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Love and the Priority of the Beloved

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Love and the Priority of the Beloved
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   1 Love and the Priority of the Beloved Introduction While being in love involves caring about the beloved, there is more to being in love than merely caring about someone. 1  While the analytic tradition on love recognizes that loving is a form of caring, a mistake in Frankfurt‟s approach to caring affects his account of love. Caring is a key component of love, but in this paper I will show that the rational structure of loving  –   the reasons we have because we are in love with another  –   differs from the rational structure of caring. To love someone is to put her interests above one‟s own. As such, while loving is a form of caring in that one still incorpora tes the interests of the beloved in one‟s own set of interests in a way that will defeat ordinary reasons, there is a categorical difference between those one loves and those one cares about. I will begin by explaining what exactly it is to care about someone. Caring cannot involve simply incorporation of the interests of another into one‟s own interest set. This is possible in  joint projects or other more mundane situations where one does not genuinely care about the other. As such, I argue that caring should be understood as generating a normative bonus for the interests of the thing or person about which one cares. To care about someone makes their interests more important than the same interest would be when held by someone about whom one did not care. However, this conception of caring does not, I believe, adequately explain love. Explaining love, however, will be the focus of section three. In between, I must support the view that love is a form of caring by defending it from the criticisms of Kyla Ebels-Duggan and David Velleman. Ebels- Duggan argues that Frankfurt‟s account is problematically paternalistic; it might explain the workings of parent-child love, but it is demeaning when applied to adult relationships. I think a relatively subtle change to Frankfurt‟s   2 approach could solve this problem in a way that preserves the bulk of his approach. Velleman‟s critique argues that love is based more on seeing the other as they really are, rather than on any adjustment in one‟s set of reasons. While this is  an ideal, it is neither a necessary nor a sufficient component of a loving relationship, and so leaves Frankfurt‟s core unscathed.  The final task will be to offer a positive account of the relationship between loving and caring. I believe loving someone is caring more about someone than one cares about oneself. I think only this approach can explain the phenomenology of being in love, but my emphasis in this section will not be to prove this. Instead, I explain why the kind of reasoning involved in caring, as discussed in section 1, are different from the kinds of reasons involved in loving. Loving, I believe, generates an exclusionary reason to act in the interest of the beloved that makes all countervailing reasons normatively inert. I will explain briefly how exclusionary reasons work before assessing why they are a better explanation of the demands of love than the normative bonus involved in ordinary caring. This is a highly demanding version, but, as any examination of the phenomenology makes clear, love is not easy. However, the most striking consequence of this account, with which I will conclude the paper, makes self-love dangerous. I  believe you can, indeed you probably should, care about yourself, but that the reasons involved in caring are fundamentally different from the reasons involved in loving. I. Loving, Caring, and the Interests of Others Caring is central to Frankfurt‟s philosophy in a number of ways –   including his conception of agency and action  –   but in no area as key as in his philosophy of love. Indeed, it would be an unusual account of love that did not have an attempt to explain love‟s relation to caring as a central point of its argument. While Frankfurt is right that love is a „particular form of caring,‟ he is wrong about what ca ring is, and about the relationship between caring and love.   3 However, Frankfurt‟s account of caring is insufficiently precise; it fails to distinguish how caring affects the normativity of reasons that arise from the interests of the objects of our care. Caring is more than a mere pro-attitude. Instead, caring necessarily involves responding to the object of care as a source of reasons for action in a way that makes these reasons more important than they would otherwise be. In other words, caring provides a normative bonus to some reasons  –   the reasons that arise from the interests of the object of care  –   that does not apply to things we care about. The second is that Frankfurt‟s account of love is far too broad to distinguish between genuine instances of lo ve and what we ordinarily think of as instances of caring. Frankfurt‟s conception of love is too mundane to explain the differences in the ways we act towards those we love as opposed to those we merely care about. Both of these criticisms amount to the same conclusion, however; while love is a particular mode of caring, it is not simply taking the interests of the cared-for as a reason for oneself. In Frankfurt, caring, at its most basic, is to “ regard   [something]  as important to oneself  .” 