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FPST Seminar – Edgar Phillips (St. Andrews)
November 21 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Title: Philosophical foundations for radical love
Abstract: Much recent philosophical work on love seeks to understand it as a fitting response to the value of those we love, with such accounts typically being articulated in terms of ‘reasons for love’. Debates in this area have been animated by a couple of challenges: first, to explain the way in which the loved one is unique or irreplaceable to the lover; second, to explain love’s ‘selectivity’, that is the fact that people typically love only a relatively very few people, specifically people to whom they are interpersonally connected in certain distinctive kinds of ways. These challenges are interconnected, because the value that makes individuals irreplaceable is, plausibly, one that every human being possesses just as such; this makes it difficult to explain love’s selectivity in a way that vindicates it, that is to say, that reveals it as an aspect of love’s proper responsiveness to its reasons. In this talk, I first bring out some (largely implicit) assumptions that frame this debate. I then sketch (and I mean sketch) a way in which we might resolve these tensions if we are prepared to question some of those assumptions. On the view I will outline, the irreplaceability of individuals is intimately connected to their very individuality and hence their particularity. I suggest that this idea cannot readily be accommodated within a reasons framework without distortion. I also make a suggestion as to how the selectivity of love might be explained consistently with this idea. Significantly, the explanation is not vindicatory, and raises the possibility that we might try to be more loving than we ordinarily are, as well as questions about what this might mean.