SOPhiA 2018

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

On the Duty to Love
(Ethics, English)

This paper aims to fill a gap in contemporary analytic philosophy on love, by giving a foundation for a duty to love. First, the contemporary consensus that love and morality are somehow at odds (shown in the works of e.g. Williams, Stocker and Wolf) must be rejected. David Velleman argues that love is a moral emotion and claims that love is, like respect, a response to the dignity of persons which consists in our rational nature. Furthermore, love is selective: love is a contingent fit between our 'empirical persona', the way we behaviorally express our dignity.
However, there are a few problems with Velleman's account. Firstly, it cannot be a fully general account of love, if there is such a thing as love for non-rational persons. Secondly, Velleman cannot explain love's personal character: if love is elicited by a property that all rational people share, it seems to follow that it cannot matter which rational being one loves. Thirdly, Edward Harcourt raises a worry that if person A is unloved by person B (because A's empirical persona expresses their dignity poorly to B), A will also be unrespected by B, because love and respect are responses to the same value.
I submit that Harcourt's and Velleman's depiction of what it means to love are too passive on the side of the lover. Love is not a contingent fit between 'empirical persona'. Love does not come easily, loving is hard work! Valuing someone and seeking a fit is taking up an active attitude.
I will argue that love is attending to someone: trying to see them in a just, merciful and true way. Love is an outward attitude away from the self, calling for our own ego to put aside many of our own desires and to be responsible to an independent reality.
This attending is not only justified, but it is precisely what makes us moral. I will follow Iris Murdoch's general metaphysical background to morals, which is focused on an outward attitude of looking and attending to what is outside one. This is an exercise of detachment: selfish concerns vanish; nothing exists except the things which are seen. To obtain accurate vision, one must see her object in a light of justice and mercy. When we treat realism as a moral achievement we can see that a loving attitude in which we truly see the other is a crucial part of virtue. We have a practical responsibility to take up such an attitude: we have a duty to love.

Chair: Katharina Anna Sodoma
Time: 19:00-19:30, 12 September 2018 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.007

Lotte Spreeuwenberg 
(University of Antwerp, Netherlands)

I am a PhD student in my second year, working on the topic love in ethics and moral psychology.

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