When you say you love me, know I love you more.

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In 2013 the American singer/musician Miley Cyrus released her fourth studio album, Bangerz. The album opens with the pop and R&B ballad, Adore you, which presents lyrically as an ode from Cyrus to her lover at the time. Taking into account the video that accompanies the song, this post regarding this song could probably also be suitably categorised under soft porn instead of music.

Within the lyrics of Adore you is found a refrain in which Cyrus explains that she loves her lover more than her lover loves her. This kind of sentiment is not exclusive to the musical styling of Cyrus, the 1980s hit Getting away with it by the “supergroup” Electronic also coming to mind. In focusing on Cyrus’ use of this expression though, we can focus on how she sings repeatedly:

When you say you love me, know I love you more. And when you say you need me, know I need you more (Cyrus, 2013).

What is being quantified?

In this lyric, Cyrus is suggesting that in response to her lover’s declaration of love for her, Cyrus has been moved to love her lover even more than her lover loves her. Embedded within this shift that Cyrus experiences is the sense of a sudden increase in the magnitude of love that she feels. Whether or not this shift is, or was, expected by either party is not of primary concern. Rather, an acknowledgement that the shift occurs is what is required.

Further to this point, it is made apparent that when Cyrus knows that she is loved and needed, Cyrus needs her lover to know that she loves and needs her lover more than Cyrus did previously. Before the declaration of love that Cyrus is given from her lover, Cyrus apparently felt a certain amount of love for her lover. Now, though, following the declaration of love that is directed towards her, Cyrus feels even more love not only than her lover feels for her, but also than she previously felt for her lover. Cyrus is compelled to declare this to her lover…repeatedly.

What is being quantified by Cyrus, therefore, is love. Love is the parameter that is reported to have increased in size, or magnitude, as a result of the interchange of declarations from one lover to the other. Cyrus now feels a bigger amount of love than she did before.

The concern regarding this quantification is that Cyrus has not clarified how she is measuring the love that she compares between (i) what she previously felt, (ii) what she now feels, and (iii) what her lover feels for her. Cyrus repeats that there is a relationship of “more” (and therefore complementarily, of “less”) love involved in this transition that she experiences. There is a quantifiable composition indicated by Cyrus regarding this love.

If love is quantifiable though, there must be measurable units of love which comprise its quantification. These units, in being counted, aggregated, and compared, condition there being a quantity of the thing or the experience in question. Measurable units of quantified love are not, however, identified by Cyrus.

How, then, might we consider whether Cyrus could possibly identify measurable units of love?

Can love be quantified?

Henri Bergson posits that the tendency to quantify things or experiences derives from social influence. This is because such quantification occurs through the measures and representations that have been installed by the institutions, perspectives, and languages, of human, collective existence. The sciences, and the social sciences, exemplify this quantifying tendency, in symbolising the world via calculable, comparable data. The integration of the sciences and the social sciences could therefore be helpful in determinations of Cyrus’ possible identification of measurable units of love.

What must also be taken into consideration, though, is Bergson’s complementary concern that from this tendency are said to emerge quantifiable constructions of features of the world and our experience of it that might not really be quantifiable. This speaks to the tension between (i) what is perceived to be the socially constructed quantification of a thing/experience, versus (ii) what is presumed to be the real-natural state of a thing/experience.

In terms of love, we can review four positions which operate from within this tension. This will allow us to appraise how Cyrus might identify the units which comprise a love that she assumes is quantifiable, and the responses that she would face. Click on each position below to expand/contract its supporting argument:

1. Extreme social constructionist. The social construction of love misrepresents what is real-natural about love.

i. Cyrus engages studies of love to evidence the measurable units of love.

ii. [Science study “y”] studies the physiological changes that are experienced when love is reported to be felt…or…[Social science study “z”] studies the behaviours that a society has defined as indicating love.

iii. Does [Science study “y”] or [Social science study “z”] identify measurable units of these physiological changes or behavioural patterns that comprise love?

