A Socratic Dialogue on Love

Mark Selzer and Xabia Wilson

carmen san diego

Setting: Waldo and Carmen Sandiego have stumbled into each other in the Ancient Greek city of Athens. A dialogue soon develops...

Carmen Sandiego: Oh my! This is an ironic situation. Waldo and Carmen Sandiego, the two most elusive people on this planet, have walked into each other by mere chance.

Waldo: Yes, it is a shocking coincidence.

Carmen Sandiego: Coincidence? No! This is by the hand of fate.

Waldo: That is a debate best saved for another day.

Carmen Sandiego: So, Waldo, what brings you to this place? Are you on the run from another attempt to find you?

Waldo: No, Carmen Sandiego, I am searching for something. It is most likely why nobody can find me; because I will go anywhere in order to find it.

Carmen Sandiego: And what do you happen to be searching for, my dear Waldo?

Waldo: I am searching for what many others have sought, yet I do not know if anyone has found it.

Carmen Sandiego: And what may that be?

Waldo: Love.

Carmen Sandiego: That can't be. All of this time, you have just been searching for love?

Waldo: Yes, that is true.

Carmen Sandiego: Well my love, you are in luck today. As you more than likely know, I am an art thief. And I love art so affectionately that I will even steal it. It is clear that love is obtaining whatever makes you happy.

Waldo: I am surely in luck today, Carmen Sandiego. Is your knowledge of love so exact that you do not fear that your love may not actually be love at all?

Carmen Sandiego: Why of course, Waldo. My robberies are often designated as crimes, but they are actually the labors of love. If love did not motivate me, then I would not take such great risks to obtain art to secure my happiness.

Waldo: You are indeed a rare woman, Carmen Sandiego. But why do you hide this knowledge from the rest of the world? Let me travel the world and share your knowledge. If anyone challenges me, I shall tell them to seek you.

Carmen Sandiego: And they shall quickly realize the strength of my argument.

Waldo: Yes, yes. However, I believe I do not fully understand what you mean by obtaining whatever makes you happy.

Carmen Sandiego: What confuses you, Waldo?

Waldo: Let me ask you; are you happy when you hear of a murder?

Carmen Sandiego: Of course not! Murder is a terrible crime.

Waldo: What about torture; do you find happiness in learning of that?

Carmen Sandiego: Not at all! Torture is evil.

Waldo: And what of rape; would you be happy if you were raped?

Carmen Sandiego: Waldo, why are you asking me these bizarre questions? Are you alright?

Waldo: Let us say that someone finds unending happiness in murder, torture, and rape. Clearly, this person does it in the name of love, correct?

Carmen Sandiego: Certainly not! That is not what I meant when I said love is obtaining whatever makes you happy. You have twisted my words and turned them against me. However, let me gather your knowledge of love, so I may properly instruct you. Do you believe that you should do everything that you can to bring happiness to a person that you love, Waldo?

Waldo: Well, I suppose I could say that I love my family, and that I would do anything to make any of them happy.

Carmen Sandiego: Do you agree that the mafia has strong family values, Waldo?

Waldo: Certainly; they would die for each other.

Carmen Sandiego: Imagine that your family is affiliated with the mafia, my dear Waldo. And let us say that your mother begged you to drown your father in a kiddie pool; because it would bring her endless happiness. Would you do it?

Waldo: No, I would never murder my father!

Carmen Sandiego: Now you have contradicted yourself, sweetie. If you would do anything to make one of your family members happy, then why would you not murder your father to bring happiness to your poor mother?

Waldo: Well Carmen Sandiego, do you believe that most people value their lives?

Carmen Sandiego: Yes, of course. If I did not value my life, I could easily take it.

Waldo: And do you not agree that most people enjoy pleasure more than pain?

Carmen Sandiego: That depends what you're into, Waldo... but yes, I agree.

Waldo: Do you find the human condition perfect and stable?

Carmen Sandiego: No, the human condition is improved by good and it is degraded by evil.

