Love'S Linguistic Pitfall

Most scientists agree, and indeed the general population is aware, that the brain is the seat of cognition and consciousness. The mechanisms through which Mind emerges from the brain is still a subject of inquiry, and the body of data related to consciousness is insufficient at this moment in history to have revealed a satisfying answer. Despite this, many believe that consciousness is an “emergent” property of sufficiently complex physical systems such as the brain which has an average of 10[sup]11[/sup] neurons (one hundred billion) with each neuron averaging 7,000 synapses (connections to other neurons). The number of physical states possible in this system is large, larger than any human can approach understanding intuitively.

On to the point, a particular linguistic folly that commonly denies reason in romantic relationships, and at its worst, establishes an incompatibility between love and reason.

The root of the issue is the word “heart”. In ancient Greece, it was believed that cognition and consciousness were literally localized in the heart. We now know this is false with absolute certainty. This is referred to as the cardiocentric hypothesis.

The problem lies in our continued use of the word “heart” in issues of romantic relationships and love. The word is no longer used literally, though with many utterances of the word, the speaker does not always equate the word with the brain/mind, and instead forfeit their faculty of reason to an unclear notion of a false belief held in Grecian antiquity.

Sub-vocalize any romantic cliche, but replace the word “heart” with the word “mind”. It seems to lose most of its romantic gravity, doesn’t it? Strangely, all you’ve done is avoid referring to an organ composed of striated muscle tissue responsible for circulating your blood.

The problem is not merely with semantic change, language evolves necessarily. This particular word, in the context discussed, has become what I’d like to call “semantically vestigial”. Its literal meaning is never intended, nor is this meaning ever assumed. Its use has been entirely restricted to an especially vague realm of metaphor.

An important note, vestigiality does not imply neutrality. For example, while the human appendix is a vestigial organ (i.e. through generations of evolution, it no longer serves a physiological purpose), obstruction of the appendix lumen can lead to septicemia and consequently death. This is the point that needs to be understood: The word “heart” in romantic discourse, having become semantically vestigial, has a broadened set of consequences beyond neutrality. Positively, the word sounds pleasant since its use is deeply entrenched in modern discourse. Neutrally, its use is a degradation of communication due to literal inapplicability. Negatively, its use serves as a passive mechanism that presents an illusory alternative to reason. In this case, the word “heart” has become the inflamed appendix in the body of romantic communication.

While it isn’t free from criticism, most of us believe that love is real. It can be easily described as a type of altruism, a commonly observed behavior in the mammalian world. It should remain evident that this is not a critique on love, only how the nuance of language, specifically one word, has the potential to transform love into an unnecessary abstraction unwarranted in its perceived separation from reason.

Or, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Why is the human heart (:heart:) always drawn stylized instead of in the natural shape of the organ? The answer is rooted in the ancient function of Silphium. The seed of the silphium plant was used in ancient times (7th century BC) as a contraceptive. In other words, sex and birth control.

Or, Occam’s razor.

The heart symbol could be considered to depict features of the human female body, such as the female’s buttocks, pubic mound, or spread vulva. Yoni s the Sanskrit word for female genitalia. The tantric symbol of the “Yoni” is that of a heart-shaped abstraction of a woman’s vulva. Inverted heart symbols have been used in heraldry as stylized testicles (coglioni in Italian).

Actually we don’t.

Those in the UK can watch this documentary on 4OD
Otherwise this site seems to have a brief description and link to Youtube for it:

The brain has already been shown to in large work like a hologram and there is much we still do not understand!

In my experience, and it may differ from others, is that love is simply dedicated attention.

The romantic side of it is obvious but there are plenty of other instances where its not romantic, linking the word “heart” specifically to the survival mode in the human brain.

One example…

To summarize in noir like fashion, a lover is someone who is dedicated in the arts of pleasure even if its pain, a fighter is someone who is dedicated in the arts of pain, perhaps taking pleasure in inflicting it. Both have lots of heart and both can fall out of that their dedicated arts and place their attention elsewhere.

Reminds me of this, which I saw posted in another messageboard:

Also, what we do know is that heart transmits many electrical impulses to brain, much more than brain to the heart. Additionaly, scientist know the purpose of a very small part of those H->B impulses. So, your heart tells your brain many more things that anybody would expect.

Also, when we fail at love, or we suffer any other way in love, heart knows this and acts differently, less pleasant, at least in my case. Maybe that’s why people thought that everything takes it’s place in the heart?

fascinating! thanks for sharing this

I explicitly used to word “localized”, thus “absolute certainty” is not a statement of dishonesty.

Also, do heart transplant patients that now have a pig’s heart suddenly know where all the truffles are?

The transplanted-organ/consciousness topic has been improperly propagated by popular culture.


The more serious look into the relationship between the body and cognition is aptly titled embodied cognition.