2  This has a number of different permutations, but the identification with the object of care  –   being „tuned into‟ the other –   is critical. It is this identification that distinguishes the things we care about from the things we desire or the things for which we have an appetite. I have an appetite for salt and pepper potato chips, but I cannot be said to care about them; I have a pro-attitude toward consuming them, but I do not identify myself as an eater of potato chips. Likewise, there are things that I desire; there are some things that I have a pro-attitude toward that have volitional force. A desire to have sex is not the same thing as identifying oneself as a sexual  being. Children and members of monastic orders might desire sex without understanding or accepting those desires as part of themselves. It is only when one does identify oneself as a   4 sexual being  –   when one affirms the desire  –   that it comes to have the full importance of something about which one cares. Frankfurt usually speaks about second-order desires, but one could also use reason to distinguish those appetites and desires one does not identify with from the things about which one cares. Frankfurt is not, methodologically speaking, a rationalist philosopher. That is, he does not explain his theories or human interaction primarily in terms of reasons, especially practical reasons. After distinguishing caring from desiring and finding something to have intrinsic value, Frankfurt calls caring „a willing commitment to one‟s desire.‟ The mode of that commitme nt will depend on the thing one desires, but in general it involves being favourably disposed toward something. This is not explicitly in terms of reasons, but it is also Frankfurt‟s starting point rather than his conclusion. In mainstream rationalist philosophy, all it is for something to be a reason is for it to be something  –   some state of affairs  –   that counts in favour of some end. 3  Having a commitment to an end is a fact that can give one reasons to pursue that end, but only on a relatively thin account of reasons. It is subject to clear bootstrapping problems  –   if one has a commitment to a desire one ought not to have this will generate reasons one ought not to have as well, but I will nonetheless call these reasons and will have to trust in a balancing of normativity from other reasons one might have to make clear that they ought not to be ultima facie  action guiding. 4  In Frankfurt, the shift from caring to loving involves presenting love as caring in terms of reasons. For Frankfurt, “loving someone o r something essentially means or consists in, among other things, taking its interests as reasons for acting to serve those interests.” 5  While I will return again to this definition, I must address the kinds of reasons involved first. In metaethical terms, Frankfurt is an internalist  –   he believes there is a necessary motivational connection   5  between reasons and the individuals who „have‟ them. In this essay, however, I will largely discuss reasons in an externalist, rather than an internalist, way. While this is a change, I believe it is acceptable in part because I am adopting a relatively thin theory of reasons that can nonetheless be consistent with a more robust, internalist account of reasons. I can be ecumenical about whether there are motivational connections between the interests of those one cares about and one‟s set of reasons, since reasons of this kind will usually have such motivational connections. As such, even if I am not convinced that all reasons necessarily have motivational connections, I can accept that reasons that arise from caring do. So while I will discuss „the reasons one has‟ without mention of a necessary motivational connection, one can either take caring or loving to supply that motivational connection or not, depending on whether one is an internalist or an externalist about reasons. Otherwise, my metaethical stance should not affect my discussion of caring and loving. The reasons that arise from the interests of those one merely cares about give rise to reasons that have a normative bonus over equivalent reasons that arise from the interests of others. This approach draws from Samuel Scheffler‟s approach to consequentialism. 6  Some versions of act consequentialism do not distinguish between the interests of those we care about and the interests of those for whom we have no emotional attachment, including oneself. 7  This seems to make it an unbearably austere morality, with little room for explaining many key parts of ordinary moral psychology, including partiality, aside from by making partiality immoral. Scheffler proposes that one can be entitled to favour one‟s own projects by giving them a normative bonus. Take, for instance, two colleagues, who are each trying to write a new translation of Goethe‟s Faust. If one colleague is fur  ther along than another, that gives the second colleague reason to help the first colleague rather than pursue his work independently. If,
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