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TEDxParis 2012

Yann Dall'Aglio: Love -- you're doing it wrong

October 12, 2012

In this delightful talk, philosopher Yann Dall’Aglio explores the universal search for tenderness and connection in a world that's ever more focused on the individual. As it turns out, it's easier than you think. A wise and witty reflection on the state of love in the modern age. (Filmed at TEDxParis.)

Yann Dall'Aglio - Philosopher
Yann Dall'Aglio is a philosopher who thinks deeply about modern love. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
What is love?
00:12
It's a hard term to define
00:15
in so far as it has a very wide application.
00:17
I can love jogging.
00:21
I can love a book, a movie.
00:23
I can love escalopes.
00:25
I can love my wife.
00:28
(Laughter)
00:30
But there's a great difference
00:35
between an escalope and my wife, for instance.
00:38
That is, if I value the escalope,
00:43
the escalope, on the other hand,
it doesn't value me back.
00:46
Whereas my wife, she calls me
00:52
the star of her life.
00:56
(Laughter)
00:57
Therefore, only another desiring conscience
01:00
can conceive me as a desirable being.
01:02
I know this, that's why
01:05
love can be defined in a more accurate way
01:07
as the desire of being desired.
01:09
Hence the eternal problem of love:
01:13
how to become and remain desirable?
01:16
The individual used to find
01:22
an answer to this problem
01:26
by submitting his life to community rules.
01:28
You had a specific part to play
01:31
according to your sex, your age,
01:33
your social status,
01:35
and you only had to play your part
01:37
to be valued and loved by the whole community.
01:39
Think about the young woman
who must remain chaste before marriage.
01:43
Think about the youngest son
who must obey the eldest son,
01:47
who in turn must obey the patriarch.
01:51
But a phenomenon
01:57
started in the 13th century,
02:01
mainly in the Renaissance, in the West,
02:05
that caused the biggest identity crisis
02:09
in the history of humankind.
02:12
This phenomenon is modernity.
02:14
We can basically summarize it
through a triple process.
02:17
First, a process of rationalization
of scientific research,
02:20
which has accelerated technical progress.
02:25
Next, a process of political democratization,
02:28
which has fostered individual rights.
02:32
And finally, a process of rationalization
of economic production
02:36
and of trade liberalization.
02:40
These three intertwined processes
02:43
have completely annihilated
02:46
all the traditional bearings of Western societies,
02:48
with radical consequences for the individual.
02:53
Now individuals are free
02:55
to value or disvalue
02:58
any attitude, any choice, any object.
03:01
But as a result, they are themselves confronted
03:05
with this same freedom that others have
03:12
to value or disvalue them.
03:14
In other words, my value was once ensured
03:18
by submitting myself
to the traditional authorities.
03:24
Now it is quoted in the stock exchange.
03:27
On the free market of individual desires,
03:33
I negotiate my value every day.
03:37
Hence the anxiety of contemporary man.
03:41
He is obsessed: "Am I desirable? How desirable?
03:44
How many people are going to love me?"
03:48
And how does he respond to this anxiety?
03:51
Well, by hysterically collecting
symbols of desirability.
03:54
(Laughter)
04:04
I call this act of collecting,
04:07
along with others, seduction capital.
04:09
Indeed, our consumer society
04:12
is largely based on seduction capital.
04:14
It is said about this consumption
that our age is materialistic.
04:20
But it's not true! We only accumulate objects
04:24
in order to communicate with other minds.
04:28
We do it to make them love us, to seduce them.
04:31
Nothing could be less materialistic,
or more sentimental,
04:36
than a teenager buying brand new jeans
04:40
and tearing them at the knees,
04:44
because he wants to please Jennifer.
04:47
(Laughter)
04:49
Consumerism is not materialism.
04:51
It is rather what is swallowed up
04:55
and sacrificed in the name of the god of love,
04:57
or rather in the name of seduction capital.
05:00
In light of this observation on contemporary love,
05:04
how can we think of love in the years to come?
05:09
We can envision two hypotheses:
05:13
The first one consists of betting
05:15
that this process of narcissistic
capitalization will intensify.
05:18
It is hard to say what shape
this intensification will take,
05:23
because it largely depends
05:28
on social and technical innovations,
05:29
which are by definition difficult to predict.
05:32
But we can, for instance,
05:37
