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PHM 3020 Philosophy of Love Michael Strawser
The Lack of Love According to Kierkegaard, “love is our greatest need,” and yet the philosophy of love has been lacking in our universities and departments of philosophy Isn’t it ironic for philosophers, “lovers of wisdom,” not to devote their sustained reflections to love, not to love love?
The Lack of Love Consider these views: Irving Singer: “In the last 60 years or so the analysis of love has been neglected more than almost any other subject in philosophy” (The Nature of Love, 1966, ix). Jean-Luc Marion: “The Silence of Love” (The Erotic Phenomenon, 2007, 1,3) bell hooks: “the world of the present [is] no longer a world open to love…lovelessness [has] become the order of the day” (All about Love, 2000, x).
The Lack of Love This course can then be seen as addressing the lack of love. How exciting!
Questions Please write, no names 1. What is the philosophy of love? 2. What are your expectations for this course? 3. Do you agree that philosophy does not love love? Why or why not?
The Course Syllabus
The Irony of Love I don’t know what love is. I feel inadequate and embarrassed (“we are embarrassed by love” Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of Love, 1994). There is support in Singer (Philosophy of Love, xvi) …who also makes “no pretensions about definitive objectivity” (xiii).
The Irony of Love And support in Kierkegaard, who writes that love is “essentially inexhaustible and essentially indescribable” (Author’s Preface, Works of Love). The meaning of love (its essence) is beyond words (the phenomena). Consequently, this is a course not about love, but about the philosophy of love.
The Philosophy of Love Critical analysis of philosophical texts dealing with love. Thus we are concerned with a particular historical tradition. A questioning of the meaning of love. An experience of the profound visions of philosophers who have valued love as central to their philosophies. The philosophy of love can be distinguished from the philosophy of sex and the psychology of love.
The Edification of Love Perhaps you’re wondering: “Isn’t what you intend by ‘the irony of love’ a cop out?” Can one be serious about “the irony of love.” Perhaps this negative movement can lead to the positive view that love is present and that “love edifies” (I Corinthians 8:1), that is builds up, makes us grow, transforms us into better beings. The edification of love lies also at the center of this course on the philosophy of love.
Irving Singer, Philosophy of Love Who is the book dedicated to by Singer? ◦ Society for the Philosophy of Sex and Love Society for the Philosophy of Sex and Love Who wrote the Forward and how does he value the book? ◦ Alan Soble ◦ this is first book one should read ◦ it’s a “very personal…intellectual autobiography as well as it is an exploration of love and sex” (xi-xii)
Irving Singer, Philosophy of Love What other major texts are referred to in the Foreward? ◦ Thomas Nagel, “Sexual Perversion,” 1969 ◦ Irving Singer, The Nature of Love, 1966 ◦ Ander Nygren, Agape and Eros, ◦ Eric Fromm, The Art of Loving, 1956 How would you classify this book? ◦ History of ideas (informal) ◦ Apologia pro mente sua “a defense of one’s life” What is Singer’s philosophy? See p. 14
Irving Singer, Philosophy of Love What does Singer mean by this being a “partial summing-up”? ◦ Selective look at his previous work ◦ Philosophy has no final outcome or solution What do you learn about Singer’s background and the motivation behind his study? ◦ Trained in analytic philosophy ◦ He wanted to study the ordinary use of love Digression on Wittgenstein and view that the meaning of a word is found in how it’s used in a particular language-game
A Broad Historical Overview Ancient conceptions Christian conception Courtly love: Middle Ages Shakespeare: pivotal transitional figure Romantic love ◦ Benign romanticism ◦ Romantic pessimism
Is Romantic Love a Recent Idea? What is this kind of love and how does Singer answer this question? ◦ Romantic love: sexual, interpersonal phenomenon ◦ Although the concept belongs to the development of Romanticism at the end of the 18 th century, it is part of a longer historical continuum. ◦ “The claim that Romantic Love is an invention of the latter period is therefore of limited value, and on the face of it, mistaken” (2).
Characteristics of Romantic Love “…frequently presupposes a basic hostility between male and female” (4) …but also a dream that this fundamental difficulty could be overcome The importance of passion is central to Romantic love; passion “alone makes life worth living” (42). Romanticism has also provided the foundation for the democratization of love (81ff).
