This conversation is closed.

What is Love? Is love uniquely a human trait or are animals capable of loving?

When I say ‘I love you,’ you will understand it to mean I feel tenderness and affection for you; a desire to be with you, with associate feelings of pleasure and joy often leading to tendencies to belong, possess or own to sustain recurrent reception. But that is all selfishness. Love is something completely different; it is simply the act of giving of oneself for the benefit of another. The only contentment that derives from loving another only comes from the satisfaction of bringing about the positive change to the life of the person. The satisfying experience from loving is indirect, a derivation from changes brought about not in ourselves but in others. Therefore, the question ‘Do you love me’? Is both meaningless and moot because you couldn’t be loved and not be aware of it. What about making love? Well from the definition of love above, one can actually give physical and sexual pleasure to another for their benefit – and that will qualify as love - but the vast majority of sexual activities taking place and void of the objective to satiate the psychosexual and physical desires of another could hardly qualify as ‘love-making.’ As far as we know, love is a human feeling, quite unlike other human and animal instincts. When one says I love my dog or cat, one understands that one enjoys giving affectionate care and upkeep for the animal. However, no matter how useful, cute and cuddly an animal could be, even guide and rescue dogs, animals are not capable of ‘love.’ because those acts are not motivated with a compassionate desire to give of themselves to another. What we often misconstrue for love in animals is instinctive, encoded learned/reinforced behavior.

Do you agree?

Closing Statement from musk undernotes

Argos, Paulo and Ying define love as 'symbiotic' and 'instinctive' , and reminds us that humans, regardless of our capacity to 'reason', are fundamentally and primarily instinctive and reactionary. They may be right. My only exception to that position is the presumption that our reason and apparently higher emotional capacity (than other animals) plays no part in our desire for love. Many humans are quite capable of being tender and affectionate without the expectation for benefit or gain. Are animals really capable of that? I doubt. At all events, I want to thank everyone for their contributions, and for keeping the spirit of ideas and TED alive.

  • Mar 24 2014: I believe animals can feel love because from personal experience when you leave your pet they cry and worry, just as we do. Animals long to spend time with their families. I have budgies and the male and female mated and produced offspring, when the chick was separated to a distance, all birds would try to be as close to eachother as possible, and when the mother died, the father was depressed for some time and then died of a broken heart. If animals couldnt feel love than the father would have just continued his life to do anything it wanted but instead he missed the love shown to him and died. In conclusion, animals can feel love as we do.
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    Mar 20 2014: Dear Musk,
    While your conversation asks a question, it appears that you are trying to promote your own "idea", and I agree with Ariel, that it appears you already have your own personal answers.

    Love has many elements, and I believe all animals, including humans, are capable of many different thoughts, feelings, perceptions, perspectives, ideas, opinions and beliefs regarding love.
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    Mar 20 2014: Well, by the way you wrote your introduction, you already have the answers you seek, because the 'other' side of what love is would probably not be acceptable to you.
  • Apr 1 2014: Love is just an outward expression of the survival instinct. People show love to others because it creates harmony and cohesion and that increases security and survival.

    You see that same expression in any group of pack or herd animals such as dogs and apes.
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    Mar 31 2014: .
    Love is symbiosis.
    Otherwise, the species can not survive.
  • Mar 25 2014: For a Spiritual person love is devotion,service to mankind
    For a Religious person love is worship to god, but if two people fall in love then it is a sin and crime.
    For an Economist love is money, love is directly proportional to money.
    For a Philosopher love is Illusion.
    For a Psychologist Love is an emotion.
    For a Scientist Love is Dopamine.
    For a lawyer Love is a contract.
    • Mar 25 2014: Can you do me too please? I'm a Lorry Driver.
      • Mar 25 2014: Please read below Don Anderson's comment.
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      Mar 25 2014: It’s sad that so many people believe love is the same as lust, pleasure, desire and etc.

      Christianity teaches to love thy neighbor, and it lusting thy neighbor’s possessions or spouse that is a sin. AKA: out of controlled LUST is a sin, NOT love!
      • Mar 25 2014: In some Religions falling in love is considered as a sin.
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          Mar 25 2014: And in Roman times science had them washing the sick/deceased in communal bathes, so by your logic all science should be hated.

          Again you clearly think love is the same as lust and sex, and 100% wrong.
      • Mar 26 2014: I am curious to know that how did you concluded that I think Love is lust and sex ? I my comment I have merely written how different type of people perceive love.
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          Mar 26 2014: That was wrong of me; I should have not done that.
          I have seen too much persecution in my life, because of people having a different religion, no-religion, or being atheist. I have been religious, atheist, and now spiritual and believe others should be free to follow the path they choose as long as it does not harm others.

          I’m drawing a blank as to any religion that considers love a sin, there are groups that believe in arrange marriages instead of love marriages but I thought that was a cultural thing and not religious doctrine.
          Grouping all believers in god together is as bad a grouping all scientist or atheist together.
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    Mar 23 2014: Musk, if you have lived in a farm or rural area and have been observant of nature and animals, you may not even ask this question. In the event you were born and raised in a city, go to and search animals showing love or affection, you might be convinced that animals are more than capable of showing friendship, loyalty, sacrifice, and love ...and they are also capable of expressing hatred and violence - the opposites of love and affection.

    Musk, thank you for putting love up for discussion. Although the word is overused, it is not unimportant.
  • Mar 20 2014: Nurture is an essential element of self-replication. Collaboration is a survival strategy. Humans and animals nurture and collaborate. Compassion is neither nurture nor collaboration. With humans it is boring at the top of the food chain. Compassion is a symptom of boredom. I bet chimpanzees can be compassionate, too, especially when they are stuck in a zoo with nothing to do. I bet they are capable of 'sexual-compassion', too.