Tuesday, October 25, 2005
First Aired: 
Tuesday, November 30, 2004

What Is It

Is love just a (second-hand) emotion?  Is it a feeling?  A disparate group of feelings, glandular responses, and ill-considered commitments called by a single word so that poets will have something to write about?  A poor substitute for true friendship imposed upon us by lust?  Or the deepest and most satisfying of human conditions? John and Ken question their love with Noel Merino from Humboldt State University.

Listening Notes

What is love? Is there any one thing we call “love”? John describes three paradigms: romantic love, family love, and love for friends. Ken says that in each you take the desires and goals of the other person as your own. How can one love one's neighbor as oneself? Does love entail extra obligations? Ken introduces Noël Marino, professor at Humboldt University. Marino agrees with Ken's idea that love of people broadly is adopting their goals as your own. She says that romantic love is a difference of degree rather than a difference of kind. Do lovers complete each other? John says that it sounds dangerous to lose your own identity in a relationship. 

How is loving your romantic partner different from loving a child or friend? Marino thinks that they are similar, although romantic love includes sexual desire and a greater intensity. Is there some quality of the person that you love has, as in the example from Plato's Symposium, or is it just an accident of history that you love one person rather than another? Marno supports the historical idea of love. Love takes on a relational component over time that deepens the relationship. How can one love humanity? Does the possibility that love can be reduced to the interaction of endorphins undermine the worth of love? 

Is everything we do out of self-love? Do we love solely out of self-love? Ken asks if we have special obligations to our loved ones, then does that interfere with our obligations towards complete strangers? How does love interact with moral theories? Most moral theories ignore love and Marino thinks this needs to be addressed. Why should we be moved by views, such as Schopenhauer's, that say that the purpose of love is solely to reproduce? 

  • Roving Philosophical Report (Seek to 04:30): Amy Standen interviews several San Franciscans about what they think love is. 
  • Sixty Second Philosopher (Seek to 49:58): Ian Shoales looks at the history of love in philosophy, from Socrates to Mill to Heidegger.


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