Friday, December 9, 2016

Love and reasons

Humans are fundamentally loving beings. This is more fundamental than their being rational, because the nature of reasons, and hence of rationality, is to be accounted for in terms of the nature of love.

A sketchy approximation to a love-based account of external reasons is this:

  • A fact F is an external reason for ϕing if and only if F partially grounds ϕing being in some respect loving towards something or someone or not ϕing being in some respect unloving towards something or someone.

  • A plurality of facts is a conclusive external reason for ϕing if and only if the plurality grounds its being unloving not to ϕ.

If I am right that love has the three fundamental aspects of benevolence, appreciation and union, these probably also provide the three basic kinds of reasons. There are reasons to do good and to prevent bad: these come from the benevolence aspect. There are reasons to, e.g., admire and be grateful that come from appreciation. Interestingly, I think appreciation also provides reasons for things like criticism and punishment. In criticism and punishment we appreciate someone or something qua someone or something that ought to do better: we appreciate nature over actual activity. And finally there is union, which needs to be appropriate to the love (I develop this at greater length in One Body).

Internal reasons are occurrent beliefs that are in some sense about what there is external reason to do and that enter into the right way into choice. These beliefs come in a broad variety, and are not always explicitly about reasons as such.


Anne Jeffrey said...

Interesting. I also think our being loving is more fundamental than our being reasonable. Is it possible on your view to act in ways that are loving when the object of love is bad?

If so, and an act is unreasonable iff it is unloving, it won't be unreasonable to act for a bad end-- that is, out of love for something bad. So, it will be possible to be reasonable and vicious. Satan can't be blamed for being unreasonable as long as he's motivated by a love of evil.

If not, and an act is unreasonable iff it is unloving, it will be unreasonable to act for a bad end. The difficulty with this version of the view, it seems, is in accounting for the difference in reasonableness of a person who correctly believes her end is good and one who mistakenly believes her end is good. Presumably, a necessary condition of loving action is believing the end to be good/worth promoting/appreciating. So the reasonable person will at least believe she acts for a good end. But there's no difference from her perspective, and so no difference psychologically, between that case and the case where she's mistaken about the goodness of the end. Yet the latter, on this view, will not qualify as a loving or reasonable attitude. So reasonability isn't going to be a monadic property of a person's psychology. But maybe that's fine.

Alexander R Pruss said...


I am not sure what "reasonable" maps onto, but I am also not sure the reasonable/unreasonable distinction does any explanatory work.

So let me talk about some stuff in the vicinity. Love is a binary relation and factive in both relata. So it's not possible to love what doesn't exist. And evil doesn't exist. One can, of course, have a state that's psychologically just like love with respect to something that doesn't exist, and we can call that "loving the non-existent", but that's just like saying "Jim knows many things that aren't true".

Some actions are loving simpliciter--those are right. Other actions are loving in some respect. Some wrong actions are like that--they are loving in one respect, but not on balance. And some actions are done from the simulacrum of love that I mentioned in the previous paragraph.