Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Is love blind?

The adage that love is blind would be a tragedy if true. For if one loves, one wants to know more about the beloved, in order to have more to love in the beloved. It is true that, as a matter of fact, people "in love" frequently are blind to aspects of the beloved. But note two points about this. First, insofar as they are blind, they fail to appreciate the beloved as the beloved is, and hence they are failing in love, so love forbids blindness. Second, a charitable blindness to bad characteristics may in fact be an appropriate way of seeing what is really there. For there is good reason for a theist to think that evil, as such, is always a lack. If it were not a lack, if it were something positive, then like everything in existence, it would be sustained by God, whereas God would not sustain evil, as such, in existence. If this is correct, then when we see what is truly there in someone we love, we will not see the evils, since they literally do not exist. At the same time, we may well see that there are ways in which the beloved could be better, which potential for greater goodness is actually a good feature of the beloved, a feature worthy of appreciation.


Vlastimil Vohánka said...


Dietrich von Hildebrand has similar insights in his brief book Marriage which influenced the 2nd Vaticanum.

Chauncey said...

Interesting issue.

Isn't the first point a circular argument? You write, "First, insofar as they are blind, they fail to appreciate the beloved as the beloved is, and hence they are failing in love, so love forbids blindness." But doesn't the argument require the premise that love forbids blindness?

I agree that sometimes people who are "in love" are blind to things in the beloved. But to show that that's not a counter-example to your claim that, I would think you'd need to assume that there is a norm for loving (e.g. know as much as you can about the beloved). Or, in different terms, you'd want to clarify that your claim is normative, not descriptive. Then it could be the case that two people are apparently in love and blind, and thus doing a bad job of it.

Alexander R Pruss said...


A component of love is appreciation (suppressed premise). Moreover, to fail to appreciate the beloved as the beloved is is to at least fall short in appreciation (suppressed premise). "Fail" may be too strong.

On reflection, though, I think the argument still has some flaws. First of all, it does not apply in the case of blindness to features that are irrelevant to love. Thus, I am blind to whether my wife has an even or odd number of hairs on her head, and this blindness is irrelevant to my appreciation of her, since I do not appreciate her for the parity of the number of hairs on her head. (If I did, then this blindness would be problematic.)

Second, one might be blind to a bad feature of one's beloved, and still do fine in love, because although one is blind to the bad feature, one might as a matter of fact not be appreciating the beloved for lack of that bad feature. However, I think this kind of case is relatively rare. If one is blind to a bad feature, in the sense in which people say that love is blind, then it presumably is an appreciatively relevant feature (why else would one have a psychic block against recognizing it), and so it seems likely one is appreciating the beloved for failing to have that feature.

Time to revise the portion of the book this post was taken from. :-)