In his provocative new book, Love: A History, Simon May argues that Nietzsche was only half right in pronouncing God’s death. God was not dead; he had simply reincarnated into something new. “That new god was love. Human love,” writes May, a philosophy professor at King’s College in London.

May’s argument is predictable. It goes like this: in an uncertain world that had been flirting with nihilism since the eighteenth-century, love swept in to give human beings purpose and meaning in the monotony of their lives. Where rationalism, Communism, and nationalism failed, love succeeded—so effectively, in fact, that love is the one ineluctable and universal truth that human beings now cling to. “All You Need is Love” is the theme song of our age.

Focusing on figures like...


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