Admit it, we all fell for that one cutie anime girl. Every person has their own taste; for me, I always go for the cute twintails with pink hair. You dedicate yourself to that particular character. You laugh with her when she’s happy. You feel sad for her when it turns out that her mom’s dead and she now lives with an abusive father. You get enraged when a hentai doujin comes out and she’s getting penetrated in all orifices with phallic objects. You cry when she finally finds solace in a quiet suicide… okay, that’s a bit too far.
But, is your love towards this two-dimensional character real? Perhaps Bertrand Russell can shed some light on this.
A long time before anime became mainstream and weebs started claiming waifu (hence, the start of a protracted Waifu Wars), Russell contemplated love. Love existed on two ends of a spectrum: pure delight and benevolence. Borrowing from Aristotle, Russell believed that “true love” existed in the middle, a mixture of delight and benevolence. In What I Believe, Russell writes:
Love at its fullest is an indissoluble combination of the two elements, delight and well-wishing.
Where does a waifu come in? When a weeb claims a waifu, then they are, essentially, showing affection for something that is inherently non-existant. Though the question of a waifu’s existence can still be debated — i.e. they exist in a different reality, thus, they exist in a different sense of existence than what humans are accustomed to; or, a waifu is simply a collection of electronic pixels displayed in such a manner that we would mistake it for existence and/or sentience — we need to understand that a waifu is not essentially sentient or even “human”. Thus, a waifu does not possess an inherent sense of “love” or being “loved”.
A waifu is simply an object of art, a rendering of pixels and colours in a digital reality that exists solely to be admired, to be appreciated, but never beyond that. Russell writes:
Where inanimate objects are concerned, delight alone enters in; we cannot feel benevolence towards a landscape or a sonata. This type of enjoyment is presumably the source of art.
We enjoy our waifus on the extreme spectrum of delight. We like seeing them, as they are aesthetically pleasing and, to some extent, resonate with our ideal qualities of a woman in the real world.
It plays a large part in our feelings towards human beings, some of whom have charm and some the reverse, when considered simply as objects of aesthetic contemplation.
Further love, at least in Russell’s definition of true love, cannot be achieved with a waifu. Unfortunately, marrying your NDS or anthropomorphized ship still does not qualify as “real love”, no matter how legal the proceedings are. A waifu will always simply be an object of art that exists solely to delight, but never more. Thus, your love towards your waifu, though you might think is real, is actually not. It is a feeling of delight, not love.
Thanks for reading my second post in my Appreciating Anime series!