender or religious beliefs.
on 7 November 2000
A younger C S Lewis, before his own experience of love and marriage, could not have written 'The 4 Loves'. First published in 1960 this book marries Lewis' highly developed rational faculties and his passion for the revelance of theory to experienced reality. Humbly he digs at the roots of love: what's the difference between loving surfing, Monet's "haystacks", your brother, your best friend, your partner, or God? Lewis identifies archhuman patterns and causality in each of these areas and draws a distinction between loves as gift, love as need and love as appreciation.
His most valuable contribution lies beyond his classification of the hearts mechanics. Firstly, he clearly reveals some of the complexity of love; For instance he asserts, and explores too briefly, that love as gift can be love as need when we need to give. Secondly, the dynamic boundaries of the classification are traced: why deep friendship between man and woman can become "being in love", for instance. This slim volume wipes rather than scratches the surface of these movements and changes. Thirdly, the unmasking of loves pretenders preoccupies Lewis. Their resemblance commands our attention but their shortfallings are our undoing, why love without context, as a god devours its disciples. All this territory is surveyed in Lewis' familiar and convincing style of popular philosophy. Yet here he is more human and at least as clear sighted as in his other work. Although never mentioned explicitly the experience of his marriage to Joy Davidman waltzes and weeps between each line trailing the authority of love and grief understood and at rest. This book is so rich and contemporary; only on occasion, in its choice of subject matter, does it sound like a forty year old work.
My only criticism is its length. A mere 140 pages. This subject would not have been covered in three times this acreage. Its a sip, a taster, and I'm left wanting more. Less of an exhaustion; more of a door ajar with a world yet unwritten on the other side.
Whether or not you're a Christian, or an apologist The 4 Loves has much to offer. It's an ideal antidote to the rash of romanticism, pragmatism and pessimism that seems to be our current cultural climate for this most vital subject. Lewis touches all these areas, and yet rises above to claim higher, overarching truth as to our being.
on 2 December 2012
The Four Loves were originally recorded as broadcasts for the radio, and because of Lewis's frankness on the sexual nature of Eros, some of the supporters of the company did not want to advocate this. Lewis told George Sayer it is very surprising that a nation who peddles such voluminous pornography, and here Lewis speaks of America, that they would object to a Christian discussion on sexuality.
Sexuality makes an essential part of human nature, and God intended it as one of his most blessed, and highly unusual, gifts to two people who are very deeply in love and wish to express this love in a very intimate way. That is why a person must be married for sexual activity to be divinely approved of, for anything else lessens the activity's purpose and makes a mockery of it. Tim Lahaye has found in surveys conducted by him that religious people are generally the most sexually satisfied individuals. Lewis is quite consistent in the portrayal of the sexual nature of men and women and God's purpose for it. The whole institute of marriage, like any other gift of pleasure of God's, shows us God's love for mankind.
Charity, or agape love, stands as the most intense and the deepest kind of love, because it is the love between humanity and God.
Lewis goes on to deal with the other two types of love, friendship and effect, and each of these four types of love are presented with such clarity of thought that after a reader is finished with this book he/she has a much deeper understanding of the loves in general.
Affection, one that is not generally counted as a love, is a necessary requirement for happy living, for if one has no affection then their life will be utterly miserable. Friendship, for Lewis, stands as the most unnatural from a biological standpoint of the four loves, but also one of life's biggest blessings. Lewis valued his friendships all of his life.
It is truly a remarkable book.
[Throughout the years, I have written a number of reviews that have never been published online on Amazon. These writings comprise two types of reviews: unfinished reviews, abandoned during various stages of composition, and completed reviews that for life reasons were never posted. Of the later type, back in September 2001 I wrote a cache of work, a full sixteen reviews of several different C. S. Lewis books which have never been released. I am publishing these reviews now for the first time, over a decade after they were initially written. Mike London 10-3-2012]
*(These reviews covered all seven books of "The Chronicles of Narnia", the three novels of "The Space Trilogy", "The Abolition of Man", "The Four Loves", "A Preface to Paradise Lost", a revised version of my 2000 review of "Till We Have Faces", "Surprised By Joy", and "The Screwtape Letters".)
on 8 January 2013
The Four Loves was not what I expected. Having been brought up on the Chronicles of Narnia I anticipated page after page of "Aha!" moments and warm nostalgic fuzzies. Surprisingly I found myself disagreeing time and again. His misguided notions of women and homosexuality grated on my liberalist views. He sometimes leans towards the anecdotal and sentimental. This is meant as disclaimer, but if you can overlook his sometimes less politically correct views I sincerly encourage you to read this essay. In the beginning some of his points seem mere common sense, not the profound insights we expect from Dr C.S. Lewis. Yet the reader who bears with him will be richly rewarded. C.S. Lewis builds his argument slowly and deftly weaves his tapestry until the full picture is revealed in epilogue. Despite my initial criticism, his simplicity of style is in fact a strength of this piece. His non-fiction is just as accesible as is his childrens fiction- and just as pleasing. Overal a fulfilling read.
on 28 May 2012
The book does have a sort of introduction, but it thrusts the reader straight into Lewis' argument making it more like a first chapter than an outline of what the book is about. He wrestles a little with different types of loves as he defines them. He then goes on to try and break these down in relation to the likings and loves for things which are not human, with a particular focus given to the notion of patriotism.
