What is Love? by Joshua Calhoun
If I say “I love you,” I might mean that, even though I don’t respect you, I desire you and feel I need something from you to be happy. Or I might mean I respect you and like being around you, but I don’t desire you. “Love” is often a euphemism for something else. In the first sense, “love” is code for sexual desire; in the second, it’s code for what we might call “platonic love.”
The fact that we need a qualifier like “platonic” to clarify what is meant by “love” proves the point. Greeks (like Plato) had four words for love, words that more precisely designated what was and what was not meant: Agape (ἀγάπη), Eros (ἔρως), Philia (φιλία), and Storge (στοργή). I like to think of these as Grecian urns, appropriately labeled so that love can be sorted out.
The English language dumps all four containers—Eros, Agape, Storge, Phile—in the middle of the floor in a big pile. Here, we find all the loves piled up together (a blue crayon, a red hat, and a stick from outside). “Love” becomes one big pile containing a range of experiences.