Philosophy of Love (Spring 2014) - Final Exam

Philosophy of Love (S14) - Final Exam

*Before you begin writing, read this entire document.

Answer four (4) questions. All key terms, theories, and named objections must be explained. You have 3,000 words. (There is a 2,100 word minimum.)

I. Answer one question from 1-2. ("Say Anything" and Justifying Love)

1. Thomas argues that we cannot justify love. But it might appear that we think we can. We ask questions such as, "What do you see in him?" Thomas isn't worried. He argues that when we ask these kinds of questions we are merely looking for an explanation not a justification. Evaluate this reply. Do you think that Thomas is right about this? Think back to "Say Anything" (Crowe, 1989) Does Diane Court's father merely want an explanation for why she loves Llyod Dobler? More important, is this all that he could get? If Thomas is wrong here, would it undermine his general thesis that we cannot justify our love.

(This question requires evaluation. Briefly explain Thomas's argument for the claim that we cannot justify our love. Then explain how our apparent requests for justification might function as an objection to his claim. Then explain his reply. Then consider "Say Anything" as a possible counter-example. Is Thomas right that we merely want an explanation? If so, explain away the counter-example. If he's wrong, say whether this is a serious problem for his view.)

2. Evaluate Thomas's core argument for why we cannot justify love as we can other emotions. Thomas argues that love differs from standard emotions in an important way. This difference explains why we cannot justify our love. What is the difference? Why would Thomas say that no matter his good features Diane Court could never justify her love for Llyod Dobler? Is Thomas right?

(This question requires evaluation. You need to explain what Thomas thinks a justification would amount to. What's the role of evaluative beliefs? Consider his discussion of anger: He thinks that anger is sometimes rationally prohibited. And he thinks that it is sometimes rationally required. He seems to think that both must be possible for an attitude to be rationally justifiable. Is this plausible? Does this set too high of a bar for the justification of an emotion? Perhaps we merely need to be able to show that love is sometimes prohibited. But is this ever the case? Could any configuration of vices make Llyod Dobler an inappropriate object of love? If so, explain how. If not, explain why.)

II. Answer one question from 3-4. (What should we care about?)

3. Evaluate Wolf's theory of what we should care about. Consider an athletic father who loves his athletic son more than his intellectual son. The father has a greater affinity for the athletic son and they enjoy the sporting life together. What should we say about this case? Is this a problem for Wolf's theory of what we should care about? Does her theory have the resources to handle the problem, if it is indeed a problem?

(This question requires evaluation. You should begin by explaining Frankfurt's theory of care. Does he think that the value of the object of our concern matters much? What does matter according to Frankfurt? Do this quickly. Then you should explain Wolf's principal objection to Frankfurt. Explain her main objection to The Opposite View. In response, what does she propose? Explain the three considerations that should govern what we care about. Then consider the athletic father objection to her view. Does her theory escape the problems of The Opposite View?)

4. Evaluate Frankfurt's reply to Wolf. Frankfurt argues that the worth of what one cares about does not directly affect how good it is for the one who cares. Does this meet Wolf's objection? Does Frankfurt's reply assume rational egoism? Why does Wolf think it is better to like better things? Does she appeal to self-interest? Does Frankfurt's reply meet her objection?

(This question requires evaluation. Here you need to do much of the same initial work as in the previous question. You don't need to discuss the athletic father objection. Instead, you need to consider Frankfurt's reply to her argument. Does it work? Does it address Wolf's argument. Why does Wolf think that the value of the object matters? Does Frankfurt answer these arguments, or does his appeal to wrong kinds of considerations?)

III. Answer one question from 5-6. (A Midsummer Night's Dream)

5. In Act 3.II of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Oberon chides Puck for administering love-in-idleness to Lysander rather than Demetrius: "What hast thou done? Thou hast mistaken quite \ And laid the love juice on some true-love's sight. \ Of they misprision must perforce ensue \ Some true-love turned, and not a false turned true." Are Oberon's remarks consistent with the view of love found in the rest of the text? Why or why not?

(This question asks you to provide an interpretation of the play. Your interpretation must be supported by textual evidence. In other words, you must supply some quotations. Suggested plan: Explain what appears to be the view of love expressed in the play. Explain how Oberon's remarks might be seen as contradicting this view. Then explain whether or not his comments are consistent with the rest of the play. Again, provide textual evidence. But do not summarize the play.)