Waldo: And would you consider love as something good?

Carmen Sandiego: Why certainly!

Waldo: Therefore, love improves the condition of another person. Earlier, you said that murder is terrible. Do you also consider it evil?

Carmen Sandiego: Yes, that which is terrible implies evil.

Waldo: So, do you not see that by murdering my father to bring happiness to my mother, I would be working with evil and against love?

Carmen Sandiego: I don't understand.

Waldo: Love is part of the greater whole of the good, yes?

Carmen Sandiego: Yes.

Waldo: And murder is part of the greater whole of evil, correct?

Carmen Sandiego: Clearly.

Waldo: Good and evil are opposites. Something that is good cannot be evil; and something that is evil cannot be good.

Carmen Sandiego: That is true.

Waldo: Therefore, murder cannot be good; and love cannot be evil because murder and love reside in opposite spheres. And since murder is evil, murdering my father cannot be love because something that is evil cannot be good at the same time.

Carmen Sandiego: That may justify why you shouldn't murder your father. However, earlier you said that love is improving the condition of another, which confuses me.

Waldo: Come now and get to the point, so I may clarify.

Carmen Sandiego: If you were to win the lottery tomorrow, would you say your condition has improved?

Waldo: Definitely Carmen Sandiego, the winnings could support me until my death.

Carmen Sandiego: Do you agree that if a random someone were to receive money, then his or her condition would be improved?

Waldo: I don't see why not. Even the richest person can live in greater luxury with the help of a larger budget.

Carmen Sandiego: So, let us say that your best friend has gone mad, and he wants to purchase a gun. However, he cannot afford to buy one. Would you lend him money?

Waldo: No way! He might harm someone.

Carmen Sandiego: Yes, but you said that if someone were to receive money, then his condition would be improved. How can you handle this contradiction, my love?

Waldo: Do you consider the love of oneself important, Carmen Sandiego?

Carmen Sandiego: Yes, how could one love another if he or she cannot love oneself?

Waldo: Valuing and protecting one's own life is part of loving oneself, agreed?

Carmen Sandiego: Very true, Waldo. Love of oneself is looking after oneself.

Waldo: Is it possible that my best friend could use the gun on me; despite the fact that I gave

him the money that he purchased it with.

Carmen Sandiego: That is possible.

Waldo: And if love of oneself requires looking after oneself, then would I contradict self-love by enabling my mad best friend to purchase a gun that he could use to shoot me?

Carmen Sandiego: Yes, but would that not imply that the love of oneself supersedes the love of another?

Waldo: No, of course not. Do you believe that harm is part of the great whole of evil?

Carmen Sandiego: Yes, it is.

Waldo: And we agree that evil cannot be good, and that love is good, yes?

Carmen Sandiego: Yes.

Waldo: Therefore, if the love of one object were to harm the love of another object, then it is not love at all since it is evil because it causes harm. In this case, the love of my best friend would harm the love of myself.

Carmen Sandiego: Out of curiosity, Waldo, what have women told you about love?

Waldo: For some reason, women keep telling me that if I loved them, then I would do X, Y, and Z for them. I don't understand it.

Carmen Sandiego: What is there not to understand? Wouldn't you buy a heroin addict syringe needles if you truly loved her?

Waldo: No, but I might if she told me that I would buy her syringe needles if I truly loved her.

Carmen Sandiego: But isn't love giving someone what he or she wants?

Waldo: Answer this question for me first: why do most parents ignore their kids when they ask for random crap everywhere they shop?

Carmen Sandiego: Because their kids usually ask for candy that will ruin their health, or toys that they will forget about in less than a day.

Waldo: Yes, and unfortunately the same concept applies to adults.

Carmen Sandiego: But if parents bought the random crap that their kids asked for, wouldn't that show their love for their kids?

Waldo: Do you believe that the kids ask for the random crap because they want their parents' love, or because they want the random crap?

Carmen Sandiego: They want the random crap.

Waldo: Yes, and unfortunately the same concept applies to adults.

