Positive Space


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Love means creating for another the kind of space in which he can flourish, at the same time as he does this for you.

It is to find one's happiness in being the reason for the happiness of another. It is not that you both find your fulfilment in the same goal, like hitting the open road clasped together on a motorcycle, but [...] that you each find your fulfilment in the other's.

The liberal model of society wants individuals to flourish in their own space, without mutual interference.

The political space in question is thus a neutral one: it is really there to wedge people apart, so that one person's self-realization should not thwart another's. Nobody here - to put the point in a different theoretical idiom - seems to receive themselves back as a subject from the Other, as opposed to attending with due sensitivity to what the other has to say.

This is an admirable ideal, nurtured by what is in many ways a deeply honourable political tradition. The 'negative' freedoms it cherishes have a vital place in any just society.

But the space involved in love is rather more positive. 

It is created by the act of relationship itself, rather than being given from the outset like a spare seat in a waiting room.

To be granted this kind of freedom is to be able to be at one's best without undue fear. It is thus the vital precondition of human flourishing. You are free to realize your nature, but not in the falsely naturalistic sense of simply expressing an impulse because it happens to be yours. That would not rule out torture and murder.

Rather, you realize your nature in a way which allows the other to do so too. 

 And that means that you realize your nature at its best - since if the other's self-sulfilment is the medium through which you flourish yourself, you are not at liberty to be violent, dominative or self-seeking.

[Terry Eagleton]
After Theory, p.169-70

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