If no…

iv. Cyrus does not identify measurable units of quantified love.

If yes…

v. Cyrus identifies measurable units of quantified love.

The extreme social constructionist responds…

vi. The sciences are socially constructed institutions/perspectives.

vii. Socially constructed perspectives misrepresent what is real-natural about the world.

viii. [Science study “y”] or [Social science study “z”] is a socially constructed perspective of love.

ix. Even if measurable units of quantified love are posited by [Science study “y”] or [Social science study “z”], such units misrepresent what is real-natural about love.

x. The love that Cyrus quantifies misrepresents what is real-natural about love.

This position is that scientific experimentation, techniques, perspectives, and theories, could have been developed in myriad ways, depending on relevant social influences. Consequently, the resulting scientific results must be dependent upon how society has shaped them. This contingently social factor in the production of scientific truths is contrasted from what are posited to be the necessarily timeless truths or realities of the world. By looking at love through a contingently socially constructed lens (the sciences are interpreted to be such lenses), the extreme social constructionist’s position demands that the measurable units that might be posited scientifically regarding love, never represent love as it really, naturally is.

2. Exclusive social constructionist. The social construction of love is all that love ever is.

i. – vi. as per position 1.

The exclusive social constructionist responds…

vii. Love is also a social construction.

viii. If love is a social construction, and the sciences are social constructions, the scientific study of love measures the only reality of love.

ix. Does [Science study “y”] or [Social science study “z”] identify measurable units of this love?

If no…

x. Cyrus does not identify measurable units of quantified love.

If yes…

xi. Cyrus identifies measurable units of quantified love.

This position is that love is a concept that societies have created. Societies define the criteria for what comprises love accordingly. These criteria, either physiological, behavioural, or both, are the signs of love. If a society conceives of love by such signs, and love is considered to be nothing but its social conceptualisation, then the measurement of these signs is duly interpreted to measure love’s reality.

This differs from the extreme social constructionist position that is presented above in one key regard; the exclusive social constructionist avoids the supposition of a separate natural reality of love that the social construction of it must explain, access, or discover. Rather, for the exclusive social constructionist, love is a concept that is believed to only ever have a social reality.

This latter point presents the greatest issue with this position. Will it be adequate for Cyrus (or indeed for anyone), to state that love is only a contingent, social construction, with no other reality? If Cyrus wishes to argue that love has a reality beyond how a society has come to conceive of it, she then needs to tackle the contestation in position 1 from the extreme social constructionist.

3. Real-natural social constructionist. The social construction of love is a part of what is real-natural about love.

i. – vi. as per position 1.

vii. What is socially constructed is a part of what is real-natural.

viii. If what is socially constructed is a part of what is real-natural, [Science study “y”] or [Social science study “z”] is a part of what is real-natural.

ix. Does [Science study “y”] or [Social science study “z”] identify measurable units of love.

If no…

x. Cyrus does not identify measurable units of quantified love.

If yes…

xi. Cyrus identifies measurable units of quantified love.

This position is that what is real-natural expresses itself in social ways. Society, which is a part of what is real-natural, declares through its languages and customs (including its scientific studies), that this feature (love) of what is real-natural is quantifiable. The social construction of love in quantifiable terms is a part of what is real-natural about love. This interpretation resolves the problem of a real-natural world that social perspectives only misrepresent, as found in the extreme social constructionist’s position.

If what is social is real-natural, and vice-versa, then not only is the social construction of love a part of what is real-natural, but also, what is real-natural about love is a social reality. If the real-natural, as society, is said to conceive of love quantifiably, and to identify love’s measurable units, then what is real-natural about love is that it is quantified via measurable units.