6. Evaluate the view of love found in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Most plausibly, the play suggests that not only are there are no justifying reasons for love, but also that all love is equal. Is this so? Consider how Helena might feel if some years later she discovered why Demetrius had such a sudden change of heart. Might this matter to her? Why or why not? Should it? Does this support or contradict the view of the play?

(This question asks you to evaluate a plausible interpretation of the play. You need to support an interpretation with textual evidence. In other words, you must supply some quotations. When considering whether or not the play holds the correct view of love, you might want to discuss my example of Lovezac. You must address the concern that love earned through potions would be deficient. If you think so, explain why. If not, explain why not. Convince the reader. Make sure to provide textual evidence. But do not summarize the play.)

IV. Answer question 7. (Love and Death)

7. Consider the quote from Proust in Moller's reply to Landau, "The Marriage Commitment." In that essay, Moller suggests that the concern Proust expresses is somewhat fanciful. I want you to consider it again. Does the quote give us reason to doubt Moller's thesis in "Love and Death." There he argues that the principal problem with our adaptability is that it gives us an epistemic handicap. It's not the case that resilience shows that we didn't value the beloved before their death, but that we can't appreciate this once we are over the loss. But the Proust quote suggests that there is a bigger problem, a problem that Moller mentions in passing. Might a more cynical position be viable than the one Moller adopts? Would resilience show that we no longer care for the dead? Why or why not?

(This question asks you to evaluate Moller's argument. Suggested plan: Explain the cynical thesis. Why might one believe that adaptability shows that we never really care about anything. Explain Moller's reply and his thesis. Then consider the sentiment behind the Proust quote. Do not copy the entire quote! Consider whether it gives us reason to adopt a slightly more cynical thesis. You should say something about what it is to care and whether the conditions for care are met by the resilient.)

Note: Keep quotations to a minimum. Never use a quotation to speak for you. The only quotations in your exam should be of formalizations or for textual evidence to support an interpretation of a story or a complex argument.

Due Date

Monday, 5/12/2014


The exam should be in total no more than 3,000 words. This is approximately 10 pages double-spaced with Arial 12 point font. The exam should be no less than 2,100 words, about 7 pages. (I will deduct a letter grade for every 300 words shy of the minimum.)


You don't have much space, so you will need to be clear and to the point. Clarity should be your chief goal in writing the answers. Pick your words carefully. Write to be understood. Assume that you are writing the paper to be read by someone completely unfamiliar with the issues.

I want you to explain the theories and objections as clearly as you can within the space allotted. I do not want papers that are longer than the word limit. The space limitation is designed to force you to practice verbal economy. That said, it is impossible to write a set of adequate answers in much less than the allocated space. You'll have to use most of the space, and use it well.


The exam must be typed. It should be double spaced. It should have one inch margins. You should use a 12 point font. I prefer Arial, since it is easy to read. Please follow the general paper and exam instructions under the "writing" section on the course Blackboard page.

Write a separate essay for each answer. Do not try to answer all the questions in a single essay. Formal introductions and conclusions are unnecessary, though you must use paragraphs.

Please skip a line or two between your answers. You do not need to start a new page. Include the number of the question at the start of each answer. Do not copy the questions.

If you have citations, include a reference list on the final page. You can use whatever citation format you prefer.


I do NOT need a hard copy. And please do NOT email the exam to me. Instead, you should submit the exam through Safe Assign via Blackboard by 11:59 pm on the due date. (11:59 pm is the end of the day on the due date, not to be confused with the night before.) Safe Assign is a plagiarism detection tool. It will compare your paper against others available online, in journals, submitted in this class, RIC, and from all other universities that use the software.

*If you are unable to submit the paper to Safe Assign due to technical difficulties, you must send an email to the helpdesk <> explaining the problem. Make sure to CC me. If this happens, send me a copy of your paper as an attachment. Note: I will not accept your paper if you don't report the problem to the helpdesk.

Note: Plagiarism will result in a failing grade in the class, not just on this assignment. I recommend that you not use any outside sources. If you do, you must cite them even if you don't quote them. You must attribute all ideas to their proper sources.


Before writing, you must read three documents under the writing section of the course Blackboard page: 1. Writing Tip Sheet, 2. General Instructions, and 3. Pryor's "Writing Philosophy Papers."