Philosophy of Love (Spring 2014)

Philosophy of Love

FYS 100-09 (CRN#21475) | TR 10-11:50 PM | Bldg 3-015 | Spring 2014

Course Syllabus

Instructor: Dr. Aaron Smuts | | office hours: 219 Alger Hall, 12:30-1:30 TR


What is love? How are love of friends, children, and romantic partners similar or different? What about love for God? This course will critically examine such questions as: Can love be rationally justified? Is love a response to value recognized, or is it a projection of value onto the beloved? Is love ever morally required? Consider a parent's love or a spouse's love. Should we love our family more than strangers? What about members of our country or our race? Is love even under our control at all? Would love caused by a potion be deficient? We will explore theories of emotion, value, rationality, authenticity, and partiality.


There is just one required text for this course:

  1. Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream (Washington Square Press, 1993). ISBN: 0743482816 [MSND] (Buy this version.)

There are five recommended books:

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

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

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

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

  5. Andrew Lawrence Roberts. The Thinking Student's Guide to College: 75 Tips for Getting a Better Education. University Of Chicago Press, 2010. ISBN-10: 0226721159.

All of the readings, except for Midsummer Night's Dream will be posted on Blackboard [BB]. But it will be easier for you to buy some the recommended books. Otherwise you'll need to print out all of the articles. You'll get the most bang for your buck by buying the Solomon and Higgens and the Soble, PEL and EAP. And the Plato is cheap; you should own it.


There will be two different forms of coursework: (best 20 out of 26) daily quizzes and three take-home examinations. I will give a short quiz at the beginning of each class that will require one or two sentence answers. The quizzes are closed-book, but open-note. The bulk of your grade comes from the take-home exams. All assignments must be completed to pass the course.

Quizzes (10%) + + first exam (30%) + late-term exam (30%) + final exam (30%).

I encourage students who are doing well to write a term paper in place of the final exam. If you chose this option, please let me know before Spring break. I'll help you refine your topic and develop an outline. You must give me an abstract and a rough outline one month before the final exam period. I will not accept a term paper otherwise.

Attendance Policy

Although I record every class meeting, attendance is required. 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. (There are no excused or unexcused absences. But please talk to me if something major comes up that dramatically effect your attendance.)

Tardiness Policy

If you are more than 5 minutes late, I will not accept your daily quiz and you will be marked absent. Come to class on time. If you are more than 10 minutes late, you will not be admitted to class.

Leaving Early Policy

No matter the reason, if you leave early, I will not accept your daily quiz and you will be marked absent. It doesn't matter if you have a court date, a doctor's appointment, or if you have to get to work. If you leave early, you will be marked absent.

Classroom Etiquette Policy

Pay attention; don't have distracting side conversations with other students; don't read newspapers or do crossword puzzles in class; don't sleep; don't text; don't sigh loudly with displeasure. This kind of behavior is disruptive. Be civil. Be courteous. This isn't high school. If your behavior is disruptive, I will ask you to leave. If I have to ask you to leave twice, you will receive an F in the class.

Laptop Policy

Laptop use is prohibited. The same goes for tablet computers and smartphones. Consider this rehab for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram addiction. You should print the articles posted on Blackboard and bring them to class.

Academic Honesty

Plagiarism—claiming someone else’s ideas or written work as your own—will not be tolerated. The tests are not collaborative. All sources must be cited. Anyone caught cheating will be given a failing grade in the course. I am also required to report you to the Vice President of Academic Affairs. But I would report you even if it was optional. Plagiarism is a serious offense.

Class Schedule (tentative)

* The readings for each class are nested under the date. You should do the readings before class. There will be a quiz every class.

  • Week 1

    • C1 (T: 1/21) Introduction and Overview

      • Optional Background Reading

        • Bennett Helm, "Love" (SEP)

Topic I. Animals

    • C2 (R: 1/23) Animal Love and Grief

      • Readings

        • Marc Bekoff, The Emotional Lives of Animals, Ch.3 [BB] (40 pages, but it reads fast. Be sure to at least read pp.70-77 on love and pp.62-70 on grief.)

