Unitive Amory or Fragmentary Polyeros?

In Defense of Monoamory, or Why Open Relationships aren’t for Anyone

Most human thinking is determined not by free investigation of beings, let alone of being, but by the ephemeral vogue.  This is true no less in philosophy than in more popular culture; only, within the ivoried walls of the academy, sophisticated language routinely obscures sophistical thought.  I am thinking here specifically of the contemporary advocation against traditional moral norms concerning love and romantic relationships—most famously of all, perhaps, by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone Beauvoir, but most famously in recent years, by Carrie Jenkins in her popular 2017 book, What Love Is: And What It Could Be.

That is: traditional, one-partner, lifelong, monogamous romantic relationships are being pilloried in the academic square as repressive norms; norms that evacuate the sexual and emotional lives of individuals of their possible richness by maintaining as the ideal, per Jenkins, of “one-true-love-forever.”  In the spirit of non-judgmental openness, these academic enforcers do not want to judge negatively any individual for the commitment to monogamous living, so long as that individual freely enters monogamy, as a choice not determined by a desire for conformity to the social norm.  But, simultaneously, these “edgy” academics wish to celebrate those who reject that norm and choose otherwise.  Sartre and Beauvoir are doubtless dancing in their shared grave—though, presumably, without any potential partners but one another.

This trend of being pro-polyamory may last a decade, a century, or may even persist beyond this—we may go down an even darker road where we spend countless years hearing that “everyone belongs to everyone” while chants of “orgy porgy” echo around us, or we may find increasing numbers of people withdrawing into asexual or anamorous lives.  But advocation for polyamory is hardly the courageous insight into human reality beyond social convention at which it pretends; rather, only an old sophistical hedonist thought wearing new sophisticated language of self-actualization.

The Latest Fashion

Among the most recent voices to propagandize polyamory we find Zach Biondi’s article on The Vim titled “Open Relationships are for Everybody”.  Rather than stating that everyone needs to be actively polyamorous, Biondi claims that we should be essentially non-monogamous (or, were the terms to have a proper equivalence—monogamy meaning specifically “single-marriage”—we should say “non-monoamorous”).  In other words, monoamory, Biondi claims, is a deficient norm or set of norms (namely, sexual, emotional, and matrimonial exclusivity which is of the highest importance in our lives and which is or ought to be jealously protected), norms foisted upon us that “weren’t the result of a thorough reflection on the ingredients for romantic flourishing.  Rather, they are handed to us and ingrained at every turn.”  (This echoes a sentiment—perhaps the one line with which I wholeheartedly agree—at the end of Jenkin’s book, that “Romantic love cannot continue to be something we just stumble into and accept.”)  Subsequently, the rejection of monoamorous living is characterized as a brave questioning of fundamental issues of identity—the norm being so deeply ingrained—which would allow us discovery of alternatives that unveil new depths of “romantic flourishing”.

The heart of Biondi’s critique—informed at least in part, I would guess, based on their similarities, by Jenkins’ book—is that monoamory presents an unrealistic set of ideals which are out of keeping with what we as human individuals are: ideals, namely, of the aforementioned exclusivities and their jealous protection, and “what we are” being agents biologically disposed to have never more than a finite attraction towards other individuals.  This idealization is then cast into a dichotomy (presumably exhaustive of our options) concerning what we prioritize in our relationships: either “1) a particular relationship style or 2) the needs of another person”, monoamory corresponding to the former and non-monoamory to the latter.