Carmen Sandiego: Of course, kids who ask for random crap are selfish and don't care about their parents' love. And unfortunately, this same concept applies to adults.

Waldo: Finally! A woman that actually realizes this. Maybe I have found love.

Carmen Sandiego: Maybe you have, but what would you say if I said that love is doing what God wants you to?

Waldo: It depends on your concept of God.

Carmen Sandiego: Let us say that God is an unconditionally loving God; and since love – which is part of the greater whole of the good – cannot be evil, then He is always good and never evil.

Waldo: And how could one find out what God wants?

Carmen Sandiego: Sacred texts.

Waldo: If God is always good, and what He wants can be found in sacred texts; then His wants would always be good and never evil, yes?

Carmen Sandiego: Yes, but do you believe that humans may misinterpret the intended meaning of sacred texts?

Waldo: Easily, humans even often misinterpret the intended meaning of books written by other humans.

Carmen Sandiego: However, since God's wants would always be good, then we could double-check God's wants with what is good. If God's wants do not contradict goodness, then our interpretation of the sacred texts would not contradict the assumption that God is always good, correct?

Waldo: True, but in this case whatever God wants is synonymous to what is good; that which is good and that which God wants are one of the same. Do you believe that wisdom is good?

Carmen Sandiego: Yes, because wisdom allows us to separate truth from half-truths and lies.

Waldo: Therefore, wisdom is good because of a tangible purpose that it serves. In this case, something can be proven to be good because of a reason that is independent of what God wants.

Carmen Sandiego: That seems to be the case, Waldo. However, I am growing tired of all these examples that we are listing. Saying that love is obtaining whatever makes you happy is like saying that driving is whatever car you're in. Saying that love is doing anything to make someone happy, is like saying that happiness is doing anything that you love. I'll spare you of further examples, my precious, but give me a definition that explains the universal essence or purpose of love. Everything has an essential characteristic or an intended purpose. The essential characteristic of royalty is royal-birth. The purpose of a shovel is to dig. Provide me with a definition of such nature.

Waldo: Alright, love is that which improves the soul.

Carmen Sandiego: I fail to grasp the meaning of your definition.

Waldo: Medicine improves an ailing body, yes?

Carmen Sandiego: That is correct.

Waldo: Do you agree that diet and exercise improve the health and condition of a body?

Carmen Sandiego: Indeed, that is true.

Waldo: The soul requires maintenance, as does the body; correct?

Carmen Sandiego: I suppose so.

Waldo: Therefore, the soul can be improved by certain means; just as the body can be improved by medicine or exercise. Love is part of the greater whole of virtue, and virtue is that which improves the soul; therefore, an essential characteristic of love is that it improves the soul.

Carmen Sandiego: That definition makes sense, but I have noticed a flaw. The greater whole of virtue also improves the soul, so while that is an essential characteristic of love and the other virtues; it is not a unique characteristic that distinguishes love from the other virtues.

Waldo: Then I suppose that love is that which can improve the soul of both oneself and others. The Platonic virtues of wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice stem from the self. Someone cannot make you wise. Someone cannot make you courageous. Someone cannot grant you moderation. Someone cannot make you just. These virtues are contained within oneself. But of course, someone can love you. Love transcends the self.

Carmen Sandiego: That definition is more satisfying. However, how can you prove the ontological existence of mind-body dualism? And if you are able to prove the ontological existence of mind-body dualism, then how can you prove the ontological existence of other people beyond the self? But before you prove the ontological existence of people beyond the self: how can you prove that the self ontologically exists, and that it is not merely an illusion created by the ego? I also would not mind if you defined the nature of consciousness. Furthermore, how can you validate the inference that claims virtue is that which improves the soul?

Waldo: Give me a moment to think about that...

Aftermath: Unfortunately, we will never find out the conclusion of the dialogue between Waldo and Carmen Sandiego; for Athens was invaded shortly-thereafter by Sparta, starting Peloponnesian War in 431 BC. You could say that the Spartans loved war.