      • Further Reading

        • Aaron Smuts, "Four Theses About Caring" [BB] (just read the first thesis)

        • Konrad Lorenz, "The Perennial Retainers" [BB]

  • Week 2

    • C3 (T: 1/28) Animal Friends

      • Readings

        • Diane Jeske, "The Friendship of Felines" [BB]

Topic II. Friendship

    • C4 (R: 1/30): The Value of Friendship

      • Readings

        • Laurence Thomas, "Friendship and Other Loves" [FPR]

        • C.S. Lewis, "Friendship—The Least Necessary Love" [FPR]

  • Week 3

    • C5 (T: 2/4): Morality and Friendship

      • Readings

        • Dean Cocking and Jeanette Kennett, "Friendship and Moral Danger" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Susan Wolf, "Morality and Partiality" [BB]

Topic III: Partiality

    • C6 (R: 2/6) Partiality and Morality

      • Readings

        • John Cottingham, "Partiality, Favoritism, and Morality" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Andrew Oldenquist, "Loyalties" [BB]

        • John Cottingham, "Ethics and Impartiality" [BB]

        • Bernard Williams, "Persons, Character and Morality" [BB]

        • Wartenberg, "Moral Intelligence and the Limits of Loyalty: The Third Man" [BB]

      • Recommended Movie

        • "The Third Man" (Reed, 1949; 104 min) [BB]

  • Week 4

    • C7 (T: 2/11) Relationships and Partiality

      • Readings

        • Tom Hurka, "The Justification of National Partiality" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • C. D. Broad, "The Self and Others" [BB]

        • Niko Kolodny, "Which Relationships Justify Partiality?" [BB]

        • Samuel Scheffler, "Morality and Reasonable Partiality" [BB]

        • Diane Jeske, "Friendship, Virtue, and Impartiality" [BB]

        • Troy Jollimore, "Friendships Without Partiality?" [BB]

Topic IV. The Nature of Romantic Love

    • C8 (R: 2/13): Theories of Love

      • Readings

        • Plato, Symposium (pp.1-39) [S]

  • Week 5

    • C9 (T: 2/18): Theories of Love, cont.

      • Readings

        • Plato, Symposium, cont. (pp.39-75) [S]

      • Further Reading

        • Martha Nussbaum, "The Speech of Alcibiades" (skim) [PEL]

        • Alexander Nehamas and Paul Woodruff, "Introduction" [S]

    • C10 (R: 2/20): Union Theories

      • Readings

        • Robert Nozick, "Love's Bond" [PEL]

      • Further Reading

        • Robert Solomon, “The Elusive Emotion,” About Love (pp. 31-76) [BB]

  • Week 6

    • C11 (T: 2/25): Concern Theories

      • Readings

        • Susan Wolf, "The Basic Question" [BB]

Topic V. Irreplaceability

    • C12 (R: 2/27): Attachment

      • Readings

        • Joseph Raz, "Attachment and Uniqueness" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Richard Kraut, “Love De Re” [BB]

        • Amelie Rorty, "The Historicity of Psychological Attitudes" [FPR]

        • Michelle Montague, "Against Propositionalism" [BB]

  • Week 7

    • C13 (T 3/4) Irreplaceability

      • Readings

        • Chris Grau, “Irreplaceability and Unique Value” [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Niko Kolodny, "Love as a Valuing Relationship" (pp.135-142) [BB]

      • Recommended Movie

        • "Solaris" (Soderberg, 2002; 99 min) [BB]

Topic VI. Recognition or Bestowal

    • C14 (R: 2/26): Appraisal or Bestowal

      • Readings

        • Cervantes, Don Quixote, “Knight of the Mirrors” [BB]

        • Irving Singer, from The Nature of Love [PEL]

  • Week 8 ***SPRING BREAK 3/11-1/15***

  • Week 9

    • C15 (T: 3/18): Appraisal or Bestowal

      • Readings

        • John Berryman, "A Love Sonnet" [EAP]

        • John Brentlinger, “The Nature of Love” [EAP]

      • Further Reading

        • Anders Nygren, "Eros and Agape" [EAP]

