Files in this item



application/pdfIngrid_Albrecht.pdf (556kB)
(no description provided)PDF


Title:Love, self-constitution, and practical necessity
Author(s):Albrecht, Ingrid
Director of Research:Sussman, David
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Sussman, David
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Murphy, Colleen; Sanders, Kirk R.; Varden, Helga
Department / Program:Philosophy
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
practical necessity
moral psychology
Abstract:My dissertation, “Love, Self-Constitution, and Practical Necessity,” offers an interpretation of love between people. Love is puzzling because it appears to involve essentially both rational and non-rational phenomena. We are accountable to those we love, so love seems to participate in forms of necessity, commitment, and expectation, which are associated with morality. But non-rational attitudes—forms of desire, attraction, and feeling—are also central to love. Consequently, love is not obviously based in rationality or inclination. In contrast to views that attempt to fit love into existing models of practical reasoning, I argue that love participates in a unique form of practical necessity, different from both moral and psychological necessity, yet bearing resemblances to each. Distinctive to this type of practical necessity is a direct appeal to another particular person that cannot be delivered in third-personal terms—that is, a non-moral yet normative type of expectation on another person. This type of expectation is predominant in loving relationships, but can also make better sense of the experiences of humor and beauty, as well as attitudes like forgiveness, gratitude, and agent-regret. I treat Immanuel Kant’s discussion of the experience of beauty in the Critique of Judgment and Christine Korsgaard’s work on self-constitution as fruitful starting points for this account of love. I conclude that our loving relationships enable us to have distinctive personal selves, and provide support for this account of love by offering a complementary theory of grief. In Part One of the dissertation, I focus on two prominent approaches to love characteristic of the sentimentalist and rationalist traditions. I begin with the work of David Hume, which treats desire (understood as something like a simple impulse or craving) as the paradigmatic mental state, and emphasizes our personal and affective dimensions. Hume has the valuable insight that loving someone affects our sense of ourselves. But Hume’s view becomes unsatisfying when he claims that love is essentially enfeebling, implying that to love is to be passive toward and readily overcome by another person. While this indicates Hume’s awareness that love involves being open and receptive to another person, the problem is that love is also a demanding attitude. Hume lacks the conceptual resources to offer a nuanced view of the self, in which we can—with one attitude—be both demanding of and vulnerable to another person. Hume’s model of a desire-based deliberative process has recently been revived in Harry Frankfurt’s discussions on love and rationality. Frankfurt, however, goes beyond Hume’s picture of the self by introducing a notion of “identification,” which he offers to make sense of our apparent ability to commit ourselves decisively to certain projects or people. I argue that active powers like identification and commitment cannot be accommodated within any basically Humean moral psychology. Such abilities, and with them the possibility of love, depend on something closer to a Kantian conception of rational agency. I next focus on the work of Kant, who provides the substantial counterpart to Humean-inspired moral theories, but is not known for his insight into our emotional lives. In the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant divides love into “practical love”—what we experience when we are morally motivated to help someone—and “pathological love”—what we experience when we feel fond of something. But in reality, we experience love neither as a mere preference for another person, nor as something that generates the kind of demands that would be binding on any rational creature. David Velleman attempts to remedy the deficiency of Kant’s dichotomy. Velleman offers a Kantian theory in which he describes love and respect as two ends of a continuum of attitudes that it is morally appropriate to have toward people. Velleman’s view has the peculiar implication that everyone deserves the love of everyone else, and I argue that this is a fatal flaw. Like Kant and Velleman, Korsgaard characterizes personal love as involving the treatment of other people as Kantian ends-in-themselves to a heightened degree. Korsgaard, though, also contends that our individual identities depend upon our personal relationships, and I take this position seriously for the remainder of the dissertation. Ultimately, however, characterizations of loving relations as subsets of moral relations can account for the authority of the demands of love, but not its particularity. The major conclusion of Part One is that any attempt to understand love primarily on a model of practical reasoning with which we are already familiar is doomed to fail. Our experience of love calls for a theory