I wholeheartedly agree with Biondi’s critique of the a priori monoamorous idealization of a romantic culture, where romantic exclusivity is the provenance of mutual emotional and sexual attraction to a type or a framework.  I disagree, however, that a prioritization of the needs of another person requires an essentially non-monoamorous perspective.  His claim is that, with the non-monoamorous position, we “start with an assessment of who we are—our needs, shortcomings, and strengths” and that when “we start there, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that monogamy is extremely unlikely to be the way we would want to live.”  To put it more cleanly: Biondi asserts that honest self-assessment by any individual would reveal to the individual that he or she would almost certainly find monoamory unsatisfying.[1]

Concerning Romance and Relations

The strongest influences on our behavior are most frequently the ones that escape our notice—the stronger the influence had, most often, the more obscured the cause.  Within our love lives, Biondi ascribes this status to the romantic ideal: an ideal which has permeated our cultural so thoroughly that we no longer distinguish it from the warp and weft of everyday living.  We accept not only monoamory but even monogamy as the norm and those who manage to live without it as anomalous.  In this, he is echoing Jenkins, who identifies monoamorous normativity—along with amatonormativity, the idea that love-relations are a normal part of human fulfillment and those lacking such relations experience a profound deficiency in life—as a social construct born primarily of patriarchal paternity control.  But this criticism of the romantic ideal is itself colored by an unperceived lens, one which obscures the essence of the love we call romantic and thereby highlights only the faulty, contemporary concept.

The term “romance” evokes a congeries of emotional imagery: the impassioned kiss, the tender embrace, mutual afterglow of sex, mutual dependency, yearning for the other in his or her absence; being caught in a maelstrom of feelings and emotions[2] which drag one beyond the boundaries of good pragmatic sense, to drop all else in the pursuit of one’s beloved, to be unable to continue living after the perishing of the other, and so on.  Jenkins frames romantic love in terms of a “dual nature”: on the one hand, there is the “ancient biological machinery”, expressed primarily in terms of neurochemical stimulations—testosterone, dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin—and on the other hand, a “modern social role”.  Romantic love, she asserts, is this ancient biological machinery embodying the modern social role—a social role which changes from time to time and place to place.  Were we to give a definition for the contemporary concept of romance that embraces both of these “two natures”, the biological and the social, “surrender to consumptive unitive passion”—a surrender and passion both driven by the biology in question, and the picture of it as consumptive and unitive provided by society—would likely be the most apt, terse formulation we could give.

But that this ideal—a surrender to consumptive unitive passion—exhausts what belongs to exclusive relationships: that, and not monoamorous normativity, is the distortive lens which has misled us all; a lens fashioned not from the commitment to the union of two persons, but from a fundamental subjectivistic and individualistic belief about the human good to which we have all been inured, far more deeply than we have to any notions about the romantic ideal.

In other words, we have long accepted uncritically that intimate or romantic relationships are about fulfillment of the individual in his or her wants and needs as pertains to a partnering, and that in their very best instances, a mutual fulfillment occurs.  Jenkins’ entire book stands on the premise that she, and others like her, cannot be satisfied by a single romantic relationship; that her experience has led her to belief monoamory a norm unsuitable for herself and thus unsuitable as a universal, and therefore unsuitable as a norm.  But this belief—that romantic relationships exist for the sake of the fulfillment of the persons related in their respective individuality—disposes us incorrectly towards the nature of such a relationship, and, indeed, towards relationships themselves.

That is: we tend not to think of relations as things themselves, but only as incidental occurrences to the things related, such that the whole meaning of any relation is absorbed into its effects on the related.  Behind—or rather, within—this relational-reductionism is an atomistic cosmology, wherein anything composed from multitudes is the totality of the composed and not itself something possessing a different intelligible essence… or, as I have written elsewhere, this relational-reductionism also goes by the name of “nominalism”, an ideology almost universally imbibed today from ages too young to remember, which shapes all subsequent beliefs.  Whether one acknowledges the reality of relations, both those that are cognition-independent (founded on mutual effects of the things related) and those that are cognition-dependent (founded only in some mind), alters the entirety of one’s worldview.[3]

To clarify—and I am afraid this is going to get a bit technical, so bear with me—I use the term “relation” to signify primarily the relative being itself,[4] or the “thing” of the relation apart from the things related, and secondarily the totality of a relation’s unifying consequence, or the relation as well as those things it relates.  All relative beings, considered in themselves (as abstracted from the individuals which they relate) are seen to be general: that is, the same relation can obtain with different individuals.  As the extremely trite truism has it (though the legitimacy of the fundaments of a love-relation are disputable), “love is love”.  The love of lover and beloved may differ as to its particular instantiations—and what many call “love” may in fact be something more like lust or infatuation, some combination of the two, or the product of stunted emotional and mental maturation—but the relation of love is always the same, because it in itself is a relation and therefore a general kind.

