In a discipline as broad as philosophy, which has so many texts to study and theories to learn, some topics get less attention than others. One must know Plato’s doctrine of the Forms, but won’t necessarily come across his thoughts on love. Part of the reason for this, in addition to the fact that some ideas have been historically discussed more than others, is that deciding what love is and how to study it is not self-evident. Depending on the method you use, love can appear as something quite different, or perhaps not at all (if it is reduced to factors like biochemical impulses). Yet it is difficult to think of something more central to the human experience.
Many classes on the philosophy of love focus on contemporary issues, which is understandable given how many parts of our society would benefit from greater engagement with the topic. With our newspaper’s headlines often filled with stories about attacks, bans, fights, and insults, taking time to reflect on compassion can prevent us from being swept up in the feelings of anger that pervade the public sphere. Perhaps if more people considered the following readings, love would become a more central focus of our society, including our own discipline.
- Samantha Brennan and Bill Cameron, “Is Marriage Bad for Children? Rethinking the Connection between Having Children, Romantic Love, and Marriage,” in After Marriage, ed. Elizabeth Brake, Oxford University Press, 2016.
- Carrie Jenkins, What Love Is: and what it could be, New York: Basic Books, 2017.
- Noël Merino, “The Problem with ‘We’: Rethinking Joint Identity in Romantic Love,” Journal of Social Philosophy, February 2004.
- Yolanda Estes, “Moral Reflections on Prostitution,” Essays in Philosophy, 2001.
- Alan Soble, “Love and Value, Yet Again,” in Love, Reason, and Will: Kierkegaard after Frankfurt, ed. John Davenport and Anthony Rudd, 2015.
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