Rationality and Moral Responsibility in Romantic Love

Dissertation, University of Washington (2003)

Abstract
Cognitivist theories of emotion have endorse a view of the emotions that recognizes a rationally assessable element within the emotions. My aim is to see how a cognitivist theory might apply to romantic love and then see what kind of conclusions about morality we can make given an understanding of love as rationally sensitive. In my dissertation, I argue for the following claims: that the lover has reasons, that these reasons are to be understood as properties in the beloved, that such reasons are justificatory, and that the rational nature of love has consequences for our moral responsibility in love. ;I suggest that reasons can be understood as evaluations of properties in the loved one. Such a view I deem the 'properties-as-reasons' view. I consider four objections to the properties-as-reasons view, arguing that the first three objections fail, while the fourth can be answered by a modification to the properties-as-reasons view that embraces what I call interpersonal properties as well as non-interpersonal properties. ;After defending the properties-as-reasons view from worries about the status of properties, I move to defend the view from worries about the status of reasons. I argue that we need to leave room for rational critique of love and to do so requires that reasons for love be justificatory and not merely explanatory. I discuss the apparent difficulty of the transparency of our reasons in romantic love for the properties-as-reasons view. Finally, I argue that only the sort of account of love that posits justificatory reasons can make sense of our practice of committing to our loved ones. ;In my final chapter, I discuss what kind of consequences the rationally sensitive nature of love has for the moral assessment of lovers. Recalling the way in which love is for reasons, I show how a failure of evaluation of properties in the beloved is sometimes a moral failing. I follow up this discussion of our blameworthiness and praiseworthiness in love by explaining how being praiseworthy or blameworthy for loving does not entail that responses of praise or blame are appropriate in every situation
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