This generality of relations is also evident in that the kind of relation can change without the relation itself changing.  That is, relations are essentially of three different kinds: first, there are those cognition-independent relations, where each relate is affected by the other.  For instance, the biological relation between a father and a child does not require anyone to recognize it in order to really exist: even if a child’s paternity is uncertain, there is a definite and indisputable relation between the two.  Second, there are cognition-dependent relations, where the relation depends entirely upon the activity of some mind, and neither relate is actually affected—such as a purely logical relation, when I assert that “Dogs are mammals”, I relate the species dog to the genus mammal, but this entails no actual change between the two things related.  Third and finally, there are mixed relations, where only one relate—a cognitive agent—is affected.  All perceptions are of this kind: as, perceiving the stone, it changes me but I in no way meaningfully change the stone.

Now, one and the same relation, beginning as cognition-independent, can become cognition-dependent while retaining its relation-specific identity.  For instance, a man and woman may be in a cognition-independent relation of mutual attraction (a relation which depends upon cognition for coming-into-existence, insofar as each must cognize the other, but that attraction itself exists in each member; unlike when I say, “that thing to my right”, “rightness” does not exist in the thing) and on their way to meet one another for a romantic rendezvous.  If the man falls into an open manhole cover and dies instantly on the way down, the woman holds the relation in continued existence, still affected by the object—her beloved—but the relation no longer has a cognition-independently-existing terminal object, for the man (as a living bodily entity) no longer exists.  Thus the relation-specific identity of female lover to male beloved remains the same, but the kind (cognition-independent) has changed (now cognition-dependent).  When the woman learns of her beloved’s death, she may still love him—but the “him” she loves becomes at the very moment he dies a pure object, nonexistent in and of itself and existing only through her continued thinking.

Moreover, the generality of a relation makes it potentially something governing.  There is a strange notion arisen from naïve empiricism which asserts that something general cannot be an efficacious force; that all action is the provenance of particular substances.  Were that true, no one could ever have been moved by an idea—for while an idea may be singular in its existence, it is necessarily general: an idea inherently applies to an indefinite number of particulars.  Every relation (whether an idea or not), makes two things to be in some way that they would not without the actuality of the relation, regardless of whatever two particulars may be thus governed.  Because no finite substance can ever exist apart from relations—that is, relation is equiprimordial with substance—it is wrong to think of relations as somehow altogether consequent to substances.  True: a relation requires a substance for its grounding.  But equally true is that insofar as a substance exists in actuality, it has relations,[5] and some of those relations are determining of not only the sustained existence of that substance, but also its manner of existence.  In other words, some of those relations govern how the substance exists.

Social constructionists will be tempted—given their inherent nominalism—to dismiss this governance as a fiction of the mind, just as they do all or at least most relations.  But never and nowhere will there be found in the universe a predictable event without some regularity—whether it be a habit or a law—and thus a generality having already disposed the actors involved in the event to act a certain albeit general way.

In order for a relation to in fact be governing, however, it must be a triadic relation.  That is, relations may be monadic, but only as potential;[6] any accomplished, existing relation is necessarily dyadic or triadic, involving two or three terms.  A dyadic relation occurs when a fundament, or what grounds the relation initially, simply acts upon a terminus, or what receives the relation and is altered by it.  A triadic relation occurs when a fundament, or object, acts upon a sign-vehicle which in turn acts upon the terminus, or interpretant[7] by determining the bearing of that interpretant—somehow—back towards the originating fundament (making it an “object” properly speaking).  In other words, a triadic relation begins from one thing, proceeds through a second, and results in the third being altered in its bearing towards the first.  All growth in the universe towards regularity requires triadic relations.  All cognitive (and consequently, cathectic) relations, the relations most prominent in our lives, are inescapably triadic.  Every relation of four, five, or more terms, can be reduced to triads (consider the way that there is no enclosed shape of straight sides more fundamental than a triangle, and every shape of more than three straight sides can be inscribed by triangles, i.e., reduced to triangles), whether by a concatenation of triadic relations or by a multitude of terms being united as a single object, interpretant, or vehicle—united through the singular determination relationally-rendered.