Varieties of Romantic Love What are they? ◦ Benign romanticism Romantic puritanism (Rousseau): one can be a true lover without sex and this is enough for a meaningful life. ◦ Romantic pessimism: “Romantic love is always doomed” (40). Schopenhauer, Freud, Tolstoy
Plato (429–347 B.C.E.) What is Singer’s view about the significance of Plato’s writing on love? ◦ Plato is where we must begin our study (see p. 7). ◦ Plato’s doctrine is “the most fertile and powerful single body of thought about love that anyone has ever created throughout Western civilization” (12).
Plato (429–347 B.C.E.) But Plato’s views are curious and Singer ultimately opposes them. What do we learn about Plato’s views? ◦ Several works: Symposium, Phaedrus, Republic, Laws ◦ Aristophanes’ speech ◦ Homosexuality: for or against? ◦ A Continuum: ◦ Sex (physical) Love - Go(o)d (Transcendent)
Beyond Idealism Why does Singer reject the Platonic view? ◦ Pluralism, against one theory, or one definition (14-15) A central question for our course is thus, is there one central conception of love, one common essence? ◦ Compare Marion’s view (4-5) ◦ Singer is not a visionary, while the other authors we shall be reading are. What are the main Platonic concepts Singer opposes?
Concepts of Transcendence and Merging Transcendence: the idea that to explain love one must refer to a higher, metaphysical reality ◦ For Singer love is a product of “the manifold forces that operate on this planet” (18). Merging: the idea that love involves a certain oneness with the other ◦ For Singer this is “a very dangerous idea” that “is not true to what it is to be a person” (18). ◦ What kind of “oneness”?
The Concept of Merging Singer wishes to replace “merging” with “wedding” i.e., the idea of being joined together in a “kind of oneness” without losing one’s individuality (22). In the Middle Ages this was the way the religious love of God was conceived, but later in Romanticism there’s a “quasi- religious love” of the other person (23).
The Concept of Merging Singer raises the question why would one want to merge with God? In other words, where does this concept of merging originate? ◦ One answer: God is a perfect being, and we want to be perfect ourselves. ◦ Another: Life beings with a merging, and thus we wish to return to this primordial state.
Courtly Love and Its Successors An important observation about Ancient Greece and the claim that “their thinking about love …was alien to the views we have nowadays” (28) What is Singer’s view of agape? ◦ “Christian idea of God’s bestowal of love” ◦ “a momentous concept in world history” ◦ but contra Nygren, misguided in thinking that love only originates from God (29)
Courtly Love and Its Successors Courtly love “was an effort to humanize Christian thought in the Middle Ages” (29). Based on Christian ideology, but now the point is to relate “to another person with the same kind of attachment that the church ordained in the love of God” (30). Courtly love led to “the democratization of love…the idea that almost anyone could love, and do it well” (31). But varieties of courtly love, no single notion
How to define love Is love a concept? The etymology of love ◦ Love [ME, fr. OE lufu; akin to OHG luba love, OE leof dear, L lubere, libere to please] bef. 12c ◦ Indo-European root lubhyati “desires” ◦ Related to Latin libet “it is pleasing,” and libido “desires”
Greek Words for Love Eros: sexual love based on physical attraction, erotic or romantic love Philia: “brotherly love,” love based on a common interest, not sexual attraction, also “love” of wisdom, related to virtue, friendship Agape: term used for love in New Testament, unconditional love of God for humans and humans for “neighbors,” charity Storge: familial love, affection
Appraisal and Bestowal This distinction lies at the basis of Singer’s, love trilogy, which begins “love is a way of valuing something. It is a positive response toward the ‘object of love’…love affirms the goodness of this object.” (The Nature of Love 3). Here Singer also distinguishes love from “liking” and “lusting” (desiring obsessively), which he says don’t necessarily affirm goodness
Appraisal and Bestowal Appraisal: “the ability to discover value, in oneself or in other people”; this is objective and in principle verifiable ◦ (e.g., consider the appraisal of a house and a business relationship) Bestowal: “a way of creating…a new kind of value,” “an engendering of value by means of [an affirmative] relationship,” an “affective value” (Philosophy of Love 52) ◦ this value isn’t reducible to objective value, as the valuing alone makes it valuable; something or someone has an importance beyond the objective value; the other has value for its/her own sake
On Freud What is Freud’s place in the philosophy of love? ◦ Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality ◦ Beyond the Pleasure Principle ◦ “The Most Prevalent Form of Degradation in Erotic Life” What is Singer’s estimation? ◦ Freud didn’t understand bestowal, only appraisal ◦ For Freud love is an illusory overvaluation, but Freud is deluded according to Singer. ◦ But Freud is interesting because he raises the question about the role of science in the philosophy of love. (53-59)
