Making Distinctions

Methodology of Metaphysics: the Importance of Queer Cases

Often, philosophers of love want to distinguish between romantic love and other kinds of love. Some appeal to sex in some way to make this distinction. Schopenhauer, for example, reduces romantic love to sexual desire alone; in fact, to opposite-sex sexual desire alone. He says, for example, that 'all love, however ethereally it may bear itself, is rooted in the sexual impulse alone, nay, it absolutely is only a more definitely determined ... sexual impulse. ... It is merely a question of every Hans finding his Grethe' ...

Reduction, Deflation, and Construction

Metaphysical reductionism about X holds that X can be reduced to Y, where reducing X to Y means identifying X with Y.

Y is generally something that the reductionist is already comfortable believing in, while X is something previously thought of as more metaphysically problematic or suspicious (hence the label ‘reductionism’, rather than just ‘identificationism’). A reductionist might, for example, seek to identify romantic love with a particular brain state -- call it B -- motivated by the thought that brain states are relatively well-understood, at least compared to love ...

Ambiguity and Semantic Generality

It's sometimes said that romantic love can come in many forms.

It is a common (even cliché) view that there exists a passionate, emotionally charged kind of love associated with the early stages of a romantic attraction, and a different, less passionate, but more stable and consistent, kind of love associated with long-term relationships ...

Fictionalism and Nihilism

Today I realised there are two metaphysical views about love that I hadn't previously been distinguishing clearly:

1. Fictionalism about the love relation
This is the view that there is no such relation as the is in love with relation. Although we talk as if there were such a relation, this talk can be regarded as in some ways like a fiction: literally false, but perhaps useful for certain purposes.

2. Love nihilism
This is the view that nobody is in love with anybody ...