Not incidentally, this position intersects most coherently with what might be referred to as the “realist” position. The realist would posit that our scientific impressions of what is real-natural do accurately represent what is real-natural. This point must be qualified with the observation that the realist might baulk at the definition of scientific production merely as a contingent, socially constructed, institution. Given that Counting sheep is occupied with Bergsonian-inspired concerns regarding the tendency to socially (mis)construct all features of the world quantifiably, this realist position, in avoiding themes of social constructionism, is not included in these considerations.

4. Incorrect real-natural social constructionist. The social construction of love is a part of what is real-natural about love, but is incorrect about love.

i. – vi. as per position 1.

vii. What is socially constructed is a part of what is real-natural.

viii. If what is socially constructed is a part of what is real-natural, [Science study “y”] or [Social science study “z”] is a part of what is real-natural.

ix. Does [Science study “y”] or [Social science study “z”] identify measurable units of love.

If no…

x. Cyrus does not identify measurable units of quantified love.

If yes…

xi. Cyrus identifies measurable units of quantified love.

The incorrect real-natural social constructionist responds…

v. [Science study “y”] or [Social science study “z”] is a part of what is real-natural and is incorrect that love is quantifiable.

vi. Cyrus does not identify measurable units of quantified love.

Alternatively, the interpretation might be that what is real-natural, socially posits that love is quantifiable when actually it is not. The curiosity in this position is that what is real-natural is presenting as a social form of the real-natural, which in perceiving a feature (love) of what is real-natural, is incorrect about that feature (love) of what is real-natural.

What is forwarded in this position is not that incorrect socially constructed quantifications of love represent a mutual exclusion between (i) the social, scientific, perspective/construction of love, and (ii) what is real-natural about love. Instead, as per position 3, both the social construction of love, and what is real-natural about love, are simultaneously social and real-natural. Whilst units of measurement do not exist for this feature (love) of what is real-natural, what is socially constructed is not said to be excluded from what is real-natural when conceiving of love incorrectly (quantifiably).

Rather, what is being forwarded in this position is that what is real-natural comprises all possible social perspectives/constructions of this feature (love) of what is real-natural. Every social perspective/construction, according to this position, comes from nowhere but from what is real-natural, after all. One of these perspectives/constructions is that which posits that love is quantifiable, even when there are actually no measurable units comprising such quantification, and therefore no quantification of love whatsoever.

A reason that such units of measurement do not exist, and that the quantification of love is incorrect, could relate to the way in which love manifests. As Cyrus reports, her love increases in response to her lover telling her of the love they have for her. Cyrus interprets this shift that she feels to be a quantitative alteration. As Cyrus describes it, she now has more love for her lover than her lover has for her. Or in other words, Cyrus perceives a shift in the degree or size of the love that she felt previously.

However, for the immediately preceding position that has been considered, it could be noted that Cyrus’ state of love emerges environmentally, structurally, and circumstantially. Specifically, her change in circumstances is marked by the change in the kind of lover with whom she is now besotted. As Cyrus’ lover, the object of Cyrus’ love, tells Cyrus of their love for Cyrus, Cyrus’ lover becomes a different kind of lover for Cyrus.

With a different kind of lover comes a different kind of love. In this light, love does not simply change according to an increase in magnitude of the same kind of feeling. Rather, love becomes a qualitatively different kind of love, receptive as it is to the different kind of lover who is being loved.

If the kind of love that manifests is contingent upon the circumstances in which it manifests, there can be no standardised units across differently manifested loves. This problematises the possible quantification of, and comparison between, an individual’s manifestations of love over time. Similarly it contests the possibility of comparing the love between different individuals. Each instantiation of love is instead qualitatively incomparable, if it is deemed to manifest circumstantially.

From this perspective, the argument could thus be that when Cyrus is told that she is loved, Cyrus’ response should not be to impel her lover to know that Cyrus loves them more. Rather, the position presented should be that Cyrus loves her lover differently. An acknowledgement of this qualitative, rather than quantitative, shift in love, problematises the construction of love in quantifiable terms.



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