On Schopenhauer (and Nietzsche) The great pessimist and the teacher of the overman—what are they doing here? For Schopenhauer one must repudiate the “Will” (the cruel and valueless force of nature) Love is to be understood as the Will’s manipulating us to have sex to bring about the next generation (The World as Will and Representation, “The Metaphysics of Sexual Love”) Thus, “passionate, marital love” is a delusion. But “companionate love” may offer a viable possibility of happiness. (70)
A Note on Hume Hume, like Schopenhauer, distinguishes two kinds of love—sexual and companionate—and both are viewed more positively, although he leaves it for readers to decide which is preferable. Link to Hume’s Treatise of Human NatureTreatise of Human Nature ◦ Of the Amorous Passion, Or Love Betwixt the Sexes Of the Amorous Passion, Or Love Betwixt the Sexes And “Of Love and Marriage”Of Love and Marriage
On Nietzsche For Nietzsche, contra Schopenhauer, one must affirm the Will. Still, he too generally has a negative, cynical view of love. “Love is a state in which a man sees things most decidedly as they are not.” (The Antichrist, Sec. 23)
More Nietzsche Quotations “What else is love but understanding and rejoicing that another lives, works, and feels in a different and opposite way to ourselves? That love may be able to bridge over the contrasts by joys, we must not remove or deny those contrasts. Even self-love presupposes an irreconcilable duality (or plurality) in one person. (Human, All Too Human, Sec. 75, “Love and Duality”) “It is true we love life; not because we are used to living, but because we are used to loving. There is always some madness in love. But there is always, also, some method in madness. (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, “On Reading and Writing”)
More Nietzsche But a more positive view can be found in what he intends by amor fati (literally “the love of fate”). Singer interprets this as a wrong-headed cosmic love of everything (see 62 & 96), but it can be interpreted more positively as a way of affirming all aspects of one’s existence. (Is this a kind of bestowal?) “I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth!... And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.” (The Gay Science, §276)
What is Singer’s Philosophy of Love? “No simple answer” (110) Appraisal and Bestowal (51ff) Interdependence rather than dependence Acceptance: Contra Sartre, the “look of love” involves an “accepting” of another person. (91) Sharing: love is a “sharing of selves” (91) The love of love (96) Different kinds of love, but no hierarchy (110) (i.e., the plurality of love)
The Plurality of Love Not all love can be reduced to sexual motivation as Freud thought. Singer’s view is that “love is something that can happen in any number of different, pluralistic, ways.” There are “different kinds of love that have to be understood in terms of their own variability and their own individual dimensions.” (75)
Group Discussion/Timed Writing Form groups of 3-5 students Discuss and write an answer to the following questions (hand in one sheet per group) Questions: What are the strengths and weaknesses of Singer’s Philosophy of Love? Identify two of each.
Strengths An accessible, broad historical introductory overview of the philosophy of love which include a number of useful distinctions ◦ (e.g., courtly and romantic love, passionate and companionate love, appraisal and bestowal) An occasionally provocative consideration of certain philosophers (e.g., Nietzsche, Freud, Sartre) A case for a pluralistic philosophy of love Open to interdisciplinary work on love An interesting, personal apologia pro mente sua
Weaknesses (Concern #1) Shouldn’t a philosophy of love be one that values love? In which case the pessimistic philosophies of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Freud, and Sartre should not be as prominent as the philosophies of Spinoza, Kierkegaard, and Scheler, which are centered on love. ◦ Problem with considerations of Sartre (cf. 86 & 97) ◦ Interpretive problem with Nietzsche’s amor fati
Weaknesses (Concern #2) In what sense is this a “phenomenological blueprint” of love? (58) ◦ Doesn’t the concept of bestowal involve transcendence? (see 53) ◦ Singer also writes that “love is pervasively bound up with the relationship between the abstract and the concrete” (102). ◦ Yet he shrugs his shoulders when confronted with notions of transcendental spirit, and he thinks that “love is an emanation grounded in matter, and comparable to its parental origin” (105).
Weaknesses (Concern #3) Which perspective shall we take in exploring the philosophy of love, a pluralistic one or a unitary one. Which is preferable? Which is more edifying? ◦ A perspective like Singer’s that expresses the plurality of love and opposes the search for a univocal concept, or one like Jean-Luc Marion’s in The Erotic Phenomenon that opposes the desire to make numerous distinctions and instead argues for a concept of love that is distinguished by its unity (5).