The Ordinary Concept of True Love

In Christopher Grau & Aaron Smuts (eds.), "Introduction" for the Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Love. NYC: Oxford University Press (2024)
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When we say that what two people feel for each other is 'true love,' we seem to be doing more than simply clarifying that it is in fact love they feel, as opposed to something else. That is, an experience or relationship might be a genuine or actual instance of love without necessarily being an instance of true love. But what criteria do people use to determine whether something counts as true love? This chapter explores three hypotheses. The first holds that the ordinary concept of true love picks out love that is highly prototypical. The second, that it picks out love that is especially good or valuable. The third, that people distinguish between psychological states that are 'real' or not, and that it picks out love that is real. Two experiments provide evidence against the first hypothesis and in favor of the second and third. Implications for real-life disagreements about love are also discussed.

Author Profiles

Brian D. Earp
University of Oxford
Joshua Knobe
Yale University


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