Everything we know is known through a triadic relation.  Sensation occurs through dyadic relations; but perception, at which awareness of things sensed begins, includes not only the reception of sensory data but its collation into an actionable presentation and therefore requires a percept (that collated presentation) which operates as a sign-vehicle for the perceiving mind.  Intellectual understanding, which above and beyond the actionable representation of the percept (a self-referential meaning) includes some intelligibility concerning the being of the object itself (a “self-transcending”[8] meaning), and therefore requires a concept which operates as a sign-vehicle for the intellecting mind.

Almost invariably, even a basic and low-interaction relation between one person and another involves a multitude of percepts, concepts, and the mediation of consequent qualia attending those sign-vehicles—respectively, feelings and emotions—which together belong to a cycle of habit-formation, especially in a relationship.  In other words, the mereological constitution of a single interpersonal relationship is complex, multidimensional, and plastic, with the sign-vehicle often consisting primarily in a percept or concept but secondarily in cathectic addenda to that cognitive medium; as one not only thinks of “that jerk, Steven”, but “that jerk whom I hate, Steven, the intolerable.”  We not only think of “that woman sitting to my left”, but “that woman sitting to my left with the attractive figure who is reading one of my favorite books but not making a show of it and whom I would therefore like to know better.”  Often, the “relation” we speak of is in fact a multitude of hierarchically-nested relations, including things related by iconic, indexical, and symbolic signs.

Despite this complexity of the relational architecture, the determinations rendered upon interpretants through sign-relations are mutually-exclusive.  One interpretant—indeed, no terminus or fundament of any relation—cannot be determined by two relations at the same time and in the same regard.  If two would-be relations are attempting determination of one and the same interpretant at the same time and in the same regard, either the interpretant—being a cognitive and therefore elective agent—decides for one over the other, or determination is deferred, perhaps indefinitely.  If I both hate and love someone, this is only because of a complex of relations ordered to different traits or behaviors of the other, founded in different traits or behaviors of my own.  If I love two people, can the love for both of them really be romantic?

Concerning Relationships of Love

A relationship—as I use the term in contrast to “relation”—is a pattern of being involving a relation and two correlates which obtains habitually or continually.  I have a relation with the store clerk I see once; a relationship with the waitress I see weekly, and a much stronger relationship with the woman I see, talk to, touch, “be-with”, every day.

All too often, our conception of “love”, specifically of romantic love, is reduced to a part of the relationship it ought to be, a part nevertheless taken to constitute the whole, or at the least for that part to be taken in an outsized proportion.  Typically, this reduction is to the fundament of the active relation, i.e., love as what exists in the one who loves, the feelings, emotions, thoughts, and choices whereby we mediate that relation—and within that, especially to the feelings and emotions which arise in response to our perceptions and thoughts of the beloved.  This fallacy pars pro toto displaces the essence of “love”, shifting it to the subjective basis within the individual(s) instead of the relation (including its accomplishment between the two individuals); and this displaced essence opens the door to further error, for the myopic focus on the individual re-casts the success of love as being the successful subjective fulfillment of the individual—that is, the satisfaction especially of feelings and emotions.

Once this desired satisfaction is accepted as the normative functioning of love, particularly absent the restraints of child-rearing and orthodox Christian sentiment, a spiraling effect occurs in terms of the societal norms: from lifelong monogamy, to serial monoamory, to “open” relationships, to outright polyamory.[9]  Why is this?  Simply put, one person is unlikely to fulfill for most people the plurality of desired satisfactions—be they sensual, emotional, or something incidental (e.g., finances or temporal, geographical conveniences).  In consequence, “romantic love” becomes solidified as the surrender to consumptive unifying passion; but the term with which one is united is incidental, so long as the passion is satisfied.

