The four loves
Storge – affection
Affection is fondness through familiarity (a brotherly love), especially between family members or people who have otherwise found themselves together by chance. It is described as the most natural, emotive, and widely diffused of loves: natural in that it is present without coercion; emotive because it is the result of fondness due to familiarity; and most widely diffused because it pays the least attention to those characteristics deemed “valuable” or worthy of love and, as a result, is able to transcend most discriminating factors.
Affection, for Lewis, included both Need-love and Gift-love; he considered it responsible for 9/10th of all solid and lasting human happiness. Ironically, however, affection’s strength is also what makes it vulnerable. Affection has the appearance of being “built-in” or “ready made”, says Lewis, and as a result people come to expect it irrespective of their behavior and its natural consequences. Both in its Need and its Gift form, affection then is liable to ‘go bad’, and to be corrupted by such forces as jealousy, ambivalence and smothering.
Philia – friendship
Philia is the love between friends. Friendship is the strong bond existing between people who share common interest or activity. Lewis immediately differentiates Friendship Love from the other Loves. He describes friendship as, “the least biological, organic, instinctive, gregarious and necessary…the least natural of loves” - our species does not need friendship in order to reproduce - but to the classical and medieval worlds the more profound precisely because it is freely chosen.
Lewis explains that true friendships, like the friendship between David and Jonathan in the Bible, are almost a lost art. He expresses a strong distaste for the way modern society ignores friendship. He notes that he cannot remember any poem that celebrated true friendship like that between David and Jonathan, Orestes and Pylades, Roland and Oliver, Amis and Amiles. Lewis goes on to say, “to the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it”.
Growing out of companionship, friendship for Lewis was a deeply Appreciative love, though one which he felt few people in modern society could value at its worth, because so few actually experienced true friendship. Nevertheless Lewis was not blind to the dangers of friendships, such as its potential for cliqueyness, anti-authoritarianism, and pride.
Eros – romance
Eros for Lewis was love in the sense of ‘being in love’ or ‘loving’ someone, as opposed to the raw sexuality of what he called Venus: the illustration Lewis uses was the distinction between ‘wanting a woman’ and wanting one particular woman - something that matched his (classical) view of man as a rational animal, a composite both of reasoning angel and instinctual alley-cat.
Eros turns the need-pleasure of Venus into the most appreciative of all pleasures; but nevertheless Lewis warned against the modern tendency for Eros to become a god to people who fully submit themselves to it, a justification for selfishness, even a phallic religion.
After exploring sexual activity and its spiritual significance in both a pagan and a Christian sense, he notes how Eros (or being in love) is in itself an indifferent, neutral force: how “Eros in all his splendour…may urge to evil as well as good”. While accepting that Eros can be an extremely profound experience, he does not overlook the dark way it may lead even to the point of suicide pacts or murder, as well as to furious refusals to part, “mercilessly chaining together two mutual tormentors, each raw all over with the poison of hate-in-love”.
Charity is the love that brings forth caring regardless of the circumstance. Lewis recognizes this as the greatest of loves, and sees it as a specifically Christian virtue. The chapter on the subject focuses on the need of subordinating the natural loves - as Lewis puts it, “The natural loves are not self-sufficient - to the love of God, who is full of charitable love, to prevent what he termed their ‘demonic’ self-aggrandisement. Lewis did not actually use the word agape although later commentators did.