A Minimalist Account of Love

In Rachel Fedock, Michael Kühler & T. Raja Rosenhagen (eds.), Love, Justice, and Autonomy: Philosophical Perspectives. Routledge. pp. 61-78 (2021)
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There is a prima facie conflict between the values of love and autonomy. How can we bind ourselves to a person and still enjoy the fruits of self-determination? This chapter argues that the solution to this conflict lies in recognizing that love is the basis of autonomy: one must love a person in order to truly appreciate their autonomy. To make this case, this chapter defends a minimalist account of love, according to which love is an agreeable sensation that is experienced when considering the existence of another person. On this view, the lover does not desire anything from the beloved but works to attend to their presence. Love, then, puts us in a position to appreciate the beloved in their particular way of being. By accepting the presence of the beloved we gain a sense of their autonomy. The roots of this account of love are found in the writings of Damaris Cudworth Masham. This chapter draws on the work of Kieran Setiya, David Velleman, and Kyla Ebels-Duggan to elaborate on and defend Masham’s views.

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Northeastern University


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