Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Nozick vs Badhwar on Love.

"The intention in love is to form a we and to identify with it as an extended self, to identify one's fortunes in large part with its fortunes. A willingness to trade up, to destroy the very we you largely identify with, would then be a willingness to destroy your self in the form of your own extended self." [Nozick,(1989)p. 78]

I was wondering what some of our resident romantics (yes Michael, I mean you!) make of this idea, and if people consider it at all accurate? Is Badhwar's criticism that this kind of relationship: “cannot be understood as love at all rather than addiction” [Badhwar (2003)p. 61] fair?

Both quotes lifted from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


michael said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
michael said...

Sorry, having read the full article some alteration was required.
Agian, I flow with Frankfurt. What is described by Nozick has certainly been seen traditionally as a form of love, but not the type of love that I find interesting - it is a form of erotic love. This differs from 'pure', or disinterested, love in that the beloved in erotic love is not loved for their own sake but for what it can do for the lover. This form of love doesn't cause problems for the question of identity because it is purely desire based - one does not identify with the beloved, only with the desire for the beloved. and so there is no actual divorce of the self from the self when the lover destroys the beloved, because the fortunes of the beloved do not directly effect the lover. They may still keep the desire to posses what they have destroyed, and indeed it may well be just as attainable for the lover now that it is destroyed as it was before it was destroyed; the actual state of the beloved holds no real relevance under this view of love.

Now, with disinterested love the idea is not that one desires that which they love, but that one 'cares for' that which they love, and in doing so takes on board as their own the cares of their beloved. Thus they identify with their beloved rather than the desire for their beloved. In this way one truly takes on the fortunes and misfortunes of their beloved as their own. On this view if one were to destroy one's beloved it would be quite correct to say that one was destroying oneself.

There, is of course, a complication here. If one were to destroy one's beloved then one cannot be said to have taken on the cares of their beloved, and so did not really love their beloved. thus they are not in, destroying their beloved destroying themselves, because they are not destroying their beloved. Again, they did not identify with their beloved, and thus their beloved was neither their beloved nor part of themselves. this is not to say that they did not think that they loved the 'beloved', only that if they thought this they were in error.

Fungiability is also a central point of concern. In erotic love and also in disinterested love it depends how the beloved is seen by the lover whether it can be replaced without affecting the lover. If the lover loves “flowers” then one bunch seems as good as another. But of course one has not actually altered the beloved, only produced a different face of that beloved. If one loves “Marie”, for instance, she obviously cannot be exchanged for another Marie, but this is a trivial objection for no one would seriously claim that just because two people were called Marie they are the same person. Essentially this is a means-ends worry. Erotic love is ends focused, while disinterested love is means focused.

Whiting puts forward another useful point, that in disinterested love for whose sake something is done is not really a sensible question because the lover does it for his love, and he does it for his love for him, and… This brings forward the notion that one ‘identifies’ with one’s beloved. Though I don’t think history is relevant, though I have mentioned this in the discussion of Kant and identity.

Badhwar's comment is here given a touch out of context, and is actually in reference to the inability to change the object of one’s love in Nozick’s view. This certainly is addiction but doesn’t in itself make it not love. But certainly there is no coherent notion of an expansion of one's identification in Nozick's view of love. And neither is there in disinterested love, for if one creates a ‘we’, well there seems to be a diminution of the ‘I’ – one is less sure of one’s identity. If love is for the purposes of identity, then an illumination of the nature of love that says it diminishes identity is not very helpful.

Samuel Douglas said...

Thanks for the response. As I'm not overly familiar with this literature, it might take me a whle to get my head around it. for the moment. My concerns are kind of about identity, but also kind of not as I'm also thinking about autonomy as well. Now I know that autonomy may or may not relate to identity, but I find it hard to seperate thses thing in my mind sometimes.

My inlcusion of Badwhar's comment was due to these concerns. Love, of either kind, can be addiction, and as you pointed out, that does not make it not-love. The problem is that this addiction, which is still love, may not be very benificial, and even downright detrimental, to those partaking in it. I suspect that at a psychological level, the 'identifying' with that which is loved contributes to this.

