Watching a mother cradle her new born child or a cat clean her young inspires thoughts of maternal love in all of us. It is from these thoughts that one begins to understand that maternal love appears to be a dictate of both human and animal nature. No human or animal lacks total absence of this love, as this would induce the suspicion of abnormality. In essence then maternal love can be viewed as a basic element found in every creatures nature.
Otto Weininger claims that humans and animals do indeed share instinctive and natural characteristics such as maternal love however this analogy has it’s limitations as there are circumstances in which human maternal love does include a moral response, whereas in animals, maternal love has no moral origin, merely an instinctive one at best. When you think of the term maternal love, the definition that comes to mind is the type of love that is characteristic between a mother and her offspring.
An example of maternal love is the tenderness and protectiveness a mother feels when looking at her child. This type of love is considered to be of an innate quality found in mothers for their children. On the other hand love based on morality isn’t innate instead it is taught or acquired through time and various experiences. Therefore the argument here is that any type of love other then maternal love is acquired love and derived from a moral origin and not biologically natural in essence. Weininger’s argument revolves around the conclusion that maternal love cannot rest on any moral grounds.
He states that maternal love is found in both animals and humans and is an instinctive or natural impulse rather then a moral one. He claims that morality isn’t natural and is instead a product of an intelligible character hence not being found in animals. Other forms of love require some thought and examination. As this thought process isn’t inherent in maternal love, maternal can’t be true love nor reside in any moral origin. Weininger believes that maternal love is a biologically and psychologically natural concept whereas morality isn’t a natural phenomenon.
It is agreed that maternal love is ingrained into the fibers of both humans and animal’s yet maternal love can also include a moral response. Animals like humans do nurse and nurture there young until they are able to fend for themselves but not to the degree that humans do. A human goes well beyond the natural maternal instincts that are inherently found within themselves and animals. A human with a sick or weak child will seek help to the best of their capability. They will search out the best doctors and stay up all night to nurse there child in order to ensure survival.
The thought of abandonment will not cross their minds as this is morally inconceivable. On the other hand a wolf bearing a weak offspring will abandon it in the woods, leaving it to fend for itself without any moral obligation. In all likelihood the wolf’s offspring will perish being too weak to be able to survive on its own. When a wolf abandons its child it is merely considering the survival of the rest of its litter. Darwin’s survival of the fittest comes into play here as only the strong will survive due to limitations placed upon the pack from environmental constraints.
This is not to say that humans’ don’t abandon there children they do but it is much rarer. Usually humans will not abandon their young where their survival is at stake. They will at least ensure that there children will be safe in the hands of another. Even if a child isn’t ones own you feel compelled to protect it out of some natural responsibility. This is a natural obligation that society feels towards children and if a human were to act in a similar manner as the wolf she would be condemned as having committed murder.
It is here that we see moral response come into play. Therefore it is quite evident that even maternal love includes a moral response whereas in animal’s maternal love has no such response. In conclusion it now becomes clear that maternal love unlike morality is an intrinsic quality whereas morality is acquired. No human is born being moral, instead they are taught to acquire morals. Animals unlike humans have no higher intelligence yet even for them maternal love is naturally programmed into their inner fibers and occurs without much thought.
The differentiation between the two occurs in their responses to such maternal love. A human being along with there maternal commitment is required to think and examine their values and society’s views on what is expected from such a bond where in comparison expectations for an animal are much more limited. Regardless of this fact the survival of both the human race and the animal kingdom are dependent on the maternal commitment that all of God’s creatures have for their offspring.