Roman Krznaric on overcoming our addiction to love

This week, I’m going to do some posts on love, to consider and carry ourselves through Valentine’s Day. The first post is a short talk by Roman Krznaric.

Roman was our speaker at the London Philosophy Club last week (and an excellent speaker at that). He’s an interesting figure in both the contemporary history of emotions and in the flourishing practical philosophy movement. He was a sociologist at Cambridge, and then left academia in his twenties to work with Theodore Zeldin, author of the classic Intimate History of Humanity. Krznaric worked on Zeldin’s ‘feast of strangers‘ project in Oxford, which aims to initiate conversations among strangers at specially-arranged dinners, to enhance empathy, self-reflection, and more examined lives. We’re actually aiming to start up something similar at the London Philosophy Club next month.

In 2008, Krznaric became a founding member of the School of Life, the philosophy school / shop in London which has been a rallying point for practical philosophers including Mark Vernon, Robert Rowland Smith and Alain De Botton. There are so many ‘practical philosophers’ these days that their work can seem similar to the casual observer, but in fact they’re quite distinct. Mark Vernon, for example, is particularly interested in issues of religion, spirituality and atheism, as one might expect from someone who once trained as a priest. Roman Krznaric is more historically minded – his new book, The Wonderbox, is fashioned as a curiosity cabinet exploring the archeology of our emotional attitudes through objects, artefacts, moments. A sort of Pitt Rivers of the emotions. He tells me his next project may be a traveling ‘museum of empathy’, which will tell the history of empathy through curious objects.

In this talk, Krznaric explores the Greeks’ taxonomy of love into six types. He suggests we foolishly demand today that one person fulfil all six types of love, and that this is to set our expectations hopelessly high.

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