Philosophy of Love (Fall 2009) - Syllabus

Philosophy 3222 | CRN: 045584 | TR 11-12:20 PM | Anderson Hall 721 | Fall 2009

Course Syllabus

Instructor: Dr. Aaron Smuts | | office hours: 746 Anderson Hall, 1:30-2:00 TR


In this course, we will explore several philosophical problems arising from reflection on romantic love. The class will examine problems in general value theory, including: the nature of love, the relationship between value and desire, the rationality of emotion, and the authenticity of desire. We will begin by examining attempts to distinguishing between friendship and romantic love. Then we will evaluate several leading theories of romantic love, paying particular attention to question of whether love is a response to the recognition of value, or if we bestow value through love. Here, we will ask about the relationship between value, belief, and desire. In regards to the nature of love, we will also briefly study theories of the emotions. We will then turn to one of the most important problems in the love literature: Can we rationally justify our love for another? In the final section of the course, we will attempt to account for the prima facie difference between love earned though potions and ordinary love. This will require an account of the authenticity of desire. We will evaluate some of the leading contenders.

The readings will include dozens of articles from contemporary philosophers such as Annette Baier, Harry Frankfurt, Christopher Grau, Simon Keller, Niko Kolodny, Robert Nozick, Martha Nussbaum, Irving Singer, Alan Soble, Robert Solomon, David Velleman, and others. In addition, we will read selections from Aristotle, Montaigne, Schopenhauer, and Sartre, as well as Plato's "Symposium" and "Phaedrus". We will also be reading a few literature works, including poems from Sappho, Yeats, and Berryman, and an excerpt from Don Quixote. We will also read Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."


1. Plato, Symposium, trans. Nehamas and Woodruff (Hackett, 1989). ISBN: 0872200760

2. Plato, Phaedrus, trans. Nehamas and Woodruff (Hackett, 1995). ISBN: 0872202208

3. Frankfurt, Reasons of Love (Princeton UP, 2004). ISBN: 0691126240

4. Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream (Washington Square Press, 1993). ISBN: 0743482816

5. Solomon and Higgins, eds., The Philosophy of Erotic Love (UP Kansas, 1991). ISBN: 0700604804 [PEL]

6. Soble, ed., Eros, Agape, and Philia: Readings in the Philosophy of Love (Paragon House 1989) ISBN: 1557782784 [EAP]

7. Badhwar, ed., Friendship: A Philosophical Reader (Cornell UP, 1993) ISBN: 0801490973 [FPR]

8. Solomon, About Love (Madison Books, 2001) ISBN: 1568331665 [AL]

9. Pakaluk, ed., Other Selves: Philosophers on Friendship (Hackett, 1991) ISBN: 0872201139 {optional}


There will be three forms of coursework: (best 20 out of 25) daily quizzes, two papers, and two examinations. I will give a short quiz at the beginning of each class that will require one or two sentence answers. Early in the semester there will be a very short (1 page) paper followed a couple of weeks later by a short (2 page) paper. These will be used to hone your philosophical writing. There will be two 5 page papers on assigned topics. There will also be a mid-term and a final examination.

Quizzes (10%) + Paper 1 (5%) + Paper 2 (5%) + Paper 3 (20%) + Paper 4 (25%) + midterm (20%) + final (25%).

Attendance Policy

If you miss 6 or more classes, you will receive a 0 for your quiz grade. If you miss 12 or more classes, you will receive an F for the course.

Academic Honesty

Plagiarism—claiming someone else’s ideas or written work as your own—will not be tolerated. Anyone caught cheating will be given a failing grade in the course.

