One of my goals for Deep Web is to address issues people are actually grappling with on a daily basis. I try to listen, very carefully, on social media to hear what isn’t being said, but what really needs to be said. Then I try to meet this need.
This week, we’ve heard a lot about violence against women. It’s pandemic. It’s been triggering for a lot of us. Women who identify with the actors and actresses who’ve been abused in their industry contributed to the chorus of voices with their own stories of degradation and humiliation until the crescendo was almost deafening. It’s been a hard week for me, too. I work in a male-dominated field that has been in the news in recent years because of this very thing. Academics are usually not as socially prominent as movie stars, so you probably haven’t heard about these scandals, but we’ve had our share of them as of late. My discipline is actively hostile toward women and constantly hemorrhaging claims of sex abuse and harassment. I am fortunate to be in a program where hostility is lessening, but 25 years ago this department was blacklisted by the American Philosophical Association for its treatment of women. That’s pretty serious.
Honestly, I get tired of talking about it. I get tired of reliving the aggressions, both big and small. And I get very weary of the pace of real change. This week, what I think we all need is not more discussion of this topic, but a look at something entirely different. What I propose to discuss is, in fact, diametrically opposed to what we’ve been inundated with this week. I want a drastic change of topic. What I want to talk about is this: what, exactly, is love? Further, how do we build successful, loving relationships with the right kind of people? Is there a way to determine who is worth loving and who isn’t before you get in too deep to get out without serious injury?
Several years ago I decided try to figure this out. These questions are really worth asking, and I wanted some personally satisfying answers. I had an opportunity to write about the subject so I did. It won’t be very interesting or helpful for me to simply post the paper I’ve already written on this because it is intended for an audience of professional philosophers who are already familiar with some of the specific features of love that are currently under debate. It’s going to take me time to adapt my paper for a lay audience, and to do so in a way that is interesting and, possibly, informative. I might get it posted on Sunday, but it might be Monday or Tuesday before I get the adaptation finished. Between now and then, however, you can begin thinking about a few important questions.
Is love a singular phenomenon, or are there different kinds of love? Is love essentially an emotion? What is the relationship between loving someone and caring about them? What is the nature of caring? If you love someone, are you also motivated (in some way) to do things with them, or are you only ever motivated to do things for them? Is love a completely self-less state of being? Is it prudentially rational to be engaged in asymmetrical love relations (X loves Y, but Y does not love X)? Is loving someone necessarily a messy and dangerous affair, or can it have well-structured architecture that facilitates the promotion of wellbeing?
Check back next week for discussion of these issues (and more). I don’t claim to have answers that everyone will find sastifying, but I think it’s still worth hearing.