On the contrary to this current, conventional view of “romance”—dependent upon this notion of it as grounded in subjective satisfaction—I propose we understand it thus: where the unitive love which characterizes a “romance” (re-appropriating the term) is not the feelings or emotions residing in one or even both individuals.  Rather, it is essentially the mutual relationship between lover and beloved, a recurrent pattern of sign-relations which comprises, in its perfect accomplishment, as its sign-vehicle not only the feelings and emotions, but also thoughts and choices of each as an interpretant concerning the other as an object with whom each seeks unity.  Deficient love-relations falter in one or another of these categories: with feelings, emotions, thoughts, choices, or even in the unreciprocated relation.

An important and I think often missed point, given the tendency to think in terms exclusively of substance, is that the relationship itself must be the goal or the end for the sake of which one seeks romantic love with another.  The relations between lover and beloved are irreducible to their effects on either; not that these effects are unimportant, but that the nature of the relationship comprises those effects among something more.  When we enter such a relationship, we enter into something new, something more than a mere extension of one’s individual self: the relationship emerges as a tertium quid irreducible to the singular subjectivity of either person.

In seeking and attaining what is good for the relationship, that relational-good redounds to one’s individual good; the good of the individual is fulfilled—not as the satisfaction of a checklist of desires, but as a qualitative whole superior to the sum of its parts—through the good of the relationship.  This is a paradox (a truth which appears self-contradictory at the outset, but only because of our distorted view), for it may appear that the good of the relationship and the good of the individual are, at least at times, at odds.  Human beings, however, have a twofold subordination of their communal relationships: every common good, a good which circumscribes the multitude, is superior in quality to that which belongs to the individuals and yet that common good is good only insofar as it remains fulfilling for each of the individuals.  The potential conflict of goods, ostensibly between the good of the relationship and the good of the individual, reveals itself in fact as a conflict of goods for the individual: between a lesser good (the good of the individual which is exclusive to the individual) and a higher (the good not only of the individual which is fulfilled through the relationship, but likewise of the other similarly fulfilled).  There is, in consequence, a kind of asymmetry of goods, such that the good of the relationship can never be meaningfully sacrificed for the good of the individual (excepting the case of a bad relationship’s dissolution), but only the converse.  Only the sacrifice of lower for the sake of higher can be just.

Frequently, such sacrifice is misconstrued as being for the other in the relationship rather than for the relationship itself.  This sows the seeds of resentment.  This misconstrual pits the individuals in opposition to one another—precisely what the relationship is supposed, in substance, to eliminate.

This division-eliminating unity is what Aristotle glimpsed when he asserted that the truest friendship is that wherein the other’s good becomes one’s own.[10]  It is true: but it is not as though either one appropriates the good of the other (wherein lie possessiveness and envy).  Rather, the good of the other becomes one’s own because each places his or her good in the relationship: in that generality which governs the orientation of each to the other and of both to the fulfilling end of human life.  The more profoundly the relationship encompasses the lives of each, the more the good of each is bound up within it.  Thus, where the perfect friendship of which Aristotle spoke consists in a unity through taking the other’s good as one’s own, perfect romantic love consists in a unity through living the good of the other as one’s own, in a complete life.  From this total gift of one’s whole life—the entirety of oneself as across the duration of one’s life—to another person, in and through the relationship exclusivity follows as a consequence rather than standing as a prerequisite; not only can one not give of oneself simultaneously to two others, but one cannot even give wholly of oneself in two different times;[11] for we exist not in temporal slices, a “me” of now and past and future.  To be a person is to have a past and a future which are inseparable from what one is.

Sophistry’s Veil Hiding the Total Gift

Superficially viewed, from the standpoint of subjective fulfillment, this total gift of self seems like a limit on one’s experience of goods.  Indeed, it is; but it is through such a limitation that a greater good is made available.  Through the fragmentary plurality of disparate relations in polyamorous bearing, one may attain satisfaction of a greater number of individualized, subjectivized desires, but only at the cost of an incomparably superior qualitative good, a good obtained only through the sacrifice of exclusivity.