of a unique type of practical necessity. In Part Two I take seriously the possibility that love is simultaneously inescapable (in something like the way morality is supposed to be), and yet ineluctably personal. In love, we experience an engagement with a person as essentially particular, rather than as an instance of a rational agent in general. To make sense of this direct attachment to an individual, I argue that love involves distinctive forms of expectation and disappointment. When those we love let us down, they hurt our feelings, which is not a response to a failed prediction, but nor is it a reaction to a moral insult or offense. According to Peter Strawson and Stephen Darwall, second-personal moral reactive attitudes (such as resentment) always have third-personal analogues (such as indignation). In contrast, I argue that the type of hurt feelings associated with love is a second-personal reactive attitude that does not have a third-personal corollary. I take this as evidence that the expectations involved in love are not objective in the way that the moral is objective. Nor, however, is love a matter of mere preference. On my interpretation, Kant introduces this different type of expectation in the Critique of Judgment. Whereas he characterizes moral judgments as universally communicable, judgments of beauty implicitly involve only second-personal address: I appeal to your direct experience with a particular object. This provides the conceptual space for an account of love according to which it involves a uniquely second-personal form of practical necessity. I contend that the second-personal addresses we make in love are appeals to strengthen the intimacy implicit in the loving relationship, and I identify three interrelated dimensions of that intimacy. First, those we love have the standing to interpret us in a constitutive manner. We fine-tune and make determinate the character of our concerns and interests in part by accepting the interpretations provided by those we love. In that way, the people we love have the normative power to constitute who we are. Second, we share a perspective with those we love in a way that is not reducible to or derivative of our independent perspectives. Loving someone centrally involves the activity of forming concerns together, and we do this in a mode best understood on the model of playing a spontaneous game or improvising music. Finally, being loved enables us to see ourselves as distinctive and special, because the concern those who love us have for us does not track the objective merit of our characteristics. These dimensions of the intimacy that characterizes a loving relationship reveal what it is that we appeal for in love, and how we are hurt when our appeals are rebuffed. In broad terms, this dissertation advocates the recognition of a non-moral yet normative type of expectation, which is predominant in loving relationships. Humor and beauty, too, make more sense when understood in terms of this non-moral yet normative type of expectation, as they involve appeals to others that are more than mere predictions of, but less than rational demands for, a certain kind of response. Introducing this alternative notion of expectation into the discourse of moral philosophy can shed light on other common attitudes that are clearly normative, but defy translation into objective, third-personal terms. Such attitudes include certain experiences of pride and shame, apology and forgiveness, the bestowing of mercy, gratitude, agent-regret, and perhaps a basic sense of trust we have in others. Ultimately, I situate love in respect to grief, which demonstrates my theory’s ability to make sense of related dimensions of our emotional lives. The people we love and grieve over give us a sense of who we are as distinctive, particular individuals, as the three interrelated dimensions of intimacy in loving relationships reveal. Consequently, grief is best understood as a type of practical disorientation—namely, a disorientation that involves the loss of the personal self. I present my account of grief against the type of account that would draw philosophical conclusions about the nature of love and grief from empirical psychological data alone. In particular, these data indicate that we recover quickly from the deaths of loved ones, and Dan Moller draws the philosophical conclusion that those we love fulfill certain roles in our lives and are replaceable. In contrast, I contend that while we should acknowledge the truth of the objective judgment, made in the third-person, that we will likely recover after the deaths of those we love, it does not follow that we must affirm such a claim from the internal perspective of one person who loves another. As a result, the case of love and grief supports a general claim concerning the proper work of moral philosophy, which is that the understanding of ourselves gained through empirical data is not a substitute for the normative conclusions that are revealed through first-personal reflections on our relationships.
Issue Date:2013-02-03
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Ingrid V. Albrecht
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-02-03
Date Deposited:2012-12

This item appears in the following Collection(s)

Item Statistics