Topic VII. Justifying Love

    • C16 (R: 3/20) An Example

      • Movie

        • "Say Anything" (Crowe, 1989; 100 min)

      • Readings

        • Yeats, "For Ann Gregory" [EAP]

  • Week 10

    • C17 (T: 3/25) Justifying Love

      • Readings

        • Sappho, "Hymn to Aphrodite" [EAP]

        • Laurence Thomas, "Reasons for Loving" [PEL]

      • Further Reading

        • George Pitcher, "Emotion" [BB]

        • Neil Delaney, "Romantic Love and Loving Commitment" [BB]

        • Gabriele Taylor, "Justifying the Emotions" [BB]

        • Gabriele Taylor, "Love" [BB]

    • C18 (R: 3/27): Is Love an Emotion

      • Readings

        • Robert C. Roberts, "What is an Emotion?" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Annette Baier, "Unsafe Loves" [PEL]

        • O. H. Greene, "Is Love an Emotion?" [BB]

  • Week 11

    • C19 (T: 4/1)

      • Readings

        • Aaron Smuts, "Normative Reasons for Love, Part I" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • D. W. Hamlyn, "The Phenomena of Love and Hate" [EAP]

        • Aaron Ben-Ze'ev, "Hating the One You Love" [BB]

        • Aaron Ben-Ze'ev, "Anger and Hate" [BB]

    • C20 (R: 4/3)

      • Readings

        • Aaron Smuts, "Normative Reasons for Love, Part II" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Aaron Smuts, "In Defense of the No-Reasons View" [BB]

        • Niko Kolodny, "Love as a Valuing Relationship" (pp.146-153) [BB]

        • Abramson and Leite, "Love as a Reactive Emotion" [BB]

Topic VIII. Loving Better Things

  • Week 12

    • C21 (T: 4/8): The Value of the Beloved

      • Readings

        • Harry Frankfurt, "On Caring" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Harry Frankfurt, Reasons of Love, ch. 3 (pp.69-100) [BB]

        • Niko Kolodny, "Love as a Valuing Relationship" (pp.142-6) [BB]

    • C22 (R: 4/10): The Value of the Beloved

      • Readings

        • Susan Wolf, "Frankfurt's Avoidance of Objectivity" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Aaron Smuts, "Is it Better to Love Better Things?" [BB]

        • Richard Kraut, "Desire and the Human Good" [BB]

        • Gregory Trianosky, "Rightly Ordered Appetites" [BB]

        • Alasdair MacIntyre, "Comments on Frankfurt" [BB]

        • Annette Baier, "Caring About Caring: A Reply to Frankfurt" [BB]

Topic IX. Love and Volition

  • Week 13

    • C23 (T: 4/15) A Fairy Interlude

      • Movie

        • "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (Hall, 1968) [first half]

      • Readings

        • Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream (Acts 1-3)

    • C24 (R: 4/17) A Fairy Interlude, cont.

      • Movie

        • "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (Hall, 1968) [second half]

      • Readings

        • Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream (Acts 4-5)

      • Further Reading

        • Schopenhauer, (selections) [PEL]

        • Irvine, “The Ebb and Flow of Desire” [BB]

        • Aaron Smuts, "Love and Free Will" [BB]

Topic X. Marriage and Commitment

  • Week 14

    • C25 (T: 4/22) Promising to Love

      • Readings

        • John Wilson, "Can One Promise to Love?" [BB]

      • Further Reading

        • Robert Solomon, “Falling in Love,” About Love (pp. 129-194) [BB]

        • Geoffrey Gorer, "On Falling in Love" [EAP]

        • Edward Sankowski, "Love and Moral Obligation" [BB]

        • Edward Sankowski, "Responsibility of Persons for Their Emotions" [BB]

    • C26 (R: 4/24): Against Marriage

      • Reading

        • Dan Moller, "Against Marriage" [BB]

  • Week 15

    • C27 (T: 4/29): In Support of Marriage

      • Readings

        • Iddo Landau, "An Argument for Marriage" [BB]

        • Dan Moller, "The Marriage Commitment-Reply to Landau" [BB]

    • C28 (R 5/1): Love and Death

      • Reading

        • Dan Moller, "Love and Death"