Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Frankfurt and Rorty on love

Ever since I read the statement made by Archbishop Müller on marriage ... Love is more than a feeling ... I've been wondering where this (to me incorrect) Catholic idea comes from. Today I saw an essay that mentioned its source ... St. Thomas Aquinas defines it [love] as "willing the good of the other" — the simplest definition of love I've ever seen. Agape is an act of the will, not the feelings .... I should have known it would be him (grrr) - this idea that love is an act of will rather than an emotion explains so much about the 'theology of the body' married-sex-as-a-job thingy ;) But anyway, I think Aquinas got Aristotle wrong ... “One cannot be a friend to many people in the sense of having friendship of the perfect type with them, just as one cannot be in love with many people at once (for love is a sort of excess of feeling, and it is the nature of such only to be felt towards one person)” (NE, VIII.6). - Philosophy of Love: An Overview

The Aquinas/Catholic love-as-a-choice view is maybe represented in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy page on love as 3. Love as Robust Concern ...

At the heart of the robust concern view is the idea that love “is neither affective nor cognitive. It is volitional” Frankfurt 1999, p. 129). Frankfurt continues:

*That a person cares about or that he loves something has less to do with how things make him feel, or with his opinions about them, than with the more or less stable motivational structures that shape his preferences and that guide and limit his conduct.*


[But] the robust concern view as it stands does not seem properly able to account for the intuitive “depth” of love and so does not seem properly to distinguish loving from liking. Although, as noted above, the robust concern view can begin to make some sense of the way in which the lover's identity is altered by the beloved, it understands this only an effect of love, and not as a central part of what love consists in.

My own view of love is probably best represented by the section: 5.2 Love as Emotion Complex ...

The emotion complex view, which understands love to be a complex emotional attitude towards another person, may initially seem to hold out great promise to overcome the problems of alternative types of views. By articulating the emotional interconnections between persons, it could offer a satisfying account of the “depth” of love without the ... overly narrow teleological focus of the robust concern view ...

Rorty (1986/1993) does not try to present a complete account of love; rather, she focuses on the idea that “relational psychological attitudes” which, like love, essentially involve emotional and desiderative responses, exhibit historicity: “they arise from, and are shaped by, dynamic interactions between a subject and an object” (p. 73). In part this means that what makes an attitude be one of love is not the presence of a state that we can point to at a particular time within the lover; rather, love is to be “identified by a characteristic narrative history” (p. 75). Moreover, Rorty argues, the historicity of love involves the lover's being permanently transformed by loving who he does ....

This understanding of love as constituted by a history of emotional interdependence enables emotion complex views to say something interesting about the impact love has on the lover's identity. This is partly Rorty's point (1986/1993) in her discussion of the historicity of love (above). Thus, she argues, one important feature of such historicity is that love is “dynamically permeable” in that the lover is continually “changed by loving” such that these changes “tend to ramify through a person's character” (p. 77). Through such dynamic permeability, love transforms the identity of the lover in a way that can sometimes foster the continuity of the love, as each lover continually changes in response to the changes in the other.[14] Indeed, Rorty concludes, love should be understood in terms of “a characteristic narrative history” (p. 75) that results from such dynamic permeability. It should be clear, however, that the mere fact of dynamic permeability need not result in the love's continuing: nothing about the dynamics of a relationship requires that the characteristic narrative history project into the future, and such permeability can therefore lead to the dissolution of the love. Love is therefore risky—indeed, all the more risky because of the way the identity of the lover is defined in part through the love.

Must think - and feel ;) - more about all this.


Anonymous Richard said...

Maybe love is a spirit independent of us with its own wisdom, character, and intelligence. We embrace it, run from it, play with it, brood about it,but in no way cause or control it. I don't know if I believe that but while I have chosen to care about people in the sense of meeting their needs I don't think I could choose to love someone. For me this is more in the realm of poetry than philosophy :)

8:49 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

I was talking to my sister about this today and she and I both thought the same thing - that we have never chosen or willed ourselves to love someone. I think what the church is really talking about is duty and they're redefining it as love. It is odd how the NT seems to 'command' love - I don't see how that can work.

12:31 AM  

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