Grace and Alienation

Philosophers' Imprint 20 (16):1-18 (2020)
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Abstract

According to an attractive conception of love as attention, discussed by Iris Murdoch, one strives to see one’s beloved accurately and justly. A puzzle for understanding how to love another in this way emerges in cases where more accurate and just perception of the beloved only reveals his flaws and vices, and where the beloved, in awareness of this, strives to escape the gaze of others - including, or perhaps especially, of his loved ones. Though less attentive forms of love may be able to render one’s continued love coherent and justifiable in these cases, they risk further alienating the beloved precisely because they are less attentive and because of the operations of the beloved’s shame. I argue that attentive love is well-suited to alleviate this problem of alienation, but that in order to do so, it must be supplemented with grace. I propose a conception of gracious love as an affectionate love for the qualities of human nature, distinguishing this from a love of humanity, and show how this complex emotion, in being responsive to the complexities of shame, is able to alleviate the problem of alienation.

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Vida Yao
Rice University

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