Beyond hookup culture: Faculty debates value of love versus lust

On Thursday night, Dodd living room was packed with curious students, eager to hear what Professor of Mathematics Colin Adams and Professor of Philosophy Joe Cruz ’91 would have to say on a controversial dilemma particularly critical to life at the College: love versus lust. Adams defended love while Cruz advocated lust. While some might think that the crowds gathered only for the prospect of Spice Root, funded by Dodd and Wood Neighborhoods and the Gaudino Fund, I remain convinced that they came seeking the promise of an answer to an age-old question.

Adams began the evening with a defense of love, beginning by attacking the philosopher’s vocation. “I always wanted to be a philosopher,” he said. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but you just get to sit in your office … to think about questions like ‘Why are we here? Are we here? What does here mean?’” Adams said. “And the best part is, there’s no right answer!” He continued on to indicate that mathematics has “no room for untrue statements” in the hopes of buttressing his argument before it began.

Adams’ position focused around the idea that while love and lust both do and should exist, love is far superior to lust, which “lacks maturity.” He used three examples to indicate this value disparity. First, he argued, if you saw that a “potential sexual partner” was stuck by his shoelace on one side of a forked train track with a train hurtling towards him, and that your six-year-old child that you love was on the other fork, you would clearly save the child. How did Adams know which decision the audience would make? “I’ve been in this situation! And I never regretted the choice I made,” he said.

He next put forth the idea of a genie on a beach offering you one of two options: You could either spend the rest of your life with your soulmate, or you could have a string of “non-gender specific hotties” paraded through your life, thereby satisfying your lust. The first option, he claimed, was clearly preferable to the other.

Finally, Adams argued, love is forgiving while lust is not. As one grows older and one’s not-so-attractive habits, quirks and bodily functions (a number of which Adams listed in order to clarify for the audience) become apparent, unforgiving lust will not be enough to sustain any type of relationship. He then closed with a picture of geriatric bliss: “At some point you prefer to be sitting wrapped in a blanket with a warm cup of tea – with all your clothes on.”

Cruz took the floor next to the crowd’s delight. After opening with an excerpt from Shakespeare (Cruz was kind enough to clarify, for Adams’ sake, that he was “a writer”) celebrating lust, Cruz launched into his argument against love. While Adams had argued that lust was immature and fleeting, Cruz claimed that “love is a fragment, love is a vapor, love has no distinct target. Love eludes us.
“We love our puppies, we love our jobs, we love our equations,” he said, the last phrase rendered in a near-perfect imitation of the stereotypical math geek voice. According to Cruz, love is subject to “disunity. [Lust] is clearly a metaphysical unity. It’s clearly there when it’s there.”

Cruz went on to claim that lust is a more real, truly felt emotion than is love. “Lust is a reality, love is a fiction. Lust is what we are when we acknowledge when we have bodies … when we are in this world, not the world of abstraction,” Cruz said, an entertaining comment especially for anyone who has ever taken a philosophy class and been led to question the existence of the material world itself. For the final words of his opening statement, he offered a sentiment that most college students can relate to: “Lust is what we have when we are ourselves.”

After a moment of confusion and contemplation, Adams resumed the stage. In order to convey to the audience that both love and lust are real emotions, he had the audience turn to the person on one side and tell them, “I love you,” and then to someone else and say, “I lust after you.” “It’s a completely different experience!” Adams exclaimed.

“To really conduct that experiment, you’d have to try a DFMO [dance floor make-out] or something,” Cruz protested. He went on to state that while lust may be immature, it isn’t subject to reason and isn’t something we need to relinquish. In reference to Adams’ genie example, he said, “I know what I’d choose. I accept the challenge. I accept it, and so should you.”

The professors’ closing statements summed up their positions succinctly. “In lust, we hope, we move, we get beyond the fantasy of abstraction and we gain some traction with one another,” Cruz said. “We are there, here now, with the hair … In lust, we are. It can’t be any other way.” In response, Adams addressed the audience directly, urging that to love is to be human. “You should make that choice for the rest of your life!” he said.

While the moderator attempted get a vote by inciting the crowd to cheer for their favored contestant, no official ruling was laid down. Though both made a valiant and comical effort, neither side has convinced me that one should necessarily outweigh the other. Besides, Goodrich on a Friday night might be all the evidence we need. It could after all support either professor’s position.