Both Jenkins and Biondi claim that a pursuit of this plurality of goods, as opposed to the self-limiting pursuit of a monoamorous relationship, is fitting for the kind of beings that we are—for some of us, in Jenkins’ case, and for the majority of us, in Biondi’s.  Biologically speaking, after all, the neurochemical responses to one’s partner are likely to fade over time, especially in women.  Further, we may have those same biological responses synchronously to a plurality of potential partners; why deny ourselves?

Apart from the good of a truly unitive relationship such “polyamorous” relationality precludes, this claim obscures a slick sophistry quite common to social constructionists: namely, that while they everywhere deny the existence of a human nature, they nevertheless appeal to some form of nature—and a dubious one, at that—for grounding their claims.  For instance, Jenkins writes: “armed only with an understanding of love as a social construct, we would lack valuable insights into the kinds of changes that might actually work and represent a bitter fit, given the kinds of creatures we are.”  Biondi echoes this in his already-mentioned assertion that reflection on who we are would show us it is unlikely we would be satisfied by monoamory.  Each appeals to a determination of the self prior to any self-determination in order to justify their claims; what is this, if not an appeal to nature—and specifically, the biological nature of neurochemistry?

Thus it is an appeal to a very weak concept of nature, at that: for our neurochemical dispositions are notoriously malleable.  Certainly, neuroplasticity has been overblown by enterprising and greedy capitalists pitching it as a short-cut to self-control, but only someone who is either profoundly ignorant or deeply invested in obscuring the truth would pretend that the social context of our lives has no effect on the “biological machinery” responsible for our cathexis.  For instance, we all too hear that traditional moral norms, such monoamorous commitment, are the product of social forces and, specifically of monoamory, social forces repressing the natural biological inclinations.  Jenkins goes so far as to claim that “high and rising divorce rates suggest that the one-true-love-forever model is not sustainable as a universal norm”, as though liberation by modern laws, modern attitudes towards reproduction, and modern longevity have unveiled a socially-imposed sham—rather than created one.

It is difficult, therefore, to see Jenkins as doing anything but tipping her hand when she writes that “Social stability—including the maintenance of privilege by the privileged—is best served by mass unawareness of the dep core of the social machinery that structures our lives and our loves.  It is even more effective if we can attribute these deep-core norms to ‘nature’ or ‘biology’ so that we’ll accept them as inevitable.”  Is this not, indeed, what she herself—just as Biondi—is doing when appealing to the biological openness towards polyamory?

In contrast, Karol Wojtyla describes the self-elevating, biology-transcending nature of love as revealed in the “gift of self” wherein the lover “goes outside” oneself to find existence—ek-stasis—in another:[12]

[love’s] true nature is most fully revealed in the gift of self by the person who loves to the beloved person.  What we have called betrothed love has a specific quality of its own, which differentiates it from other forms and manifestations of love.  We realize this just as soon as we understand what is meant by the value of the person.  The value of a person… is inseparable from the essential being of that person.  By its nature, because it is what it is, the person is its own master (sui juris), and cannot be ceded to another or supplanted by another in another in any context where it must exercise its will or make a commitment affecting its freedom.  (It is an alteri incommunicabilis.)  But love forcibly detaches the person, so to speak, from this natural inviolability and inalienability.  It makes the person want to do just that – surrender itself to another, to the one it loves.  The person no longer wishes to be its own exclusive property, but instead to become the property of that other.  This means the renunciation of its autonomy and its inalienability.  Love proceeds by way of this renunciation, guided by the profound conviction that it does not diminish and impoverish, but quite the contrary, enlarges and enriches the existence of the person.  What might be called the law of ekstasis seems to operate here: the lover ‘goes outside’ the self to find a fuller existence in another.  In no other form of love does this law operate so conspicuously as it does in betrothed love.

