Love as valuing a relationship

Philosophical Review 112 (2):135-189 (2003)
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At first glance, love seems to be a psychological state for which there are normative reasons: a state that, if all goes well, is an appropriate or fitting response to something independent of itself. Love for one’s parent, child, or friend is fitting, one wants to say, if anything is. On reflection, however, it is elusive what reasons for love might be. It is natural to assume that they would be nonrelational features of the person one loves, something about her in her own right. According to the “quality theory,” for example, reasons for love are the beloved’s personal attributes, such as her wit and beauty. In J. David Velleman’s provocative and ingeniously argued proposal, the reason for love is the beloved’s bare Kantian personhood, her capacity for rational choice and valuation.1 But no such nonrelational feature works. To appreciate just one difficulty, observe that whatever nonrelational feature one selects as the reason for love will be one that another person could, or actually does, possess. The claim that nonrelational features are reasons for love implies, absurdly, that insofar as one’s love for Jane is responsive to its reasons, it will accept any relevantly similar person as a replacement



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Niko Kolodny
University of California, Berkeley

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Sexual perversion.Thomas Nagel - 1969 - Journal of Philosophy 66 (1):5-17.
Three conceptions of rational agency.R. Jay Wallace - 1999 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 2 (3):217-242.
The justification of national partiality.Thomas Hurka - 1997 - In Jeff McMahan & Robert McKim (eds.), The Morality of Nationalism. New York, USA: Oxford Unversity Press. pp. 139-57.

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