The bulk of the book, though, is concerned with the 4 particular loves which the title implies. Namely, these are Affection, Friendship, Eros and Charity.
Each of these is quite tightly argued by Lewis, very much in the same style as he wrote The Problem of Pain. They are also slightly surprising. In other writings from Lewis, he had always come across as very conservative, yet this collection has smatterings of some refreshingly liberal thought, particularly when it comes to sexuality.
The essay on friendship is the longest, at around 40 pages, with each of the others around the 30 page mark. It's not easy to summarise each one, so I won't try. But I'd recommend them to you. They are by no means holistic, but they are immensely thought provoking; for that alone, they are well worth the price of the book.
Yet I couldn't help feeling that the last chapter was a bit of a let-down. Through the first three essays, Lewis was keen to emphasise that for all the good that these loves are and do, that there is a risk of them `becoming gods' in our lives, which was leading up the last chapter where all would be subjugated under charity. Yet the chapter seemed to lack coherence and the argument seemed to fall apart.
That said, there is plenty of good, thoughtful writing here and I would recommend it. It's just that I had extremely high expectations and it fell short of it, like a high jumper failing to get over the pole vault bar.
on 23 November 2013
Can be difficult to read as it is written in an academic style but more than worth eny effort you need to make to understand.
If you feel love is like the romcoms this book is a must for you, everyone else, read this it will help you understand relationships, most particulally yours with the Lord as never before.
I have now read this book three times - twice for school courses and once for personal reading. With each reading I find that a deeper understanding of the subject is obtained. This book is a great examination of the human heart, the different types of loves and how they each interact. Lewis examines: Affection, Friendship, Eros, and Charity. In each of the first three categories he shows both good and bad examples of that form of love, or in other words, the love and the perversion of that love.
Lewis states: "Let us make no mistakes. Our Gift-loves are really God-Like, and among our Gift-loves those are most God-Like which are most boundless and unwearied in giving. All the things the poets say about them are true. Their joy, their energy, their patience, their readiness to forgive, their desire for the good of the beloved - all this is a real and all but adorable image of the Divine life." p.9 This is the ultimate in love; this is when our love comes closest to God's Love.
Lewis gives us a great study in love, what love is, what it means to truly love and some of the pitfalls of love gone askew. This book will help you live and love better.
on 12 July 2015
Great book by CS Lewis on the different types of love. Brilliant for anyone seeking to deepend their understanding of various types of attachment and love as categorised by CS Lewis. For anyone new to CS Lewis, like myself, may be helpful to note that the book is written from a Christian perspective, which I personally rather liked despite not ascribing to the faith myself. I personally found that the Christian references were relevent to the content of the book, and really weren't overbearing or overly intrusive to the extent that it became annoying. See my five star recommendation! I would go so far as to say this book should be highly recommended as essential reading for anyone over the age of 16 as a good introductory text to the topic.
on 5 January 2016
It read like a sermon (a very good sermon I should say, and perhaps also I should say that I appreciate a good sermon) but I didn't quite get out of it what I was hoping. Lots of really good insights, but I found myself nodding along rather than having a "eureka" moment. The way in which the potentially sexist comments from this era stand up (to me at least) as being honest, fair and insightful shows the power and understanding of the thinker. A great writer, not his best book.
Lewis discusses the differences between Gift-love and Need-love in the introduction, explaining that although our Need-loves may be demanding and greedy, they are good and necessary because there is little danger that they can be made into idols. They are not near enough to God, by likeness, to be twisted like that. The highest does not exist without the lowest and a plant has roots below as well as sunlight above.
Chapter 2: Likings And Loves For The Sub-Human, is a discussion of Pleasures of Need versus Pleasures of Appreciation. The types of love explored here include patriotism and love of nature. The next chapter: Affection, deals with the humblest love as Lewis calls it. He refers to literary works like The Wind In The Willows, Tristram Shandy, Emma and others to demonstrate the good and the bad manifestations of this kind of love.
Friendship is explored in Chapter 4, again with reference to literature, including inter alia Ralph Waldo Emerson. This section includes an interesting discussion of the word "spiritual" - which is nowadays often used as substitute for "religious". Lewis reminds us that there is spiritual good as well as spiritual evil. The next chapter deals with Eros and he points out its aspects of glory and its playfulness, with reference to books like Anna Karenina and 1984, and certain passages from scripture.
The final chapter is titled Charity and includes an interesting view of a passage from the Confessions by St Augustine. Lewis notes that the Gift-loves are natural images of God whilst the Need-loves are correlatives (not opposites) of the love that God is. When God is admitted to the human heart, He transforms our Gift-love and our Need-love. Conversion is necessary for our natural loves to enter the heavenly life.
The main lesson of the book is the importance of Charity. Without it, all three of the aforementioned types of love may become distorted and even dangerous. That alone is worth the price, but I have not found The Four Loves to be as accessible as his masterpiece Mere Christianity or his comforting book titled The Problem Of Pain.
Sometimes his arguments are hard to follow and his views and examples of certain types of love are coloured by the English culture of the period in which he lived, thus not always universally applicable. The book would also have been a better reference source if an index had been provided. Besides these minor comlaints, The Four Loves is still a great read that provides valuable insight into the human condition.