Class Schedule (tentative)

Topic I. Varieties of Love

  • Week 1. Eros, Philia, Agape

T: C1 (9/1): Soble, "Varieties of Love" [BB]

R: C2 (9/3): Thomas, "Friendship and Other Loves" [FPR]

  • Week 2. Friends and Lovers

T: C3 (9/8): C.S. Lewis, "Friendship—The Least Necessary Love" [FPR]; Branden, "Love and Psychological Visibility" [FPR]

R: C4 (9/10): Montaigne, "Of Friendship" [OS]; Aristotle, "Perfect Friendship" [EAP]

Topic II. The Nature of Romantic Love

  • Week 3. Introduction to Theories of Love

T: C5 (9/15): Plato, Symposium (read it all)

R: C6 (9/17): Plato, Symposium, cont.; Nussbaum, "The Speech of Alcibiades" [PEL]

  • Week 4. Union Theories

T: C7 (9/22): Nozick, "Love's Bond" [PEL]; Sartre, “First Attitude Toward Others” [PEL] (selections)

R: C8 (9/24): Solomon, “The Elusive Emotion” (pp. 31-76) [AL]

  • Week 5. Concern Theories

T: C9 (9/29): Frankfurt, "On Caring" [BB]

R: C10 (10/1): Helm, “Love, Identification, and the Emotions” [BB]

  • Week 6. Emotion Theories

T: C11 (10/6): Hamlyn, "The Phenomena of Love and Hate" [EAP]

R: C12 (10/8): Baier, "Unsafe Loves" [SH]

Topic III. Recognition or Bestowal

  • Week 7. Appraisal or Bestowal

T: C13 (10/13): Singer, from The Nature of Love [PEL]; Don Quixote, “Knight of the Mirrors” [BB]

R: C14 (10/15): Brentlinger, “The Nature of Love” [EAP]; Nygren, "Eros and Agape" [EAP] (optional)

  • Week 8. Bestowal

T: C15 (10/20): Velleman, "Love as a Moral Emotion" [BB]

R: (10/22): [NO CLASS THIS DAY]

  • Week 9. Valuing as a Mode of Belief or Desire

T: C16 (10/27): Frankfurt, Reasons of Love [chs. 1 and 2 (pp. 1-68)]

R: C17 (10/29): Frankfurt, Reasons of Love [ch. 3 (pp.69-100)]; Kolodny, "Love as a Valuing Relationship" (pp.142-6) [BB]

Topic IV. Rational Justification of Love

  • Week 10. A Fairy Interlude

T: C18 (11/3): A Midsummer Night's Dream (Acts 1-3)

R: C19 (11/5): A Midsummer Night's Dream (Acts 4-5)

  • Week 11. The No-Reasons View, cont.

T: C20 (11/10): Sappho, "Hymn to Aphrodite" [EAP]; Thomas, "Reasons for Loving" [PEL]

R: C21 (11/12): Yeats, "For Ann Gregory" [EAP]; Kraut, “Love De Re” [BB]; Rorty, "The Historicity of Psychological Attitudes" [FPR] (optional)

  • Week 12. Irreplaceability and the Reasons View

T: C22 (11/17): Grau, “Irreplaceability and Unique Value” [BB]; Kolodny, "Love as a Valuing Relationship" (pp.135-142) [BB]

R: C23 (11/19): Berryman, "A Love Sonnet" [EAP]; Keller, "How do I Love Thee?" [BB]

Topic V. The Authenticity of Desire

  • Week 13. The Dark Horse

T: (11/24): Plato, Phaedrus (pp.1-42) [NO CLASS THIS DAY]


  • Week 14. Authenticity

T: C24 (12/1): Schopenhauer, (selections) [PEL]; Irvine, “The Ebb and Flow of Desire” [BB]

R: C25 (12/3): Frankfurt, "Autonomy, Necessity, Love" [BB]; Frankfurt, Concept of a Person [BB] (optional); Christman, "Autonomy and Personal History" [BB] (optional)

  • Week 15. Falling in Love

T: C26 (12/8): [BB]; Solomon, “Falling in Love” (pp. 129-194) [AL]; Gorer, "On Falling in Love" [EAP]

(Last day of classes W 12/09)