What is love's real aim? Why is it so ruthlessly selective in its choice of loved ones? Why do we love at all?
In addressing these questions, Simon May develops a radically new understanding of love as the emotion we feel towards whomever or whatever we experience as grounding our life-as offering us a possibility of home in a world that we supremely value. He sees love as motivated by a promise of "ontological rootedness," rather than, as two thousand years of tradition variously asserts, by beauty or goodness, by a search for wholeness, by virtue, by sexual or reproductive desire, by compassion or
altruism or empathy, or, in one of today's dominant views, by no qualities at all of the loved one.
After arguing that such founding Western myths as the Odyssey and Abraham's call by God to Canaan in the Bible powerfully exemplify his new conception of love, May goes on to re-examine the relation of love to beauty, sex, and goodness in the light of this conception, offering among other things a novel theory of beauty-and suggesting, against Plato, that we can love others for their ugliness (while also seeing them as beautiful).
Finally, he proposes that, in the Western world, romantic love is gradually giving way to parental love as the most valued form of love: namely, the love without which one's life is not deemed complete or truly flourishing. May explains why childhood has become sacred and excellence in parenting a paramount ideal-as well as a litmus test of society's moral health. In doing so, he argues that the child is the first genuinely "modern" supreme object of love: the first to fully reflect what
Nietzsche called "the death of God."