Can we “go outside” ourselves to more than one person?  Certainly… if what we are seeking is the fulfillment of various erotic desires of the self, if we go out only for the sake of appropriation.  But we can vacate the confines of ourselves—a transcendence which goes beyond seeking the satisfaction of self, which does not “go out” only in order to find something to “bring in”—in a truly ek-static movement only towards a single other.  For it is a metaphysical impossibility that one person surrender him- or herself—that is, make a gift of oneself—to more than one other person; such would require a reservation of a part of oneself; and to reserve a part of the whole is to not give the whole.

Since it is of the very nature of romantic love, as we have here described it, to live with the other in a relationship of mutually-unitive good—holistically, not moment to moment, but in the whole course of one’s life—the very notion of “polyamory” becomes self-contradictory.  It is having your cake, and your neighbor’s cake, and his neighbor’s cake, and eating all of them, too.  One may be polyerotic, but never polyamorous; for a fragmented or incomplete love is no romantic love at all.

[1] “Not”, it is said against the implication that monoamory is put down, “that there’s anything wrong with that!”

[2] A distinction maintained throughout, “feelings” are the quasi-autonomic responses had to a perception: as we feel pain, pleasure, rage, anxiety, attraction, repulsion, hunger etc.  Meanwhile “emotions” are the similarly quasi-autonomic responses had to thoughts, i.e., intellection: as love, hate, angst, sadness, and so on.  Emotions, notably, are attended by feelings as well, but not necessarily vice versa.

[3] To understand better the nature of relation, one ought—indeed, perhaps must—read the work of John Deely, especially 2007: Intentionality and Semiotics, 2009: Purely Objective Reality, and 2010: Semiotic Animal.  Presented here is merely a snapshot, outside the frame of which stands not only my own further considerations (in 2017: Ens Primum Cognitum but also 2019: The Intersection of Semiotics and Phenomenology) but also Deely, John Poinsot (especially 1632: Tractatus de Signis) and Thomas Aquinas (across a variety of works but especially 1266-68: Summa theologiae prima pars, q.28-29).

[4] That is, there are relata, or things related considered as in a relation, and relationes, or the relations themselves; the first are esse in, the second are esse ad according to the Latin Age distinction.

[5] In a sense, the very core of a natural substance is a relation: the pattern which holds together its parts in orientation towards a determinate end.  See Deely 2007: Intentionality and Semiotics, c.13?14?.

[6] An actual monadic relation—such that from the fundament there provenates a relation which has no effect and entails no effect on or change of the fundament itself—could only exist between a fully-actual fundament (i.e., God) and a less-actual terminus.  So, if there is no God, there are no actual monadic relations.  Regardless, there are no such relations in the sublunary world.

[7] The term “interpretant” being a neologism of Charles Sander Peirce’s invention, to signify that the affected end of a sign-relation need not be a mind (an “interpreter”) in order to play a role in the triadic relation (thus plants and possibly even inorganic matter may be involved in semiosic or at least quasi-semiosic relations).  In speaking of human interpretation, the number of triadic relations is ordinarily very complex, and involves not only immediate interpretants (receptors), but also dynamic (reactors) and final (inferential) interpretants, which operate in a recursive fashion, one upon the other, in determining the relation of the whole person towards the object.

[8] Scare-quoted because “self-transcendence” implies an action of transcendence posterior to a condition of immanence, when, in fact, the intellect is always-already-“in” the world.

[9] At the moment, we seem to be in a liminal space between serial monoamory, open relationships, and outright polyamory as societal norms, with some variation geographically (the latter more prevalently accepted in urban regions), but with more rapid changes following the “shrinking” of space and time through digital technologies.

[10] Aristotle c.349bc: Nicomachean Ethics, Book 9 in passim and especially c.4 and 8.

[11] Consider, in those relationships where one person has had a previous beloved who died, that something of that first relationship is carried over even into the second; the first love’s residual effect upon the lover does not disappear but remains; yet in the absence of a recipient of that first love, the gift may be given to another.

[12] 1960: Love and Responsibility, 125-26.

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