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Top 40 Philosophy: The Beatles, “Love Me Do”

Posted in Friendly Philosophy, Music, and Top 40 Philosophy

Today we cover “Love Me Do” the fourth #1 single for the Beatles in 1964.

You can see why the song was #1 for only a week, compared to seven, two, and five for “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” and “Can’t Buy Me Love,” respectively. “Love Me Do” is a solid song, but not exciting like the previous three.

I don’t mean to be mean to Paul and John, however. “Love Me Do” shows the Fab Four weren’t just driving pop-rock joy all the time. They could be mellow and folky as well. George can play an acoustic guistar, and John can even play a harmonica! (Look at them, being all American.)

We talked last time about the origins of Beatles music in the American South, so we’ll leave that to one side here. Instead, let’s talk today about love and truth and faithfulness.

Truth and Faithfulness

Truth is one of us philosophers’ favorite topics. “What kinds of things can be true?” we constantly mutter to ourselves. “A spoken statement, but not a noise,” another philosopher will mutter back. “A belief, but not a brain,” a third will whisper.

But what does “being true” mean? Is a sentence true when it “matches reality“? Is a belief true when it “brings things to light“? Our muttered arguments can get very theoretical.

The Beatles remind us, however, that truth can be personal and intimate. We (not just sentences) can be true, and we can be true to each other (not just to things).

To be true as a human is to be faithful, perhaps even “loyal” (see the Harry Potter novels for more on the importance of loyalty). Truth, as it were, has a beating heart.

(Whatever that means. I was being “Continental” there for a second, so I have to be “Analytic” for a second, in the interest of fair play.)

Love and Faithfulness

The connection between truth and faithfulness should make us to think about truth and faith. But truth and faithfulness in “Love Me Do” are primarily about love.

Loving someone — according to the Beatles — means being faithful to her or him. But faithfulness is a hallmark of “the faithful.” And that means love is connected to religion and worship. So, maybe the medieval love poets and Hozier were right about love.

(What I just did there is another Continental thing that annoys Analytic philosophers

[and my Analytic side]. I think it’s called “reasoning by metonymy.”)

“But love isn’t worship!” you cry.

“Don’t you think worship is what the fans in Monday’s and Tuesday’s videos were doing?” I respond.

“Maybe,” you say. “But you only worship what is higher than you, and that means worship entails subordination. Love is not subordination.”

Love and Identification

So, let’s think of love like an Aristotelian would. Aristotle said that when you love someone, you experience that person as another you, as your other self. And Aquinas said that when you love something, you not only contain it (in a way), but are transformed into it (in a way). There’s an identity between “lover” and “beloved.”

But once I begin saying, “As Aristotle said . . .,” and “Aquinas says . . .,” both my Analytic and Continental sides start to scream, “You’re going Historical!” And if I’ve gone Historical, that means we’ve covered all three schools of contemporary philosophy. We can head home for dinner, having done a good day’s work.

“But you didn’t actually come to a conclusion and tie everything together,” you protest. “You just — I don’t know — free-associated till you wore yourself out.”

“I know, right?” I respond. “It’s been a hard day’s night, and I’ve been workin’ like a dog.”

“You can’t end one post and transition to the next just by quoting tomorrow’s song.”

“Watch me.”


The Hidden Track

Q: What kind of philosophy were we doing today?

A: Continental PhilosophyAnalytic Philosophy, and Historical Philosophy.

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