On the other hand maybe the risk of this indentification/adiction is an essenial part of the whole phenomena of love, and to avoid this at all costs may lead to the avoidance of loving anyone or anything at all. I guess it is up to the individual to decide how they want to deal with this. As with so many things these days, we are adverse to accepting that some endevours are irreducably risky. I would be surprised if anyone could detail a kind of love that involves no risk to mental well-being, autonomy, or personal identity.

Since it seems that we have to accept these risks or reject Love altogether, we need a better way of weighing up these concerns. But since rationality is not always a good way to deal with love, I'm not sure how to do this....

michael said...

Thank you for the interesting post. So, the old 'dangers of love' question, eh?

Frankfurt, in his "The Reasons of Love" has a wonderful little ditty about love and God. God, being omnipotent cannot be harmed, thus it doesn't matter what he love, for he cannot be effected by his beloved's misfortunes, thus he loves everything indiscriminately.

This ends up being as useful as not loving anything, for everything is loved equally.

I don't think there is any way of avoiding the dangers of love. Indeed a strong idea behind christian love is the very idea of sacrifice, which of course means that love is always to some extent detrimental to the lover, but in the destruction of the lover he is created anew in the beloved. Kierkegaard's leap does similar.

In terms of awareness of the riskyness of love altering the way in which we love, there is the idea in Frankfurt that we cannot choose what we love, but we can try and alter our love once it is there. We may find, for instance that the object of our love has a life expectancy of not bloody much due to its own stupidity, and thus we may decide that to continue loving it is only going to be painful. At this point we may try to convince ourselves that such a love is too risk and try to turn our attention elsewhere. Success however, cannot be guaranteed.

In terms of the autonomy/identity divide, I'm not too up on autonomy, but with the ideas of love I have been putting forward are tied up the building blocks of a notion of identity that is based on self-love. One must identify with/love one's self before one can truly be said to be a self. Otherwise one does not really identify with one's cares or actions springing from those cares, and so is somewhat disconnected from one's self, so cannot really be said to be oneself. In this context love becomes similar to wholehearted identification.

On this view rationality becomes the slave of the passions. But as alluded to above, rationality can also affect one's loves. But still this rational process is motivated by overarching passions. I think this is precisely where rationality should be placed, and seen for the tool that it is, rather than some deified thing that dictates all.

Greg said...

Michael, this is an interesting discussion. But I would like to make a few comments regarding your first post.

You criticize (or separate yourself from) Nozick on the grounds that his is an erotic, or selfish love. I certainly agree that love proper is not (entirely) about what's in to for me, but must be involve genuine concern for my lover as such. (Though "disinterested" seems a very unfortunate label, echoing a kind of Christian agape). It does not seem right, however, to conflate "interested" love with erotic love, even though there is ample historical precedent.

I would have the opposite worry about Nozick's view (and, I think, with your view?). "Union" theories like Nozicks' (Solomon's, Fromm's, etc.) typically have failed to explain the crucial link to the erotic in romantic love. I certainly agree with those who say that to cleanse the erotic out of love is not to purify it, but to castrate it (Nietzsche, Joseph Campbell, Solomon, etc.). If I find a (young) couple who no longer have sex, then I am apt to judge (Christopher Reeves not withstanding) that they are most likely no longer "really" in love— even if their identities are entwined, and even if they have "disinterested" concern for each other. As a thought-experiment, consider when my lover loses interest in sex (with me). It is not just my sexual desires that get frustrated (since she may still perform a perfunctory act). More importantly, I feel less loved.

Now, on the Frankfurt model, if I understand it, I can care for sex become my lover cares for sex, and so I am attending to her needs as much —or more — than my own. This seems to be an important element in distinguishing romantic love from other primal erotic desires. But again, consider the case where my love loses interest. On Frankfurt's model, I should also lose interest (at least in the romantic sense), out of genuine concern for my lover's interests. But phenomenologically, this is absurd. Instead, I feel less loved. (And to repeat, I hardly feel that our love has become more pure).

Nozick and Frankfurt are not alone. I don't know of any (deep, noble) theory of love that really succeeds in capturing the significance of the erotic. So far, as far as I am aware, philosophy has yet to provide an adequate theory of love, for this reason.