Brains, Persons, and Society *** ABSTRACTS
Cervelli, Persone e Società ***ABSTRACTS
Università di Bologna
Less attention has been paid to love from a normative and metaphysical perspective, one that takes into account what is for a mental state to be one of romantic love and, therefore, enquires whether the state one is in is truly and properly one of love. This is, nonetheless, a very common perspective to take. Actually, what troubles human beings in the course of their romantic affairs and what causes more cogitation is precisely the question of authenticity: what is true love?
First of all, love is not to be considered as equivalent to its occurent manifestations, because under that phenomenological perspective love is only a private state, which cannot be judged according to public and shareable criteria of authenticity.
In the second place, love should not be seen as a disposition triggered by physiological inputs. Even assumed that we perfectly knew what happens in the body when we love, we could always intelligibly ask: is that true love? If we obtained certain physiological and behavioral reactions through a potion, I think we would deny that the subject of the experiment is truly in love.
This thought experiment could lead us to consider love a dispositional emotion, cognitively conceived: love is the reiterated expression of a judgment or evaluation of a certain object.
But this third hypothesis is rejected as the others. In this last case, there are two alternatives, which are promising, but at the end they reveal to be unsatisfying. If we appeal to the appropriateness of the properties or values of the beloved, many problems immediately arise (among others: easy interchangeability, subjectivity of the lovable properties, counterevidence that we don’t love only what is valuable). If we appeal to the basic appropriateness of the beloved object in virtue of the correct apprehension of its real characteristics, we obtain only a trivial and uninteresting conception of true love.
I do not commit myself to an explanation tout court of the phenomenon, for I am not sure that a single approach can satisfy all our philosophical desiderata. My thesis will rather be that my account is preferable if the philosophical interest is mainly normative.
Love certainly is a dispositional state, but we should leave aside the emotional features (even if they are undeniable) and focus on the volitional and motivational aspects. Love can be seen as a project, the sum of volitions (that is, second-order desires), which can be expressed trough emotions and beliefs and give rise to a complex of decisions and acts.
My proposal will then be that love is authentic when it is coherent to our true self, when, so to speak, it does not deny who we are.
This explains why we live different loves in different periods of life, and we look for different objects of love, with different properties. But it also explains why we don’t necessarily change our beloved even if we meet someone with a better set of the properties in virtue of which we claim to love.
My conception is not trivial, though, because it is not guaranteed that we truly love in accordance with our sense of identity, quite the contrary (and it is clearly not necessarily easy to find out whether it is so or not).
Eventually, it does not run the risk of some moralistic fallacy: evil people, as it is plausible, can truly love. I will deny that the care for the beloved’s welfare is a necessary condition for true love (even if it is morally desirable).