imagine a dating website
05:39
which, a bit like those loyalty points programs,
05:43
uses seduction capital points
05:47
that vary according to my age,
my height/weight ratio,
05:50
my degree, my salary,
05:54
or the number of clicks on my profile.
05:56
We can also imagine
06:01
a chemical treatment for breakups
06:05
that weakens the feelings of attachment.
06:08
By the way, there's a program on MTV already
06:12
in which seduction teachers
06:16
treat heartache as a disease.
06:20
These teachers call themselves "pick-up artists."
06:24
"Artist" in French is easy, it means "artiste."
06:28
"Pick-up" is to pick someone up,
06:31
but not just any picking up -- it's picking up chicks.
06:34
So they are artists of picking up chicks.
06:36
(Laughter)
06:40
And they call heartache "one-itis."
06:42
In English, "itis" is a suffix that signifies infection.
06:47
One-itis can be translated as "an infection from one."
06:50
It's a bit disgusting. Indeed, for the pick-up artists,
06:55
falling in love with someone
06:58
is a waste of time,
07:02
it's squandering your seduction capital,
07:04
so it must be eliminated
07:06
like a disease, like an infection.
07:07
We can also envision
07:11
a romantic use of the genome.
07:15
Everyone would carry it around
07:18
and present it like a business card
07:22
to verify if seduction can progress to reproduction.
07:25
(Laughter)
07:30
Of course, this race for seduction,
07:33
like every fierce competition,
07:39
will create huge disparities
in narcissistic satisfaction,
07:41
and therefore a lot of loneliness and frustration too.
07:46
So we can expect that modernity itself,
07:50
which is the origin of seduction capital,
would be called into question.
07:52
I'm thinking particularly of the reaction
07:57
of neo-fascist or religious communes.
08:00
But such a future doesn't have to be.
08:04
Another path to thinking about love may be possible.
08:10
But how?
08:15
How to renounce the hysterical need to be valued?
08:18
Well, by becoming aware
of my uselessness.
08:22
(Laughter)
08:26
Yes,
08:28
I'm useless.
08:29
But rest assured:
08:31
so are you.
08:33
(Laughter)
08:35
(Applause)
08:37
We are all useless.
08:41
This uselessness is easily demonstrated,
08:45
because in order to be valued
08:48
I need another to desire me,
08:51
which shows that I do not have any value of my own.
08:54
I don't have any inherent value.
08:57
We all pretend to have an idol;
09:02
we all pretend to be an idol for
someone else, but actually
09:05
we are all impostors, a bit like a man on the street
09:08
who appears totally cool and indifferent,
09:11
while he has actually anticipated and calculated
09:14
so that all eyes are on him.
09:17
I think that becoming aware
09:21
of this general imposture
09:22
that concerns all of us
09:25
would ease our love relationships.
09:26
It is because I want to be loved
09:28
from head to toe,
09:30
justified in my every choice,
09:32
that the seduction hysteria exists.
09:34
And therefore I want to seem perfect
09:36
so that another can love me.
09:39
I want them to be perfect
09:40
so that I can be reassured of my value.
09:42
It leads to couples
09:44
obsessed with performance
09:46
who will break up, just like that,
09:49
at the slightest underachievement.
09:51
In contrast to this attitude,
09:53
I call upon tenderness -- love as tenderness.
09:58
What is tenderness?
10:00
To be tender is to accept
the loved one's weaknesses.
10:02
It's not about becoming a sad couple of orderlies.
10:05
(Laughter)
10:09
That's pretty bad.
10:10
On the contrary,
10:12
there's plenty of charm and happiness in tenderness.
10:14
I refer specifically to a kind of humor
that is unfortunately underused.
10:17
It is a sort of poetry of deliberate awkwardness.
10:21
I refer to self-mockery.
10:23
For a couple who is no longer sustained, supported
10:26
by the constraints of tradition,
10:29
I believe that self-mockery
10:31
is one of the best means for
the relationship to endure.
10:33
Translator:Naíma Perrella Milani
Reviewer:Elisabeth Buffard

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Yann Dall'Aglio - Philosopher
Yann Dall'Aglio is a philosopher who thinks deeply about modern love.

Why you should listen

Philosopher Yann Dall'Aglio writes about love in the digital age. His two books, A Rolex at 50: Do you have the right to miss your life?and I love you: Is love a has been? explore the challenges and triumphs in the modern era, where individualism and consumerism reign. His work is a declaration of his faith in love, a major feat for a skeptical philosopher.

The original video is available on TED.com
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