Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Do We Love for Reasons?

My pleasant task this morning is to write up my comments on the paper for which I am the assigned commentator for the fourth annual Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress (RoME), the amazingly wonderful ethics conference hosted by my own Philosophy Department, to be held the first weekend in August. Each paper delivered at the conference will be about half an hour long, followed by a fifteen-minute reply by the commentator, and then by about half an hour of discussion from the audience.

I love the paper on which I'm commenting this year. Indeed, I was one of the people who reviewed papers submitted to the conference, and I loved this one when I read it, and volunteered to be its commentator just because I loved it. The paper defends "the No-Reasons View of Love": the claim that love is "neither based on reasons, nor responsive to reasons, nor can it be assessed for normative reasons." We love what we love, whether or not we SHOULD love it. When it comes to love, reasons simply don't matter.

I don't know if I think this view is correct or not, but I do think the topic itself is fascinating. In my comments I say that I think the no-reasons view is more plausible for certain kinds of love than for others: more plausible for romantic/erotic love, and for parental love, than for love between friends. I also think that it's more plausible for coming to love than for ceasing to love: it does seem that while we don't come to love someone for reasons, we may stop loving someone for reasons, for example, if we discover that he is abusive, unfaithful, or otherwise unworthy. While love is often resistant to reasons, it is sometimes responsive to reasons.

Or at least that's what I'm going to say in my comments. I don't know any of this for sure. But it is most pleasant to spend a morning thinking about it.


  1. This IS fun to think on. What do our children most want to hear from us? I love you. I love you despite .... I love you because.....I think mine need all of these.
    The first every morning when I first see them before any event has occurred.
    The second when they confront a personal weakness or wish to be someone else or are trying to fit in or the like.
    The third I think of as my job description over the long haul: what are the things that make my child shine?
    My children are growing from baby blobs (when unconditional love is all I CAN give) to real people (when love involving reasons is appropriate).

  2. Beautifully analyzed, Janet. I should have known that my philosopher mom friend would be the first one to respond here! Maybe we should coauthor an article?

  3. I'd like to read the article you write together.

    The definition of the love mom's have, is love of potential, isn't it. Is it really unconditional? I'd like to read that.
    Can love have NO reason. That would NOT be Love. (There is a difference between sex and love.)(And sex with love)
    It reminds me of your essay on friendship when you asked is there real friendship when both parties do not benefit from the relationship. AND if I do benefit from a friendship does that lessen the honesty of the friendship. (Can't remember the name of the essay, and perhaps I've mistated your point, but I liked the essay and I remember that it made me think.)
    I vote love always has reasons,
    And losing love has reasons.

    Thanks for the thoughts, Claudia

  4. An article with Claudia! What an idea! Is there a "Philosophy & Parenting" conference? And does this writing activity involve a 3-day retreat in the mountains with lasagna and salad?